How Chinese herbs are being used to combat Covid-19 pandemic

How Chinese herbs are being used to combat Covid-19 pandemic

Epidemics in China

In the last 2,000 years there have been at least 320 large scale epidemics in China. Because of these epidemics, important texts such as the Shan Han Lan (Cold-Induced Disorders) by Zhang Zhong Jing and the Wen Bing (Warm Diseases) by Ye Gui were written. These outlined many formulas to fight viruses as well as over 39 herbs that are antiviral. During the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 85% of Chinese patients have received herbal treatment along with western medical treatment.


Disclaimer: This article is compiled and edited from the sources found at the bottom of this page, primarily using information from leading Chinese Medicine experts Dr. John Chen and Dr. Jake Fratkin to inform readers of 1) how Covid-19 (also named SARS-CoV-2), the 2019 novel coronavirus, is being treated in China with herbs and 2) to share comparable Patent Chinese Medicine formulas that we can find in the United States. For readers who may have, or suspect they have, Covid-19, contact and consult your primary physician, utilize local governmental and healthcare systems, and/or contact the CDC immediately. The information in this post is for educational purposes only.  


A brief summary of how the 2019 novel coronavirus progresses in the body according to Western medicine

Note: This information is evolving. For the latest information on the western science of Covid-19, please contact the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Coronavirus is a RNA virus and there are many strains. Most coronaviruses are mild, and categorized as the common cold. But there have been three recent coronaviruses that have been very harmful: MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and Covid-19. SARS and Covid-19 (which is now being called SARS-COV-2) are 96% identical.

The Covid-19 coronavirus spikes primarily attach to Lung receptors (there is evidence that it can attach to the heart as well). This virus replicates in the lung and most signs, symptoms, and damage happen to the lungs.

The virus takes 2-14 days to incubate, averaging 4 or 5 days. Some people may not show symptoms for up to 2 weeks, others will show only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms are respiratory and include fever, dry cough, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, headaches, dehydration and some sputum (but not much). 5-10% of Covid-19 patients show gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea before respiratory symptoms and the virus can be present in stool.

When the virus starts to replicate in the lung, the immune cells can hyper respond—like an autoimmune disease—and cause a excessive immune response called a cytokine storm. In severe cases, the inflammation plugs up the air spaces in the lung leading to difficulty breathing. Eventually, oxygen can no longer get into the blood to be circulated to the vital organs. This leads to pneumonia and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), followed by multiple organ failure.

Herbs Being Used in China to Fight the Pandemic

with a special focus on comparable Patent Herbal Formulas we can find in the US 

A note about terminology: As acupuncturists and herbalists, we do not treat disease (ie covid-19 or pneumonia). Instead, we use Chinese Diagnostic Differentiations based on symptomatology and observation (example: Damp-Heat in the Lungs). Using herbs, nutrition, acupuncture, and other modalities, we strive to bring the body’s systems back into balance. These Chinese Diagnostic Differentiations will be explained below, along with the herbs and formulas that have the potential to these imbalances.

Stages of Covid-19 According to Chinese Medicine

Prevention Phase

Boost immune system, strengthen lungs, antiviral herbs for possible exposure

Early Phase

  • Wind-cold invading the exterior
  • Damp-cold in the Lung
  • Damp-heat in the Lung

Middle Phase

  • Damp-toxin stagnating the lung
  • Cold-dampness obstructing the lung

Severe Phase

  • Lung blocked by epidemic toxin
  • Flaring heat in the qi and ying

Critical Phase

  • Internal block and outward desertion

Recovery Phase

  • Deficiency of Qi and Yin, deficiency of Lung and Spleen

 

Prevention Phase: Boost Immunity

Boost immune system, strengthen lungs, antiviral herbs for possible exposure

Patent Herbal Formulas: Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Windscreen) with Yin Qiao San (Honeysuckle and Forsythia)

Huang Qi (Astragalus)

Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Windscreen)

This formula supports the immune system, general wellbeing, healthy respiratory functions, and healthy Lungs and can also be used for occasional fatigue or lethargy.

Key Herb: Huang Qi (Astragalus). Huang Qi has powerful immune boosting actions and supports defensive qi at the surface of the body preventing external pathogens from entering.

Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle)

Yin Qiao San (Honeysuckle and Forsythia)

Supports a healthy respiratory system, defensive qi/immune system, benefits the throat, and contains antiviral herbs.

Key Herbs: Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle) and Lian Qiao (Forsythia). Both of these herbs release exterior heat and eliminate toxins and are known for their antiviral effect.

