Acupuncture Continuing Education

COVID-19 Herbal Medicine Research Finds Effective Patient Outcomes

da huang chinese herbal medicine covid

Herbal medicine is effective for alleviating symptoms associated with COVID-19, according to modern research. Results indicate that an integrative medicine model of patient care is superior to biomedical monotherapy.

Two herbal formulas have repeatedly been showing up across multiple investigations with excellent patient outcomes: Lianhua Qingwen, Qing Fei Bai Du San. Due to importation and regulatory limitations, the latter is not as effective in the USA as it is in many other nations. In the USA, there are restrictions on importation of the ingredient Ma Huang and the herb Xi Xin is not legal for use. As a result, modified herbal preparations of Qing Fei Bai Du San for sale in the USA lack the strength available in other nations.

Today’s focus is on a recent investigation showing that Chinese herbal medicine is effective for the alleviation of symptoms caused by COVID-19 in patients that have developed moderate cases of pneumonia. Furen Hospital Affiliated to Wuhan University of Science and Technology researchers conducted a clinical trial on 54 COVID-19 cases. The results show that Lianhua Qingwen markedly relieve the intensity of fever, cough, and fatigue. In addition, Lianhua Qingwen reduced the overall duration the symptoms. [1]

Historically, Lianhua Qingwen was commonly used for the treatment of influenza. In 2003, during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, Lianhua Qingwen was used to combat this respiratory illness caused by a strain of SARS-associated coronavirus. By 2017, research specified the role of Lianhua Qingwen in exerting anti-viral and anti-inflammatory activity against SARS-CoV-2). [2] The herbal formula contains the following ingredients:

  • Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicerae)
  • Lian Qiao (Fructus Forsythiae)
  • Ma Huang (Herba Ephedrae)
  • Xing Ren (Semen Armeniacae Amarae)
  • Shi Gao (Gypsum Fibrosum)
  • Ban Lan Gen (Radix Isatidis)
  • Mian Ma Guan Zhong (Rhizoma Guanzhong)
  • Yu Xing Cao (Herba Houttuyniae)
  • Guang Huo Xiang (Herba Pogostemonis)
  • Da Huang (Radix et Rhizoma Rhei)
  • Hong Jing Tian (Rhodiola)
  • Bo He (Herba Menthae)
  • Gan Cao (Radix Glycyrrhizae)

The recent Furen Hospital Affiliated to Wuhan University of Science and Technology clinical trial of 54 COVID-19 cases used guidelines based on official documentation: Diagnosis and Treatment Protocol for Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (released by the National Health Commission & State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 3-3-2020). [3] According to the guidelines, all patients admitted to the study were moderate cases, presenting with fever, respiratory symptoms, and radiologic signs of pneumonia.

Age range of the patients was from 25 to 95 years. Average age was 60.1 ±16.98 years. Among all patients, 29 were males and 25 were females. Average body temperature was 37.93 ±0.93 degrees Celcius, median was 38.05 degrees Celcius.

Prior to being confirmed with COVID-19 with pneumonia, the highest temperature presented in all patients was 38.54 ±0.60 degrees Celcius. Average heart rate was 87.9 ±11.80/min., median was 85.5/min. Highest heart rate was 112/min. Average respiratory rate was 21.1 ±3.78/min., median was 20/min. Highest respiratory rate was 30/min. Twenty-one patients had high blood pressure. Seven had coronary heart disease. Ten had diabetes. Ten had a history of cerebral infarction.

Laboratory tests showed 31 cases had a normal WBC (white blood cell) count, 9 cases had decreased WBC count, and 8 cases had an increased WBC count. Twenty-five patients had a normal ANC (Absolute Neutrophil Count), 23 patients had increased ANC. Fourteen cases had a normal lymphocyte count, and 34 cases had a decreased lymphocyte count.

C-reactive protein (CRP) was elevated in all patients admitted to the study. CRP, produced in the liver, elevates when inflammation is present. An elevated CRP is often present when there is infection, inflammatory intestinal disorders, or autoimmune diseases. A CRP test is usually administered when there is fever and respiratory symptoms.

In this investigation, the average duration of taking Lianhua Qingwen was 8.0 ±4.10 days, median was seven days. The shortest duration was one day and the longest was 16 days. Patients were given Lianhua Qingwen (Yiling Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.), three times per day. In addition, regular treatments were administered, including intravenous injections of immunoglobulin (2.5 g/day), ganciclovir (0.4g/day), levofloxacin (0.4g/day), and methylprednisolone (40 mg/day).

Three days after taking Lianhua Qingwen in the integrative treatment protocol, 47.5% of the patients no longer had fever, 35.1% of the patients no longer experienced fatigue, and 20% stopped coughing. Five days later, the three figures increased to 62.5%, 59.5%, and 50. 0% respectively. By the seventh day, the figures reached 80.0%, 75.7%, and 76.7%. As for other symptoms, none of the patients had labored breathing after seven days. Approximately 90% of the patients recovered from chest distress and crackles.

The aforementioned investigation demonstrates an effective integrative medicine protocol. The following investigation demonstrates that the absence of Chinese herbal medicine from a COVID-19 treatment protocol is to the detriment of patient health.

An independent investigation conducted at Huarunwugang Hospital Affiliated to Wuhan University of Science and Technology used two groups of patients. From January 1 to January 27, 2010, a total of 63 patients were admitted to the two-arm study. Thirty-eight received regular drug treatment (same as in the aforementioned trial). The rest were given regular drug treatment plus Lianhua Qingwen. Patient baselines had no statistical differences before treatment. Similar measurement parameters were used as in the aforementioned investigation. Patients in the integrative treatment group had significantly superior patient outcomes, demonstrating that the addition of Chinese herbal medicine is effective in the fight against COVID-19. [4]

At HealthCMi, today’s clinical highlight is on the inclusion of the herb Mian Ma Guan Zhong in Lianhua Qingwen. This variety of fern is listed in Chinese materia medica in the expel parasites category. It is bitter, cold, and enters the liver and spleen channels. Filmarone is one ingredient of this herb, which is potentially toxic when consumed with a fatty meal. Normal advisory is to consume this herb on an empty stomach, at least one hour before or after a meal.

Guan Zhong (Mian Ma Guan Zhong) contains filicin. Both filmarone and filicin are anthelmintic (destroys parasitic worms). An important medicine, it is often avoided for use during pregnancy or lactation. Guan Zhong is especially powerful against tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms.

Guan Zhong drains heat and fire toxicity. As a result, it is used for the treatment of wind-heat, damp-heat sores, and epidemic toxins (including viruses). Indications for use include treatment of patients for heat-toxin diseases with fire blazing including measles, encephalitis, and pneumonia. Guan Zhong cools the blood and stops bleeding, especially uterine bleeding. Modern common usage includes formulas containing this herb to prevent influenza.

[1] Cheng Dezhong, Li Yi, linical Effectiveness and Case Analysis in 54 NCP Patients Treated with Lianhua Qingwen, World Chinese Medicine, January 2020, Vol.15, No. 2.
[2] Ding, Yuewen, Lijuan Zeng, Runfeng Li, Qiaoyan Chen, Beixian Zhou, Qiaolian Chen, Pui leng Cheng et al. "The Chinese prescription lianhuaqingwen capsule exerts anti-influenza activity through the inhibition of viral propagation and impacts immune function." BMC complementary and alternative medicine 17, no. 1 (2017): 130.
[4] Lv Ruibing, Wang Wenju, Li Xin, Clinical Observation of Treating NCP Patients with Lianhua Qingwen, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2020-02-17.


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