• Matthew Truhan, L.Ac.

Traditional Chinese Medicine treating Coronavirus

Updated: Mar 27

With the outbreak of coronavirus taking up the news, it is important to understand what it is, how it is spread, and what you can do to protect yourself. In China, new infections have been decreasing, as well as they have been finding that combining western intervention with Traditional Chinese Medicine has been improving recovery time for patients.


First, some information from the CDC and WHO


What is the Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause illness in both humans and animals. They lead to presentations from a common cold to more severe respiratory illnesses, such as SARS and MERS. The term COVID-19 describes the infectious disease that is caused by the newly found coronavirus.


How is it spread?

No, it is not spread by Corona!! Current thought is that it is spread by respiratory droplets, meaning the fluid that is expelled when you sneeze or cough or even breath(especially if that breath is labored and forced). This fluid may land on another object and be picked up by someone else.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The first symptoms usually appear in 2-14 days and consist of fever, cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. The symptoms then develop into body aches and pains, nasal congestion, sore throat, and possible digestive symptoms.


How do you prevent the spread of COVID-19?

First things first: Don’t Panic!! Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is the same as preventing the spread of the flu (by the way, the CDC states flu activity is high this year!). To help prevent the spread, we need only go back to what we learned so many years ago in kindergarten about proper hygiene! It starts by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. It is best to do this with an elbow to prevent contaminating your hands.


Next up, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and avoid touching your face unless you have done so. As mentioned above, the virus can be present in respiratory droplets that have landed on counters, arm rails, or any place someone may have touched or breathed on. You can touch an object that is infected and pass that to yourself (or others!) if you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. Washing hands keeps both you and others around you safe.


If someone is coughing or sneezing, WHO recommends keeping at least 1 meter separation to prevent those droplets from reaching you. WAIT! This is America, what’s a meter? Well, it is about 3 feet; in fact 3 feet will give you extra space!


It is important during these types of outbreaks to think communal and not just about one’s self. As most of the cases (80% per WHO) improve without medical intervention, the main concern in these types of illness are those that are immune compromised, the elderly, and the young. If you are not feeling well and are experiencing the above symptoms, keep yourself at home to prevent spreading whatever illness you have. Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.


Treatment of COVID-19

There is currently no antiviral treatment for COVID-19, but that does not mean there are not things that can help. Current Western treatment consists of supportive care to help with symptoms; severe cases would add support for organ function.


Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), however, has been treating epidemics since its inception, and it has been proving beneficial in China during this one. The main focus of TCM would be prevention, making sure the body is strong enough to protect itself from illnesses. This is achieved through proper diet, exercise, and a lifestyle that does not put you into harm’s way.


Unfortunately, even with all the preventive measures utilized, sometimes the body cannot fend off a very strong invading evil! In the early ages of TCM, the main external causative factor for illness (that which invades the body and not created due to internal disharmony) was considered to be the invasion of cold into the body; these illnesses presented with more chills then fevers and other signs of coldness. It was not until late in the 18th century that physicians began to see more heat related external factors: higher fevers than chills and other signs of heat in the body. Each of these (heat or cold) can then be differentiated more, depending on the area of attack, severity, and the main presenting signs.


Because every person is different, and the diagnosis in TCM can be specific, each person may present with a slightly different diagnosis, even when contracting the same western pathogen. The treatment can then be tailored to their specific presentation, addressing the exact areas that need to be addressed for each person. Experts in China have found seven different pattern presentations through the course of the illness; eight including the recovery. Each of those seven patterns have their own acupuncture or moxabustion treatment along with a, herbal formula to help with those specific presenting symptoms.


From prevention, to treatment, to recovery, Traditional Chinese Medicine is helping western intervention in the treatment of these illnesses. It is important during these types of outbreaks to seek western medical diagnosis and and treatment, but we are ready to help with acupuncture and herbal treatments.


References: WHO Coronavirus Homepage

CDC Coronavirus Homepage

Dr. John Chen, et al., 2020, How COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) is Currently Treated in China with TCM, ELotus.org, accessed 02/20/2020

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