Single Herbs Used in China (raw dosage)

Huang Qi (Radix Astragali) 15g
Bai Zhu  (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae), dry fried 10g
Fang Feng (Radix Saposhnikoviae) 10g
Mian Ma Guan Zhong (Rhizoma Dryopteridis Crassirhizomatis) 10g
Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicerae Japonicae) 10g
Chen Pi (Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae) 6g
Pei Lan (Herba Eupatorii) 10g (illegal in US, harmful to liver)

 

Wind-Cold Invading the Exterior

Onset low-grade fever, aversion to cold, chills, headache, scratchy throat, soreness of muscles of limbs, no sweat or night sweats.

Patent Herbal Formulas: Ge Gen Tang (Kudzu Decoction)  and Yin Qiao San

Ge Gen (Kudzu)

Ge Gen Tang (Kudzu Decoction)

Expels wind cold (external pathogens), with or without fever, and relaxes the muscles.

Key Herbs: Ge Gen (Kudzu) releases exterior, opens up blood vessels to promote oxygen rich blood to the respiratory tract. Enables white blood cells to fight infection and promotes healthy mucous membranes. Gui Zhi (Cinnamon twig) releases wind-cold from the exterior and relieves body aches.

Lian Qiao (Forsythia)

Yin Qiao San (Honeysuckle and Forsythia)

Supports a healthy respiratory system, defensive qi/immune system, benefits the throat, and contains antiviral herbs.

Key Herbs: Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle) and Lian Qiao (Forsythia) Both of these herbs release exterior heat and eliminate toxins and are known for their antiviral effect.

Single Herbs Used in China (raw dosage)

Ge Gen (Radix Puerariae Lobatae) 15g
Ma Huang (Herba Ephedrae) 10g
Gui Zhi (Ramulus Cinnamomi) 6g
Bai Shao (Radix Paeoniae Alba) 15g
Sheng Jiang (Rhizoma Zingiberis Recens) 10g
Gan Cao (Radix et Rhizoma Glycyrrhizae) 10g
Da Zao (Fructus Jujubae) 10g
Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicerae Japonicae) 20g

 

Damp-Cold in the Lung

Aversion to cold, fever or absence of fever, dry cough, dry throat, fatigue, weakness, chest stuffiness, epigastric distention, nausea, diarrhea.

Patent Herbal Formulas: Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Tang with Jing Fang Bai Du San

Zi Su Ye (Perilla leaf)

Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San (Agastache Powder to Rectify the Qi)

Releases the exterior and dispels dampness, while also harmonizing the middle jiao (digestive systems).

Key Herbs: Huo Xiang (Patchouli) releases exterior wind-cold and dispels dampness. Zi Su Ye (Perilla leaf) and Bai Zhu ( atractylodes) both release exterior wind-cold and dispel interior dampness and turbidity in the digestive system.

Jing Je (Schizonepeta)

Jing Fang Bai Du San (Schizonepeta and Saposhnikovia Powder to Overcome Pathogenic Influences)

Resolves the exterior, disperses wind, damp, and cold.

Key Herbs: Jing Je (Schizonepeta) and Fang Feng (Siler root) both release the exterior and dispel wind, while Fang Feng also dispels wind-cold-dampness.

Single Herbs Used in China (raw dosage)

Cang Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis) 15g
Chen Pi (Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae) 10g
Hou Po (Cortex Magnoliae Officinalis) 10g
Huo Xiang (Herba Pogostemonis seu Agastaches) 10g
Cao Guo (Fructus Tsaoko) 6g
Ma Huang (Herba Ephedrae) 6g
Qiang Huo (Rhizoma et Radix Notopterygii) 10g
Sheng Jiang (Rhizoma Zingiberis Recens) 10g
Bing Lang (Semen Arecae) 10g

 

Damp-Heat in the Lungs

Low-grade fever or absence of fever, dry cough, scanty sputum, dry and sore throat, fatigue, weakness, poor appetite, chest stuffiness, epigastric distention, nausea or vomiting, loose stool.

Patent Herbal Formulas: Xiao Chai Hu Tang with Gan Mao Ling

Chai Hu (Bupleurum)

Xiao Chai Hu Tang (Minor Bupleurum)

Harmonizes Shaoyang Syndrome (alternating fever and chills, chest fullness, lack of appetite, irritation).

Key Herbs: Chai Hu disperses stagnation and is the main herb to treat Shaoyang Syndrome. Huang Qin clears heat and has antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Ban Lan Gen (Isatis Root)

Gan Mao Ling

Dispels damp-heat and promotes defensive qi. Benefits the respiratory system, throat and sinuses.

