Traditional Chinese Medicine, which involves herbal therapy, acupuncture, gua sha, and cupping has treated similar respiratory infections like the 2020 Wuhan-Coronavirus for over 2000 years. Most recently, they treated SARS with both an herbal formula and vaccination. In the Traditional Chinese Medicine model, there are several ways to treat respiratory tract infection according to different signs, symptoms, and the different stages of the disease. Here is how TCM would develop a treatment for Coronavirus or other respiratory infections.
What is Coronavirus in the TCM model?
First, we need to know what it is from an official standpoint :
A coronavirus is a large family of viruses that infect the upper respiratory system to cause common cold to more severe diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The Wuhan coronavirus is a novel coronavirus (CoV), which is an unidentified strand belonging to the coronavirus family. Currently, the World Health Organization describes common symptoms:
It depends on the virus, but common signs include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.WHO (World Health Organization) Coronavirus FAQ
Traditional Chinese Medicine does not classify diseases according to their viral strain. Rather, TCM classifies diseases according to the accompanying signs, symptoms, and the surrounding pathology (development of the disease).
For example, SARS was accompanied with high fever, chills, malaise, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, and difficulty breathing. The fever ran at temperature greater than 100.4°F [>38.0°C].
Symptoms of SARS
About 10 percent to 20 percent of patients have diarrhea. After 2 to 7 days, SARS patients may develop a dry cough. Most patients develop pneumonia.CDC on SARS
The dry cough and high-than-average fever indicated that this was a “Heat” type of flu. In addition, there were different types of SARS that include diarrhea.
Viral treatment with herbs according to the TCM model
In response to the SARS findings, Chinese herbal medicine practitioners administered anti-viral/anti-bacterial herbs that cleared upper respiratory tract heat, such as Radix Scutellariae (Huang Qin). With those experiencing digestive disorders, they modified their prescription with herbs that dried dampness to address the diarrhea. Pneumonia indicated that the disease was in a later stage and was deeper within the body, so its general nature of the disorder was fundamentally different and required different herbs that cleared heat from deeper regions of the body.
Positive effects using adjuvant herbal therapy included better control of fever, quicker clearance of chest infection, lesser consumption of steroids and other symptoms relief. In a few reports, some evidences of immunological boosterings were also found.NCBI – SARS treatment integrated with TCM
While it was amazing they were able to find a natural remedy, the best route is prevention, so a vaccine is synthesized shortly after. Thus, according to a clinical trial carried out during the outbreak, the recovery was best in patients that received traditional Chinese medicine therapies integrated with modern medical treatment.
TCM was superior to treatment with Western medicine alone in improving the total score of symptoms, lung X-rays, hepatic function, total score for the quality of life and mental sentiment factors in SARS patients at the convalescent stage.Clinical Study in China
Traditional Chinese Medicine has its own treatment methodology. It involves balancing the various substances, functions, and factors that compose and govern the body, including the fluids, blood, Qi, temperature, digestive and respiratory functions. They do this by using several methods :
- Acupuncture, which stimulates points on the body that activate its regulatory mechanisms such as breathing, urination, sweating, and defecation.
- Herbs, whose substances activate or contribute to the same regulatory mechanisms
What Would a TCM Practitioner Do?
The same methodology would be applied. Currently, Wuhan coronavirus is only known to present itself with fever, cough, and shortness of breathe. Known or unknown, Eastern Medicine methodology addresses all signs and symptoms specific to the individual with the illness. From there, the practitioner develops a treatment plan suitable to the identified development and cause of the disorder.
An acupuncture treatment would be developed accordingly to facilitate the body’s immune response to expel the pathogen (coronavirus) depending on what stage and location of infection. Additionally, they would formulate an herbal remedy that specifically activates and balances certain bodily functions such as sweating, which can release the lymphatic system and clear out pathogens.
In regards to the actual Wuhan coronavirus, we cannot say that we can cure it. So far, there isn’t a known cure for 2020 Wuhan coronavirus in China nor anywhere else in the world. However, for building immunity and aiding in some of symptoms, there are methods that TCM utilizes.
If one were to come solely for PREVENTATIVE reasons, the acupuncturist would develop a treatment plan that enhances your current state of health by using points and administering herbs that do the following :
- elevate immune system
- strengthen digestion
- strengthen breathing
- maintain strength of mind and clear toxins (as stress and toxins like alcohol is known to weaken immunity)
Other Conditions Treated by Eastern Medicine
Acupuncture and herbal medicine is also used to treat other conditions such as back pain, shoulder and neck pain, knee and other joint pains, gastrointestinal disorders like constipation, diarrhea, and IBS, and other respiratory related conditions like COPD, asthma, and shortness of breath.
What do I do about the Coronavirus?
If you are not infected, the next best thing to do is to take preventative measures:
- Get vaccinated as soon as there is a Wuhan coronavirus vaccine available.
- Maintain basic hygiene, cleanliness, and CDC’s prevention protocol (wash hands, take showers, don’t share food with others, wear face mask)
Meanwhile, you can take natural alternative preventative measures:
- Consult with our licensed acupuncturists and herbalists in Chicago to analyze the state of your body
- Receive maintenance and preventive acupuncture and herbal therapy in Chicago from our acupuncturists
- Continue healthy diet and regiment of herbs (as suggested by a licensed acupuncturist/herbalist)
The best course of action, if you are NOT infected, is to follow CDC’s prevention protocol. Additionally, you may receive acupuncture treatment and maintenance herbs from our Chinatown clinic to help improve immune function of the body, which decreases likelihood of Wuhan coronavirus or other common cold and flu disorders.
If you feel you might be infected, please see your primary care doctor right away.