Watch: Traditional medicine is increasingly spreading in China to combat COVID-19

Watch: Traditional medicine is increasingly spreading in China to combat COVID-19
Watch: Traditional medicine is increasingly spreading in China to combat COVID-19

Many Chinese people, who refuse to receive chemically formulated drugs or want to take nutritional supplements, resort to traditional medicine to counter the current wave of Covid-19 in China, using herbal capsules, herbal hot drinks, or techniques such as acupuncture.

President Xi Jinping constantly promotes traditional Chinese medicine, while the authorities praise its role in confronting Corona, while modern medicine is still largely the preferred way to receive health care in China.

Traditional medicine includes various practices that have been used for thousands of years, including herbal medicines, minerals and animal extracts, as well as techniques such as massage, acupuncture and tai chi movements.

Critics of this medicine, who are many in China, consider it pseudoscience and ineffective, stressing that there are limited scientific studies proving its potential effectiveness.

However, millions of people rely on it in China, and praise that it does not record side effects such as those suffered by the patient after taking traditional medicines called “Western” (fatigue, digestive or endocrine disorders).

After Yu Li, 38, an employee of a consulting company in Beijing, developed a fever during his period of infection with Covid-19, he prepared a hot drink known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which contains Chinese cinnamon, peony roots, licorice, jujube and ginger.

“My body temperature dropped during the night after I had the drink,” he told AFP.

As for the defenders of traditional medicine, they assert that Chinese medicines work more slowly to regulate body temperature and excrete pathogens through sweat, urine, or feces.

“My family often resorts to traditional Chinese medicine,” says Yu Li. “We prefer it to Western medicines, which treat symptoms and rarely treat the source of the problem.”

We don’t realize how effective it is.

Typically, “Chinese medicines” are boiled extracts that patients drink based on a prescription from a medical professional. However, a large number of Chinese people buy drugs from pharmacies without having a prescription and come in forms similar to Western ones (capsules, pills, powders).


“We do not know whether these treatments are effective because they have not undergone clinical trials,” said Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, adding, “I do not exclude the possibility that some of them are effective, but I also do not exclude the possibility that some of them are harmful “.


Only chemotherapy-based treatments are recommended by the World Health Organization for COVID-19.

Speaking to AFP about traditional Chinese medicine, the organization briefly recommended that countries “collect reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products.”

Western medicine is still largely favored by the population and hospitals in China. However, health authorities and medical experts appearing in the media constantly assert that both traditional and Western medicine can play a “complementary role” in treating fever, joint pain, cough and sore throat.

A large number of Chinese people who treat themselves, through communication sites, share treatments that they have resorted to, such as injections, massages, or acupuncture. Li Wen, 68, a specialist in acupuncture, pricks himself with some needles to fight the flu. He believes that “Chinese medicines are useful in dealing with the virus, but they are unable to get rid of it.”

Pear and leek

Dani, 39, from Beijing, takes a drink containing plant extracts to treat cough. And she says, “I do not drink this drink because I do not find Western medicines,” which the Chinese sometimes struggle to find in pharmacies, since the large increase in Corona cases, but rather “because it is effective and soothing.” And she adds, “I prepare a soup of pears and hot water with lemon to soothe the sore throat and to get vitamin C as well.”

As for Cai Yongmao, 70, he takes two Chinese drugs that have anti-inflammatory properties. “I prepare a broth of leeks, garlic and ginger to soothe a sore throat,” he says.

“I have been using plants for decades to treat colds, coughs and respiratory ailments. I have continued to do so because I am satisfied with the results and the media often praises its benefits,” he continues. However, many Chinese are not convinced of the traditional recipes.

Grace Hsia, 30, says, “We young people know little about traditional medicine, and we prefer Western medicines because their results are quick.” For her part, Li Na (36 years old) says, “I took paracetamol to treat a fever, and its effectiveness was very fast,” considering that “Chinese medicines are ineffective, and whoever resorts to them takes them in large quantities to reassure himself and convince her that he has taken a treatment.”

Lan Jirui, a doctor specializing in Chinese medicine in Beijing, believes that the doubts surrounding the effectiveness of these treatments are mainly due to self-medication, adding, “It is the same logic of Western medicine: if a person buys a medicine based on a prescription, this drug will most likely be effective, but if The patient bought it at random from the pharmacy, as it may not have any efficacy.



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