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Integration of Traditional Chinese Medicine for Coronavirus COVID-19

by Geoff D'Arcy(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 262 - May 2020


The Coronavirus (COVID 19) was born late December 2019 into humans, during the cold damp Winter of Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province China. This nasty, new-born cousin of the SARS virus, may develop into a fever (call your MD over 100.4 f), dry cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath. While most cases result in mild symptoms, some can progress to pneumonia and multi-organ failure, leading to fatalities of 2% according to WHO.


Coronavirus Over Chinese Street


Starting in central China a few months ago, this virus has already infected over 80,000 and killed over 4,000 Chinese (as of 03/14/20) worldwide infections total at 156,000. Flaring into South Korea, Iran and even shutting down Italy. It is spreading around the World, causing quarantines, disrupting/devastating economies and causing general panic and distress.

This Coronavirus is preventable via the following strategies: of tracking and limiting exposures, washing hands, etc.  But not preventable with a vaccine (yet) and with testing in the USA and elsewhere slow to confirm if its influenza or coronavirus, the treatment seems to be supportive, not curative. There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19, though experimental antivirals have been used. Patients with COVID-19 receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatments include care to support vital organ functions.


Coronavirus + Person in Mask


Integration of Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine for Coronavirus

There is massive mobilization of resources and an unprecedented response underway within the People’s Republic of China. This has involved huge testing programs, mandated self and hospital quarantine, closure of businesses, factories and provinces even the construction of entirely new hospitals within just weeks. Supportive to conventional medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is playing a major role in this effort to treat Covid 19 infection.



The Su Wen of the Huangdi Neijing.djvu


The Chinese have utilized TCM for every major infectious epidemic and pandemic for over 2,000 years. The ancient book of TCM Huang Di Nei Jing (Inner Canon of Huangdi) was written approximately 99 B.C.E.-26 B.C.E.; the text recorded a plague that could transmit disease from human-to-human with symptoms that were like those described for COVID-19. Other texts hundreds of years later, recorded therapies and formulas that were effective at treating infectious diseases.

Currently, the use of TCM has resulted in remarkable improvement and alleviation of symptoms in Covid-19 patients in China. Chinese Herbal Medicine has studied, developed and refined formulas, from a massive experiential body of knowledge, within each epidemic and the coronavirus (Covid 19) is no different.

Xu Nanping, a vice-minister of science and technology for the Peoples Republic of China, said last week that “about 85 per cent of patients in China had been given the combined treatment” of TCM and Western Drugs, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

SupChina an independent digital media company also reported ..”In a treatment plan released by the National Health Commission in early February, TCM therapies were highly recommended by China’s health authorities as an effective tool to mitigate patients’ symptoms of fever and breathing difficulties. According to Liú Qīngquán the director of the Beijing Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospitals and a member of the team dispatched to Wuhan, TCM had been used in roughly 9,600 COVID-19 cases across the country as of February 10. Outside Hubei, the province hit hardest by the epidemic, about 90% of the patients took TCM remedies at some point and received positive results. “After analyzing case reports from different areas, we have reached a conclusion that TCM is able to prevent mild cases from getting worse,” Liu said.

According to Xinhua, the biggest and most influential media organization in China, "Western medicine offers important life-supporting measures such as respiratory and circulatory assistance, while TCM focuses on improving patients' physical conditions and immune function. They complement each other," said Zhang Boli, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Recently Wuhan's coronavirus control headquarters ordered integrated treatment of TCM and Western medicine, especially among non-critical patients, and observation of TCM's curative effects at designated hospitals. Statistics show that 2,220 medics from TCM hospitals and institutions across China have been sent to aid the epidemic fight in Hubei so far. Over 75 percent of COVID-19 patients are receiving TCM treatment in Hubei and over 90 percent in other parts of China.”

The main herbal formulas that has been preferred and used by the TCM doctors might surprise you. Please see the list from the lessons learned in Wuhan, for condition progression and matching Herbal Formulas in the references below. Please call a licensed TCM Herbalist to know when to match the condition with these formulas.


Herbs and Nutrients for Coronavirus


TCM Protection Formulas

Following the Infections in Wuhan the Chinese promoted prevention programs recommending Chinese medicine for prevention. After a review of literature in…’ Can Chinese Medicine Be Used for Prevention of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)? The main principles of TCM use were to tonify energy (qi) to protect from external pathogens, disperse wind and discharge heat, and resolve dampness.

