Can Herbs Help Treat Covid Problems?

At the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic, China was at the forefront in combating Covid-19 virus using herbs, besides relying on modern medicine. They claimed that herbs can help Covid patients.

In their paper Combating COVID-19 with integrated traditional Chinese and Western medicine in China Liqiang Ni and co-workers of the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai,China said:

China has achieved rapid containment of Covid-19 following the principles of

  • early detection,
  • early quarantine and
  • early treatment with integrated traditional Chinese and Western medicine.

The traditional Chinese medicine played an indispensable role in the treatment of Covid-19 in combination with Western medicine. Their study showed that Chinese medicine can reduce the incidence of severe or critical events, improve clinical recovery and help alleviate symptoms such as cough or fever.

(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211383520306183)

Zhenyu Zhao and co-researchers at the National Resource Center for Chinese Materia Medica, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing, China in a review paper Prevention and treatment of COVID-19 using Traditional Chinese Medicine wrote:

The main clinical symptoms of COVID-19 patients are:

  1. Fever (88.5%)
  2. Cough (68.6%)
  3. Fatigue (35.8%)
  4. Expectoration (28.2%)
  5. Dyspnea (21.9%)

The minor symptoms include:

  1. Headache or dizziness (12.1%)
  2. Diarrhea (4.8%)
  3. Nausea and vomiting (3.9%)
  4. TCM has achieved good results in the treatment of Covid-19.
  5. In Hunan province, by the end of February 25, 2020, a total of 1016 patients were diagnosed.
  6.  981 of these patients were treated with TCM as part of their treatment, accounting for 96.56%.
  7. 779 patients (95.76%) were discharged.
  8. 233 patients were hospitalized – all of them were treated with TCM..
  9. At present, more than 200 countries in the world have experienced Covid-19 outbreaks. In the absence of specific drugs in the world, China’s experience in the application of TCM can be used as a valuable reference.
  10. Another advantage of TCM to treat Covid-19 is that the rate of relapse of Covid-19 is lower than that when Western medicine is used. The total rate of relapse of Covid-19 is approximately 0.1% of 8000 cases.

(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7439087/)

Zi Zhou Zheng et al. of Jiangxia District TCM Hospital, Wuhan, China presented two case studies on the Efficacy of Traditional Chinese Medicine on COVID-19 (https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acu.2020.1432)

In December 2019, a novel coronavirus-infected pneumonia (NCIP) was identified in the central city of Wuhan. This disease is later named Covid-19. It is highly infectious – having strong person-to-person transmission, causing extremely high incidence of NCIP throughout Wuhan. It spread swiftly to 34 provinces within China and more than100 other countries around the world between January and March 2020.

  • Up to August 11, 2020, there have been 89,383 cases diagnosed as coronavirus-infected pneumonia; and 4,696 deaths in China (mortality rate of 5.25%). The common influenza has a mortality rate of 0.2%.
  • Worldwide reports have confirmed 19,936,210 cases and 732,499 deaths. These figures have been increasing daily.
  • There is no effective method to treat this virus by conventional modern medicine.
  • The treatment of viral conditions is well established within the context of Chinese Medicine.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) demonstrates a positive effect in the treatment for Covid-19. It is highly recommended that TCM be incorporated early on in the treatment schedule for Covid-19.

Case 1: Female, 38 years old, resident of Wuhan, presented with fever, rigors, dry cough and dry mouth without sputum, dizziness, aching limbs, depressive mood, and anorexia (eating disorder). She had been self-medicating (drug unknown) for 3 days before presentation but had felt no improvement.

Chest computed tomography (CT) scan showed multiple ground glass appearance in both lungs. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted to hospital. During her stay on a general medical ward, she was prescribed the antibiotic ceftazidime and a patent Chinese herb infusion (Xiyan Ping) for 4 days but showed no significant improvement.

The patient was then transferred to our department with a fever of 39.2°C, slight aversion to cold, bitter taste and dry mouth, dry cough without sputum, dizziness, aching limbs, and anorexia. She had a red tongue with a thin-yellow–greasy coating.

After admission, in addition to ceftazidime and Xiyan Ping, she was given an herbal formula targeted to her aforementioned symptoms. The herbal mixture was decocted and taken orally twice daily.

Results.

  • After 1 dose of the herbs the patient’s sweating and temperature decreased; she reported resolution of most of her symptoms after 3 doses.
  • The TCM prescription was not altered any further as the patient improved. After completing her course, 7 days of herbs, repeat RT-PCR testing was negative for COVID-19.
  • A third CT scan showed almost complete disappearance of the ground glass appearance. On discharge the patient had complete resolution of symptoms.

Case 2: Male, 60 years old, resident of Wuhan, presented to the district hospital with fever and rigors, dry cough, aching muscles, breathlessness, fatigue, bloating, and anorexia since 17 January 2020. His CT scan showed an infective appearance in both lungs, and a diagnosis of viral pneumonia was suspected. He received unknown outpatient treatment.

The patient did not improve after initial treatment. He was admitted on 24 January  2020 to a general ward and prescribed ceftazidime, moxifloxacin, oseltamivir, anti-influenza patent herbs (Lianhua Qingwen capsules and Xiyanping infusion), and Ibuprofen as a baseline treatment. Owing to ongoing fever more than 40°C and positive RT-PCR testing, he was admitted to the special COVID-19 ward.

On admission to our unit, he appeared in poor spirits with intermittent fevers in the afternoons reaching 40°C with headache, general muscular aching, dry cough, breathlessness and fatigue, activity-induced wheezing, bloating, and anorexia. His tongue was red with a yellow-thick-greasy coating.

He was prescribed herbal mixture, decocted and taken orally twice daily for 5 days.

Result.

  • The patient’s fever and sweats decreased after 1 dose of the aforementioned herbs. All symptoms reduced after 3 doses.
  • After 5 days, the patient reported feeling less breathless and bloated with increased appetite, but still complained of general muscular aching. The herbal prescription was modified on 28 January 2020.
  • The herbal mixture was prescribed for 7 doses. The patient reported feeling noticeably less muscular aching after 1 dose of the new prescription.
  • On 8 February 2020 his PCR was negative.
  • The patient was discharged with complete clinical and laboratory resolution and almost complete radiological resolution on 10 February 10, 2020.

My Comments.

The question to ask is: Why don’t we try to use herbs to help Covid patients? That is a billion dollar question which cannot be easily answered. It will involve too much politics and stepping on the toes of too many Vested Interests. Please remember that our whole world is divided in two halves – White vs Yellow or West vs East.

Bogged Down In Old Stale Arguments – TCM not scientifically proven!

After presenting you with some good encouraging review above, we do have nasty comments from some writers who spin the same old tale again and again.

David Cyranoski wrote this comment in Nature (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01284-x)

  • China is promoting coronavirus treatments based on unproven traditional medicines.
  • But scientists outside China say it is dangerous to support therapies that have yet to be proved safe and effective.
  • There are no rigorous trial data to demonstrate that the remedies work.
  • Government officials and TCM practitioners deem the remedies safe because some have been used for thousands of years.  
  • China’s recommendations on Covid-19 treatments, particularly TCM remedies, were not science-based. 

There is another one written by Paul Stapleton, a writer who also owns Academic ProofreadingPlus (https://hongkongfp.com/2021/02/01/traditional-chinese-medicine-as-a-covid-cure-do-we-believe-in-magic/)

Traditional Chinese Medicine as a Covid cure: do we believe in magic?

  • Certainly, TCM is well-established here in Hong Kong and on the mainland with plenty of shops selling TCM remedies, testifying to the strong local belief in its efficacy.
  • However, some caution is in order regarding that word “belief” because belief is closely connected to narratives rather than scientific data.
  • If TCM really were effective, it would have long ago spread beyond China’s borders and be used worldwide.
  • The TCM medicine used may in fact provide some marginal benefits, albeit mostly psychological …  the narrative surrounding … magical thinking.

