If the year 2020 has taught us anything, it is that prevention is key. Most people can recover very quickly from COVID with very mild symptoms; however, some individuals are more vulnerable to the more serious implications of the disease such as pneumonia. For many of these high-risk individuals, their health concerns may be preventable with diet and lifestyle changes. Natural therapies such as Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) may also be used to help various health problems.
Individuals who are at higher risk of coronavirus include those who:
- Have a lung condition such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis
- Have heart disease
- Have diabetes
- Have chronic kidney disease
- Are obese (with a BMI of 40 and above)
The role of Chinese herbal medicine in disease
The use of Chinese herbal medicine dates back to the third century BCE. Several herbal formulas documented thousands of years ago are still used today to treat various illnesses. At the present day, Chinese herbal medicine seems to have taken a back seat whilst Western medicine charges forward with science. Nonetheless, Chinese herbal medicine has proven consistent with fewer side effects, which clearly shows that it still has a place in modern day medicine.
For asthma, the ASHMI double-blind study found that a formula of Ling Zhi (Ganoderma lucidum), Ku Shen (Radix Sophorae Flavescentis) and Gan Cao (Radix Glycyrrhiza) extracts was an effective natural alternative to conventional corticosteroid treatment. Overall, the corticosteroids were more effective than ASHMI formula, however there are known side effects associated with corticotherapy including the suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-axis (HPA). These side effects were not seen with the ASHMI formula .
Huang Qi (Astragalus membranaceus) is one of the most widely researched herbs for its anti-diabetic effects such as improved insulin sensitivity, improved blood sugar balance and lipid levels. In China, Huang Qi is one of the most popular herbs prescribed for diabetes treatment .
In terms of COVID-19, there is a growing body of evidence for the use of Chinese herbal medicine to prevent and treat the novel coronavirus. In 2002, herbal medicine was used in conjunction with western medicine to successfully treat SARS. A Cochrane review found that Chinese herbs used together with western medicine significantly improved SARS symptoms. Now, hospitals across Asia have maintained CHM at the forefront of prevention and treatment along with western drugs and therapies. Studies on COVID-19, including randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have already shown that CHM may improve clinical symptoms and improve recovery rates .
Acupuncture is often not enough on its own
Acupuncture has been hugely popular in the western world since the 1970s, due to the low cost of treatment and accessibility. Acupuncture has been able to treat many health conditions including aches and pains, osteoarthritis, headaches, low back pain, infertility and more. However, the effects of acupuncture may only last for a few weeks and patients often need to visit their acupuncturist weekly for optimal effect. For centuries, acupuncture and herbal medicine have been practiced together. It was not until the last few decades that acupuncture became a standalone practice in the west. This may be due to the affordability of treatments and a lack of available training in herbal medicine. Overall, most styles of acupuncture stimulate or move Qi and can have profound effects when applied regularly. However, Chinese herbs are often required to help invigorate Qi and nourish the body to allow the body to heal from chronic diseases. Most TCM professionals recommend that individuals seek both acupuncture and herbal medicine as clinical efficacy becomes much greater. Practicing herbal medicine is now especially important as social distancing is commonplace, which makes acupuncture impossible. With individuals suffering from coronavirus, herbal medicine may be the best course of action to help support the immune system and the recovery from the inflammatory damage caused.
Many acupuncturists are now training in herbal medicine
At Phoenix Academy of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, we have seen a record number of TCM practitioners signing up to our Virtual Herbal Medicine diploma course. At present, we have 60 students enrolled which not only breaks our record, but also that of many other educational institutes’ in the UK. It is evident that COVID has taught us the importance of herbal medicine when used alongside acupuncture or indeed, on its own. Herbal medicine not only increases clinical efficacy, but it also to enable TCM practitioners to treat patients from a distance.
For more information about our educational courses and products, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0) 1245 350822.
 Li, X. and Brown, L., 2020. Efficacy And Mechanisms Of Action Of Traditional Chinese Medicines For Treating Asthma And Allergy.
 Agyemang, K., Han, L., Liu, E., Zhang, Y., Wang, T. and Gao, X., 2013. Recent Advances inAstragalus membranaceusAnti-Diabetic Research: Pharmacological Effects of Its Phytochemical Constituents. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, pp.1-9.
 Xiong, X., Wang, P., Su, K., Cho, W. and Xing, Y., 2020. Chinese herbal medicine for coronavirus disease 2019: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pharmacological Research, 160, p.105056.