The following herbs are identified

  1. Radix astragali (Huangqi),
  2. Radix saposhnikoviae (Fangfeng),
  3. Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae (Baizhu),
  • Lonicerae Japonicae Flos (Jinyinhua),
  • Fructus forsythia (Lianqiao).
  • Radix glycyrrhizae (Gancao),

Jade Windscreen (Yu Ping Feng San)

The first 3 herbs listed above consist of the Jade Windscreen Formula. This is probably the most famous prevention formula from TCM literature, for the prevention of respiratory infections and was handed out to Chinese healthcare workers in the SARS epidemic. Variations always included the Jade Windscreen Formula but add “anti-toxin” and other “heat-clearing” herbs such as my favorite…. Andrographis Paniculata

Lonicera, Scute & Forsythia Pills, (Shuang Huang Lian Wan,)

The other two major ingredients from the literature review are included with Scute in this classic Formula, it’s a popular Chinese formula that Chinese use as a natural alternative to antibiotic for viral infection in colds and flu. This formula sold out in China online and in stores, after the official Xinhua News Agency published an article (in Chinese) that claims the herbal remedy offers hope as a COVID-19 treatment. Xinhua the news agency reported Friday that the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica and the Wuhan Institute of Virology had discovered that the Shuang huang lian oral li quid -- a popular combined herbal remedy commonly used to relieve some symptoms such as fever, cough, and sore throat -- could be used to "inhibit" the deadly virus.

Protection Formulas learned the SARS Outbreak

  • Minor Bupleurum Formula (Xiao Chai Hu Tang) + Honeysuckle & Forsythia (Yin Qiao San) – The first formula is extremely popular in Japan as a cold and flu preventative. It frees the chest, supports the qi, resolves phlegm, and drains heat from the lung. Yin Qiao Formula is an anti-toxin/anti-viral formula with the two main herbs used to modify the formulas used to prevent SARS.
  • Astragalus & Ligustrum Formula, (Huang Qi Dong Qing Pia) is inspired by Fu Zheng therapy research in China. Fu Zheng means to “support the normal or righteous qi” to protect the body from adverse influences. Appropriate for supporting immune function when challenged by any illness where there is a weakened immune system or weakened immune response.

What else can we do to make the most inhospitable environment possible for this virus?

( Both in our inner and external environment):.

There’s the Virus and then, there’s the Host

So much has been said by the media and experts about the virus and little about the other factor in this equation…the Host! How can we boost our immune response?

  • Get good sleep and prioritize your self-care.  Sleep is critical to optimal immune function.  If you are sleep-deprived, you are not at your peak immunity;
  • Eat nutrient-rich food and hydrate. The best dietary advice Traditional Chinese Medicine has to offer involves the cultivation of deep, nourishing hydration. This cannot be accomplished merely be drinking more water. Deep, nourishing hydration comes from eating clean foods that are cooked, “wet,” and relatively easy to digest, such as broth soups and porridges-- for breakfast. Vietnamese phô is a good example of a food that provides deep, nourishing hydration;
    Foods and beverages best to avoid: Dehydrating drinks like alcohol (some say caffeine and carbonated beverages) Phlegm-producing and inflammatory foods like sugar and gluten, dairy products. Eating between meals is discouraged in order to give the digestive system a rest and “strong qi”;
  • Vitamin D, Zinc, NAC and Vitamin C. Talk to your Doctor about optimizing these nutrients that are particularly important supplementation for optimal immune function.
  • Progressive Relaxation for 20 minutes Daily. An outbreak is scary, but most people will experience COVID-19 as a mild illness.  Prolonged, toxic stress inhibits immune function, here’s the free relaxation audio…;
  • Exercise, acupuncture, nutritional and herbal supplements recommended by your healthcare practitioner, qigong/tai chi, yoga, meditation, or whatever your “go-to” to unwind must take priority now.  These are not luxuries!  Take care of yourself;
  • Humidifiers. Studies have shown that homes kept at 40-60% relative humidity-the optimal range-are likely to have fewer flu viruses lingering in the air and on surfaces. (See the study in the references below).