Key Herbs: Ban Lan Gen (isatis root) clears heat and eliminates toxins from the qi and blood levels, reduces fever, has antibiotic and antiviral properties. Mao Dong Qing (ilex pubscentis) also clears heat and eliminates toxins, with a focus on coughing and a swollen throat.

Single Herbs Used in China (raw dosage)

Ma Huang (Herba Ephedrae) 10g
Ku Xing Ren (Semen Armeniacae Amarum) 10g
Yi Yi Ren (Semen Coicis) 30g
Huang Lian (Rhizoma Coptidis) 6g
Fa Ban Xia (Rhizoma Pinelliae) 10g
Gua Lou Pi (Pericarpium Trichosanthis) 10g
Cao Guo (Fructus Tsaoko) 10g
Zhi Mu (Rhizoma Anemarrhenae) 10g
Yu Xing Cao (Herba Houttuyniae) 15g
Gan Cao (Radix et Rhizoma Glycyrrhizae) 10g
Bai Dou Kou (Fructus Amomi Rotundus) 9g

 

Toxic Stagnation Obstructing the Lungs

Cough, stifling sensation, stuffiness and distention in the chest, asthma and wheezing that worsens with exertion, accelerated respiration, thirst, irritability, reddish yellow urine.

Patent Herbal Formulas:  Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang + Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Pian

Sang Ye (Mulberry Leaf)

Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang (Eliminate Dryness and Rescue the Lung Decoction)

Clears dryness and moistens the lungs for dry cough with little sputum.

Key Herbs: Sang Ye (Mulberry Leaf) moistens the lungs and releases pathogens from the lungs and Shi Gao (Gypsum) clears lung heat and moistens dryness.

Huo Xiang (Patchouli)

Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San (Agastache Powder to Rectify the Qi)

Releases the exterior and dispels dampness, while also harmonizing the middle jiao (digestive systems).

Key Herbs: Huo Xiang (Patchouli) releases exterior wind-cold and dispels dampness and Zi Su Ye (Perilla leaf) and Bai Zhu (atractylodes) both release exterior wind-cold and dispel interior dampness and turbidity in the digestive system.

Single Herbs Used in China (raw dosage)

Shi Gao (Gypsum Fibrosum) 30g
Zhi Mu (Rhizoma Anemarrhenae) 10g
Shan Yao (Rhizoma Dioscoreae) 15g
Xi Yang Shen (Radix Panacis Quinquefolii) 5g
Tu Fu Ling (Rhizoma Smilacis Glabrae) 30g
Tu Da Huang (Radix Rumicis Obtusifolii) 10g
Tu Bei Mu (Rhizoma Bolbostemmatis) 10g
Tu Niu Xi (Rhizoma Achyranthes Sylvestris) 10g
Su Mu (Lignum Sappan) 10g
Tu Bie Chong (Eupolyphaga seu Steleophaga) 10g
Ju Luo (Vascular Citri Reticulatae) 15g
Lai Fu Zi (Semen Raphani) 20g
Ting Li Zi (Semen Descurainiae seu Lepidii) 15g
Si Gua Luo (Retinervus Luffae Fructus) 30g

 

Cold-Dampness Obstructing the Lungs

Fever, cough with little phlegm, shortness of breath, abdominal distension.

Patent Herbal Formulas:  Ban Xia Hou Po Tang with Ge Gen Tang or Gui Zhi Tang

Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome)

Ban Xia Hou Po Tang (Pinellia and Magnolia Bark Decoction)

Disperses stagnation, dissolves phlegm, and reverses stomach qi.

Herb Highlights: Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome) dissolves and disperses the phlegm and reverses stomach qi to stop vomiting.

Ge Gen (Kudzu)

Ge Gen Tang (Kudzu Decoction)

Expels wind cold (external pathogens), with or without fever, and relaxes the muscles.

Key Herbs: Ge Gen (Kudzu) releases exterior, open up blood vessels to promote oxygen rich blood to the respiratory tract. Enables white blood cells to fight infection and promotes healthy mucous membranes.

Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig)

Gui Zhi Tang (Cinnamon Twig Decoction)

Releases the exterior wind-cold and harmonized the ying (nutritive) qi and wei (defensive) qi.

Key Herbs: Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig) releases wind-cold from the exterior and soothes the muscles.

