Is the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) scientifically proven?

CIKD | Updated: 2020-05-07 11:40

It is important to note that the information provided in this Series is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.

A pharmacist of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) arranges doses of TCM decoctions to help combat the novel coronavirus epidemic at Xiaogan Chinese Medical Hospital in Xiaogan city, central China's Hubei province, Feb 25, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

The time-honored traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has specific development laws and characteristics of its own. Tested in countless epidemics in its long history, TCM has developed many clinically effective prescriptions and non-drug therapy. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many TCM practitioners have published massive data and proven the effectiveness of TCM. Such publications are mainly in Chinese and are also emerging in English literature.

In China's fight against COVID-19, TCM gradually turned from a supplement to first-line therapy, playing a significant role together with supportive treatment of western medicine. Medical evidence so far shows that lung injury and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) are major causes of death related to COVID-19. The underlying reason is the cytokine storm brought by virus infection. Adapting human immune responses is the fundamental principle of western medical practice and treatment in dealing with the new virus. Hence, similar to remedies for most flu, regular COVID-19 therapy of western medicine consists of symptomatic and supportive treatments. Respiratory support is only provided upon respiratory failure. Defervescence is the most pressing issue in dealing with COVID-19 symptoms. However, standard medical practice appears to be unsatisfying in reducing body temperature. Effective immunomodulators are in urgent need to contain body immune responses within an appropriate range. During the phase, TCM is the primary functioning therapy. Immunomodulators such as ginseng can supplement antipyretic drugs in medical practice.

Author: Li Guangxi, Director of the Pulmonary Division of Guang An Men Hospital of the China Academy of Chinese Medicine Science

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