China Focus: Cleansing lungs, dispelling toxins: TCM fights COVID-19

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BEIJING, July 28 (Xinhua) — For more than 2,000 years, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been at the forefront of the fight against diseases and epidemics in China. Historical records show that more than 350 large-scale epidemics hit China from 243 BC to 1911, almost one every six years.

As the COVID-19 epidemic wrecked havoc across China since the beginning of this year, a TCM decoction named Qing Fei Pai Du (QFPD), meaning cleansing lungs and dispelling toxins in Chinese, drew wide attention for its efficacy.

How was the millennium-old medicine improved and adjusted to contain a virus never seen before? How did TCM practitioners select QFPD from the numerous volumes of TCM literature? How does it work?

For TCM, dampness or high humidity in the body is the root cause of many diseases including respiratory issues.

Meteorological records show that the city of Wuhan had a relatively warm and rainy December last year, and it was drizzling for almost 16 days running in January.

In Wuhan, critically-ill patients and patients with mild symptoms all had mucus-coated tongues, a sign of dampness and turbidity in TCM theory. TCM experts agreed that COVID-19 is a cold and dampness-related illness.

After defining the nature of COVID-19, they needed to design a prescription that could preemptively strike the virus, preventing it from attacking the entire body. They chose herbs to protect multiple organs and boost the immune system, combining four traditional prescriptions to get QFPD, said Ge Youwen, a research fellow at China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences.

“Due to the complexity of COVID-19, we had to integrate several prescriptions, and adjust them for a large number of patients,” said Ge.

People might think that TCM is slow to take effect, but it has its own logic in treating virus-related diseases.

Late TCM expert Deng Tietao once said that TCM does not target a virus, and whether or not a virus has mutated is not an issue as far as the principles of TCM treatment are concerned.

The goal of TCM is not to kill the virus, but to drive it away by restoring the internal balance and boosting the body. That is why TCM can cure some severe illnesses, even if it has no microbiological make-up.

In Hebei Province, a severely-ill patient emerged from a fever and saw his white blood cell count return to normal after taking QFPD once. In Shanxi Province, nucleic acid testing became negative after patients had QFPD for three days.

According to the National Administration of TCM, 1,337 COVID-19 patients were enrolled in China’s QFPD clinical treatment program as of May 20, and 98.95 percent were discharged.

QFPD is also relatively cheap, saving costs for local governments that foot the bill for COVID-19 treatment. A three-day course costs no more than 100 yuan or less than 15 U.S. dollars.

Chinese researchers have carried out evidence-based research to prove the efficacy of QFPD.

A study by Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other research institutions found 16 of the 21 herbs in QFPD worked on lungs and the rest worked together to protect the heart, liver, spleen and kidneys.

The researchers identified 300 chemical components and 200 components entering the blood, as well as 790 potential molecular targets of QFPD.

The study found that QFPD had an effect on the virus in all its stages from transmission to its replication and even after it had caused multiple organ damages. Enditem

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