Is the Coronavirus (COVID 19) Seasonal, Cold-Damp Air Related?

It’s still unknown, but a recent study suggests it might be. The “virus is highly sensitive to high temperature,” which could prevent it from spreading in warmer countries, while the opposite appeared to be true in colder climes”, the study said. With luck, this sensitivity to warmth may make it disappear when the cold damp leaves and the warm weather arrives.

The lessons from TCM teach this virus was born into a very cold-damp Wuhan Winter the climate is damp and it easily mixed with the internal dampness attacking the Lung’s defenses, particularly in patients who have weak digestion and lung energy wore down by a pre-existing conditions or smoking.

In TCM the Coronavirus (Covid 19) is considered a “Damp Evil” pathogen. The China Daily reports Zhang Boli a TCM Doctor with experience of treating SARS said "This time, we are here to replicate the experience of Tianjin (SARS) and give full play to the role of Chinese medicine in fighting the epidemic," he said. "My inner clothing was completely soaked in sweat after I carried out checks at the hospital, but I felt very happy, as it meant the indoor temperature was more than 25 C,(75f) which is highly beneficial for patients 'recovery," he added.

This would also connect with the TCM experience, to recent research into seasonal heat breaking down the virus on surfaces, when warmer weather arrives but also connecting to recent research into humidifiers, that keeping rooms at 40-60% relative humidity leads to fewer flu viruses lingering in the air and on surfaces. Many buildings may become very dry during Winter

Another connection is when we breathe in cold air, the blood vessels in our nose may constrict to stop us losing heat. This may prevent white blood cells (the warriors that fight germs) from reaching our mucus membranes and killing any viruses that we inhale, allowing them to slip past our defenses unnoticed.

CDC Prevention Advice

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing;
  • We recommend that all households also have a working thermometer;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
  • Stay home when you are sick;
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash;
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe;
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.


In a treatment plan (in Chinese) released by the National Health Commission in early February,

Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, the capital of south China’s Guangdong province, sought to determine how the spread of the new coronavirus might be affected by changes in season and temperature. Published last month, though yet to be peer-reviewed.

Official Treatment Protocols Include Chinese Herbal Medicine Formulas for Novel Coronavirus

Traditional Chinese medicine offers oriental wisdom in fight against novel virus.

Humidifiers. Studies have shown that homes kept at 40-60% relative humidity-the optimal range-are likely to have fewer flu viruses lingering in the air and on surfaces.

Can Chinese Medicine Be Used for Prevention of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)? A Review of Historical Classics, Research Evidence and Current Prevention Programs.

Luo H1,2, Tang QL3, Shang YX2,3, Liang SB2,3, Yang M2,3, Robinson N2,4, Liu JP5,6.

Read the Hubei Formulas. COVID-19 protocols from the Hubei Province Integrated Chinese\Western Medicine Hospital

YinQiao Formula.

Jade Windscreen Formula used by Chinese Healthcare workers during the SARS epidemic

Lessons in Prevention Formulas from SARS

Traditional Chinese medicine for treatment of coronavirus disease 2019: a review Huan-Tian Cui1#, Yu-Ting Li2#, Li-Ying Guo3, Xiang-Guo Liu1, Lu-Shan Wang4, Jian-Wei Jia3, Jia-Bao Liao5, Jing Miao3, Zhai-Yi Zhang6, Li Wang7, Hong-Wu Wang2,*(), Wei-Bo Wen8,*()

NAC- Research points the way toward a practical nutraceutical strategy for coping with RNA virus infections.

South China Morning Press: Coronavirus: 85 per cent of patients in China benefiting from traditional Chinese medicine, officials claim.

China Daily: TCM plays big role in virus fight

BBC: The real reason Germs Spread in Winter.

Medical Records from a Young and Brave Female Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor on Fighting the COVID-19


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About Geoff D'Arcy

Geoff D'Arcy Lic Ac DOM has been a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist for 38 years. He sees patients and is Director of D'Arcy Wellness Center + Spa in Natick, Massachusetts.  Geoff has co-founded two large integrative medical centres in Massachusetts. He is president of D’Arcy Naturals, Inc., a company that produces all natural herbal formulas for humans and herbal formulas for pets. He is married to Po, his business partner, and has two daughters who both work at the Wellness Center +Spa. He can be contacted via  and and


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