James Flowers from the Kyung Hee University in Seoul offered his explanation:

  • In response to Paul Stapleton’s op-ed expressing concern about Beijing’s claim that Chinese medicine cures Covid-19, I argue that we should not to be so quick to dismiss a healing therapy because it falls outside familiar frames of reference.
  • In fact, Beijing has not claimed Chinese medicine as a cure for Covid-19. Rather, the claim is that it can relieve symptoms and aid in recovery. Furthermore, PRC doctors mostly advocate an integrated approach combining Western medicine and Chinese medicine.
  • Considering Chinese medicine’s popularity in China and Hong Kong, it seems rather hasty to dismiss it as simply a placebo.
  • Ideally, medicine should not become political. As we know, politics has hampered efforts to deal with Covid-19 in numerous countries, most notably the United States.
  • Doctors of whatever type of medicine, Western or Chinese, aim to save lives after years and sometimes decades of training. Shouldn’t we be grateful to all who go through so much to alleviate human suffering?
  • I suggest that we look beyond China and Hong Kong to better understand Chinese medicine’s international reception. In the East Asian region, closely related to Chinese medicine, Korean medicine continues to enjoy both popularity and prestige in South Korea. Chinese medicine does not have to be foreign. Just as Western scientific medicine belongs to us all, so do Chinese and Korean medicine. Medicine does not belong to nations but to the global community.

(https://hongkongfp.com/2021/02/07/dont-be-too-quick-to-dismiss-chinese-medicine-in-fight-against-covid-19/)

Let me give you some hard facts to consider. See who is just spewing out fake ideas to justify their arguments.

Just google this: Death by medical error in US. This is what you get.

  • Recent studies of medical errors have estimated errors may account for as many as 251,000 deaths annually in the United States (U.S)., making medical errors the third leading cause of death. Error rates are significantly higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the United Kingdom (U.K).  (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28186008/)

This is the message to the world: In spite of it being a scientifically proven or science based, modern medicine still kills a lot of patients due to human errors!

Visit this website,  (https://etactics.com/blog/medical-error-statistics). It says:

  • Medical errors – these are preventable adverse effects resulting from medical care rather than the patient’s condition. We’d like to think they don’t happen.
  • These issues aren’t new; the first major report on medical errors in the US is from over two decades ago. In 1999, To Err is Human from the Institution of Medicine estimated 98,000 deaths due to error. At the time, this would be the sixth leading cause of death in the country. 
  • A study in 2010 found that this number had almost doubled to 180,000 deaths. And by 2013, the estimate ranged from 210,000 to 440,000 deaths per year. This landed medical errors as the third leading cause of death trailing heart disease and cancer.

To understand the core of the problem, here is another article, Death by prescription (https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2016-09-27/the-danger-in-taking-prescribed-medications)

  • About 2,460 people per week are estimated to die from drugs that were properly prescribed, and that’s based on detailed chart reviews of hospitalized patients, says Light, who is a professor of comparative health policy at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey. The estimate, which didn’t include those who died as a result of prescribing errors, overdose and self-medication, would make taking properly prescribed drugs the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Proven medicines that kill!

Here are more examples for you to reflect on:

Timeline: The Rise and Fall of Vioxx (https://www.npr.org/2007/11/10/5470430/timeline-the-rise-and-fall-of-vioxx)

  • FDA approved Vioxx in 1999 as a painkiller. It was being extensively used and prescribed to patients who needed it. Vioxx was later showed to be deadly, causing heart attacks and strokes.
  • November 2007: Merck announces it will pay $4.85 billion to end thousands of lawsuits over its painkiller Vioxx. The amount … is believed to be the largest drug settlement ever.

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of drug poisoning deaths. (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6450a3.htm)

  • From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million persons in the United States have died from drug overdoses.
  • Opioids, primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin, are the main drugs associated with overdose deaths.

You want a description of hell?’ Oxycontin’s 12-hour problem.

(https://www.latimes.com/projects/oxycontin-part1/).