Single Herbs Used in China (raw dosage)

Cang Zhu (Atractylodes) 15g
Chen Pi (Citrus Peel) 10g
Hou Po (Magnolia) 10g
Huo Xiang (Agastache) 10g
Cao Guo (Amomum) 6g
Ma Huang (Ephedra) 6g
Qiang Huo (Notopterygium) 10g
Sheng Jiang (Zingiberis) 10g
Da Fu Pi (Areca) 10g

 

Severe Stage: Flaring Heat in the Qi and Ying

High fever, flushing, harsh cough, small yellow sticky phlegm may be with blood, wheezing or shortness of breath, dry mouth, nausea, poor stool movement, urine perhaps brown.

Patent Herbal Formulas:  Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang and Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Pian

Shi Gao (Gypsum)

Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang (Eliminate Dryness and Rescue the Lung Decoction)

Clears dryness and moistens the lungs for dry cough with little sputum.

Key Herbs: Sang Ye (Mulberry Leaf) moistens the lungs and releases pathogens from the lungs and Shi Gao (Gypsum) clears lung heat and moistens dryness.

Huo Xiang (Patchouli)

Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San (Agastache Powder to Rectify the Qi)

Releases the exterior and dispels dampness, while also harmonizing the middle jiao (digestive systems).

Key Herbs: Huo Xiang (Patchouli) releases exterior wind-cold and dispels dampness and Zi Su Ye (Perilla leaf) and Bai Zhu ( atractylodes) both release exterior wind-cold and dispel interior dampness and turbidity in digestive system.

Single Herbs Used in China (raw dosage)

Sheng Shi Gao (Raw Gypsum Fibrosum) 30-60g (decocted first)
Zhi Mu (Rhizoma Anemarrhenne) 30g
Sheng Di Huang (Radix Rehmannine) 30-60g
Shui Niu Jiao (Cornu Bubali) 30g (decocted first)
Chi Shao (Radix Paeoniae Rubra) 30g
Xuan Shen (Radix Scrophularine) 30g
Lian Qiao (Fructus Forsythiae) 15g
Mu Dan Pi (Cortex Moutan) 15g
Huang Lian (Rhizome Coptidis) 6g
Zhu Ye (Folium Phyllostachydis Henonis) 12g,
Ting Li Zi (Semen Lepidii) 15g,
Sheng Gan Cao (Radix Glycyrrhizae) 6g.

 

Recovery: Lung and Spleen Qi Deficiency

Absence of fever, dry cough, chest stuffiness, shortness of breath, shortness of breath upon exertion, dry mouth, weakness.

Patent Herbal Formulas:  Sha Shen Mai Dong Tang (Glehnia and Ophiopogonis Decoction)

Sha Shen (Glehnia)

Sha Shen Mai Dong Tang (Glehnia and Ophiopogonis Decoction)

Clears and nourishes the lung and stomach and moistens dryness.

Key Herbs: Sha Shen (Glehnia) and Mai Dong (Ophiopogonis) generate fluids, moisten dryness, and nourish the Lung and Stomach yin, while also clearing heat.

Single Herbs Used in China (raw dosage)

Sha Shen (Radix Glehniae seu Adenophorae) 15g
Mai Dong (Radix Ophiopogonis) 15g
Wu Wei Zi (Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis) 15g
Ren Shen (Radix et Rhizoma Ginseng) 12g
Lai Fu Zi (Semen Raphani) 15g
Si Gua Luo (Retinervus Luffae Fructus) 15g
Ju Luo (Vascular Citri Reticulatae) 15g
Zi Su Zi (Fructus Perillae) 12g
Zhe Bei Mu (Bulbus Fritillariae Thunbergii) 12g
Ku Xing Ren (Semen Armeniacae Amarum) 12g
Huang Qin (Radix Scutellariae) 15g
Gan Cao (Radix et Rhizoma Glycyrrhizae) 10g

 


 

Sources:

How COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) is Currently Treated in China with TCM. Compiled, Translated and Edited by John K. Chen, Pharm.D., PhD., OMD, LAc and Lori Hsu, MTOM, MS

TCM Resources for Coping with COVID-19 on eLotus.org

Textbook: Chinese Herbal Formulas and Applications by John K. Chen, Tina T. Chen, Art of Medicine Press, Inc, 2009

Textbook: Chinese Medical Herbology & Pharmacology  by John K. Chen, Tina T. Chen, Art of Medicine Press, Inc, 2004

USING CHINESE HERBAL PRODUCTS AND FORMULAS IN THE VARIOUS STAGES OF TOXIC-HEAT INVASION—Webinar with Dr. Jake Fratkin, March 16, 2020

USING CHINESE HERBAL PRODUCTS AND FORMULAS IN THE VARIOUS STAGES OF TOXIC-HEAT INVASION, Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD