Can Chinese Medicine Be Used for Prevention of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)? A Review of Historical Classics, Research Evidence and Current Prevention Programs

Journal article


Luo, H., Tang, Q-L., Shang, Y-X., Liang, S-B., Yang, M., Robinson, N. and Liu, J-P. (2020). Can Chinese Medicine Be Used for Prevention of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)? A Review of Historical Classics, Research Evidence and Current Prevention Programs. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine.
AuthorsLuo, H., Tang, Q-L., Shang, Y-X., Liang, S-B., Yang, M., Robinson, N. and Liu, J-P.
Abstract

Objective: Since December 2019, an outbreak of corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) occurred in
Wuhan, and rapidly spread to almost all parts of China. This was followed by prevention programs recommending
Chinese medicine (CM) for the prevention. In order to provide evidence for CM recommendations, we reviewed
ancient classics and human studies. Methods: Historical records on prevention and treatment of infections in
CM classics, clinical evidence of CM on the prevention of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and H1N1
influenza, and CM prevention programs issued by health authorities in China since the COVID-19 outbreak were
retrieved from different databases and websites till 12 February, 2020. Research evidence included data from
clinical trials, cohort or other population studies using CM for preventing contagious respiratory virus diseases.
Results: The use of CM to prevent epidemics of infectious diseases was traced back to ancient Chinese practice
cited in Huangdi's Internal Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing) where preventive effects were recorded. There were 3
studies using CM for prevention of SARS and 4 studies for H1N1 influenza. None of the participants who took CM
contracted SARS in the 3 studies. The infection rate of H1N1 influenza in the CM group was significantly lower than
the non-CM group (relative risk 0.36, 95% confidence interval 0.24–0.52; n=4). For prevention of COVID-19, 23
provinces in China issued CM programs. The main principles of CM use were to tonify qi to protect from external
pathogens, disperse wind and discharge heat, and resolve dampness. The most frequently used herbs included
Radix astragali (Huangqi), Radix glycyrrhizae (Gancao), Radix saposhnikoviae (Fangfeng), Rhizoma Atractylodis
Macrocephalae (Baizhu), Lonicerae Japonicae Flos (Jinyinhua), and Fructus forsythia (Lianqiao). Conclusions:
Based on historical records and human evidence of SARS and H1N1 influenza prevention, Chinese herbal
formula could be an alternative approach for prevention of COVID-19 in high-risk population. Prospective, rigorous
population studies are warranted to confirm the potential preventive effect of CM.

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine

Year2020
JournalChinese Journal of Integrative Medicine
PublisherSpringer
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1007/s11655-020-3192-6
Web address (URL)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11655-020-3192-6
Publication dates
Online17 Feb 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted14 Feb 2020
Deposited14 Feb 2020
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY 4.0
File Access Level
Open
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