  • Purdue developed OxyContin as a cure for pain.
  • To obtain FDA approval, Purdue had to demonstrate that OxyContin was safe and was as effective as other pain drugs on the market.
  • The FDA approved the application in 1995.
  • Many doctors began prescribing OxyContin. Doctors wrote 5.4 million prescriptions for the painkiller in 2014. OxyContin became America’s bestselling painkiller, and Purdue reaped $31 billion in revenue.
  • Rates of addiction and overdose soared alongside the rise in prescriptions.
  • The U.S. Justice Dept. launched a criminal investigation, and in 2007 the company and three top executives pleaded guilty to fraud for downplaying OxyContin’s risk of addiction. Purdue and the executives were ordered to pay $635 million. 
  • The drug is widely blamed for setting off the nation’s prescription opioid epidemic, which has claimed more than 190,000 lives from overdoses involving OxyContin and other painkillers since 1999.

Let me close this discussion about “unproven magic potion” by referring you to a book Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime – How big pharma has corrupted heathcare written by Professor Peter C Gøtzsche. The author is a specialist in internal medicine who had worked with clinical trials and regulatory affairs in the drug industry from 1975 – 1983, and at hospitals in Copenhagen from 1984 to 1995. He co-founded The Cochrane Collaboration in 1993 and established The Nordic Cochrane Centre. He became professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis in 2010 at the University of Copenhagen.

Foreword No:1 of the book was written by Dr. Richard Smith, former Editor-in-Chief of the prestigious British Medical Journal. Let me quote what Dr. Smith wrote:

  • I have long recognised that science is carried out by human beings not objective robots and will therefore be prone to the many human failings, but I was shocked by the stories in Peter’s book.
  • Science can be corrupted in order to advance particular argument and how money, profits, jobs and reputation are the most potent corrupters.
  • Peter (author of the book) is not the first to compare the industry with the Mafia or mob. He quotes a former vice-president of Pfizer who has said: It is scary how many similarities there are between this industry and the mob. The mob makes obscene amounts of money, as does this industry. The side effects of organized crime are killings and death and the side effects are same in this industry. The mob bribes politicians and others, and so does the drug industry. 
  • Many people are killed by the industry … indeed hundreds of thousands are killed every year by prescription drugs.
  • The benefits of drugs are exaggerated … the drug industry has systematically corrupted science to play up the benefits and play down the harms of their drugs.
  • The industry has bought doctors, academics, journals, professional and patient organisations, university departments, journalists, regulators and politicians. These are the methods of the mob. Doctors are beholden to the drug industry and that many are being paid six figure sums for advising companies or giving talks on their behalf.
  • The main reason we take many drugs is that drug companies don’t sell drugs, they sell lies about drugs.
  • Virtually everything we know about drugs is what the companies have chosen to tell us and our doctors …The patients don’t realize that, although the doctors may know a lot about disease and human physiology and psychology, they know very, very little about drugs that have been carefully concocted and dressed up by the drug industry.

Back to Sanity – Curing the Madness of the Biased Mind.

As I have often said, health is our own responsibility. So it is up to chose what path you wish to take. You decide whether we want to stay healthy or remain sick. Don’t depend too much on others – believing that they will do their best to help us. This is the rule of survival. I have come to learn this after dealing with many cancer patients over the years.

From what I can see, Covid-infected people need help on two separate levels.

1. They need an effective treatment after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

While in the hospitals they need to undergo the necessary medical treatments. Do that! But we also learn that taking TCM herbs have been shown to be helpful. Unfortunately, taking herbs while in the hospital is out of the question although this can be done in a hospital setting in China. So my advice to patients is follow the rules of your country. Go to hospital first and seek the help of the medical doctors.

2. Helping the Long Covid patients.

For those who survive the disease and are being discharged from the hospital – these are the Long Covid patients –  perhaps herbs can help them if modern medicine cannot help.

Herbs are not safe? Dangerous? TCM is only based on magical thinking? Come on – grow up! Educate yourself a bit more. The older generation would say this – You have not eaten enough salt to come to such a conclusion!

Long Covid patients need help. Is anyone able to offer anything to help them? Give me a bit of time and I shall be able to answer that question.

Let me end by quoting what Dr. Jimmie Holland wrote in The Human Side of Cancer:

  • People have their strongly held beliefs about the use of alternative and complementary therapies.
  • Disbelievers remain disbelievers and believers continue to believe.
  • I have learned from experience that trying to influence strongly held beliefs is exhausting … You believe or you don’t.