Covid Care for You and Me, Part 2: Herbal Treatment
At this time (February 2021), as the new COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more widely available, patients ask me daily: “Should I get the vaccine?” In talking it out with them, the underlying question is, “What should I fear more – getting COVID or getting the vaccine?” Let’s get some other options on the table!
Many people feel stuck between a rock and hard place because COVID treatment has not yet received sufficient attention in the form of research and open medical discourse.
As with Lyme disease, it is easier to release the fear of infection if you know how to protect yourself and what actions to take if you catch it.
For those of you interested in natural treatment solutions first and foremost, Chinese herbal medicine holds great potential. The efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) became evident in 2003, after certain hospitals in China utilized herbal formulas to treat SARS exclusively or in conjunction with Western medicine with high cure rates and no mortality (1, 2).
Based on this recent past experience, it’s no surprise that the Chinese opted to benefit from the use of herbal medicine for COVID-19. According to statistics released by the China Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 92.58% of the confirmed COVID-19 patients nationwide were treated with TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)(3).
The Role of Chinese Herbal Medicine
As you will see, specific herbal formulas have therapeutic effects for each clinical stage of COVID-19.
Like Lyme, SARS-CoV-2 may cause damage to multiple organs through various factors, especially in the elderly, those with obesity or hypertension, men with cardiovascular disease and those with blood type A (5). If you fall into one of these categories, or if you are someone who has consistent potential exposure and you want extra protection, we recommend taking one of the following formulas daily for prevention:
Gan Cao Gan Jiang Jia Jian (Licorice & Ginger Formula with additions) is a formula whose herbs work synergistically to strengthen the innate immune system and help prevent the contraction of viral illnesses. The formula is warming overall and ideal for those living in cold climates, and/or who tend to feel cold internally. Our GCGJJJ formula contains gui zhi (cinnamon twig), ban xia (pinellia), fu ling (poria), gan cao (licorice root), gan jiang (ginger), huang qi (astragalus), chai hu (bupleurum), fang feng (siler root), and echinacea.
An alternate preventive formula is Gui Zhi Tang + She Gan Ma Huang Tang (Cinnamon Twig + Belamcanda & Ephedra Formulas combined). It is particularly ideal for people who have pre-existing lung issues who feel they easily contract respiratory infections. It is a cooler formula, so it’s better for those who tend to feel hot or overheat easily (you know who you are!). Our modified GZT+SGMHT formula contains gui zhi (cinnamon twig), bai shao (peony root) gan cao (licorice root), gan jiang (ginger rhizome), she gan (belamcanda), xing ren (apricot kernel), zi wan (aster root), ban xia (pinellia), kuan dong hua (coltsfoot), xi xin (wild ginger), and wu wei zi (schisandra).
We recommend taking Vitamin C (1,000 mg / 2-3x / day), Vitamin D3 (5,000 – 10,000 IU / day) and zinc picolinate (35 mg / day) in addition to either herbal formula for the most effective preventive treatment. You can take these vitamins to help treat the infection or long-haul syndrome as well!
If a mild infection occurs, Chinese herbs can relieve clinical symptoms (such as fever, shortness of breath, cough, diarrhea, and loss of taste and smell), shorten the course of the disease, and prevent the infection from becoming severe or long-standing.
In our last blog on COVID treatment, we recommended Da Qing Long Tang (modified), an herbal formula that contains yu xing cao (houttuynia), xing ren (apricot seed), gui zhi (cinnamon twig), shi gao (gypsum), gan cao (licorice root), da zao (jujube), gan jiang (ginger), she gan (belamcanda), and echinacea. This formula is still an excellent choice to begin at the outset of any COVID symptoms. It strongly addresses respiratory (lung and sinus-related) and general manifestations of COVID infection.
Since that blog was written, more research has emerged from China that demonstrates the effectiveness of additional formulas that are ideal for moderate and severe COVID conditions, as well as for post-COVID illness (aka the long haul).
For example, Lian Hua Qing Wen formula was found to reduce the clinical symptoms of COVID-19 patients through anti-inflammatory mechanisms, modulating the cytokine storm, and also by acting directly on the virus itself. Since most organ damage is caused by direct virus attack and cytokine storm attack, it supports complete resolution in patients with mild and moderate symptoms.
In vitro studies have shown that LHQW can significantly inhibit the replication of SARS-CoV-2 and significantly reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-6, and others. A randomized controlled trial including 284 confirmed COVID-19 (142 each in the treatment and control groups) showed that adding LHQW to standard Western medical treatment led to a shorter recovery time from fever, fatigue and coughing, a higher rate of improvement in chest manifestations, and a higher clinical cure (complete resolution), with no serious adverse reactions reported. LHQW is effective in improving clinical symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, anorexia, fatigue, cough, and digestive complaints (8, 11, 12).
Our modified Lian Hua Qing Wen formula contains lian qiao (forsythia fruit), jin yin hua (honeysuckle flower), zi wan (aster root), xing ren (bitter apricot seed), shi gao (gypsum), ban lan gen (isatis root), gu sui bu (male fern rhizome), yu xing cao (houttuynia), hu xiang (patchouli), da huang (Chinese rhubarb), rhodiola, bo he (mint), and gan cao (licorice root).
Another formula that has been widely used for the treatment of COVID in mild to severe levels of infection is Qing Fei Pai Du Tang. Qing Fei Pai Du decoction (QFPDD) is a combination of several formulas that have been used historically in China for epidemic outbreaks over the centuries. This formula is anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. It interferes with SARS-CoV-2 infection by regulating various complement and coagulation cascades and the thrombin system in vivo (13).
According to reports from China, “Clinical observation in four provinces of China showed that the total effective rate of QFPD decoction in the treatment of COVID-19 patients is more than 90%, in which more than 60% of the patients’ symptoms and imaging manifestations improved significantly (n = 214). Observation of the curative effect of 1,262 cases of COVID-19 in 66 designated units in China demonstrated that it blocks disease progression in critical patients. QFPD… can treat all stages (light, ordinary, severe and critical)… (has) definite curative effect, convenient use, no side effects, and low cost.” (3, 8)
Our version of this formula contains gan cao (licorice), xing ren (bitter apricot seed), shi gao (gypsum), gui zhi (cinnamon twig), ze xie (water plantain rhizome), zhu ling (sclerotum polypore), bai zhu (white atractylodis rhizome), chai hu (bupleurum root), huang qin (Chinese skullcap root), jiang ban xia (ginger-prepared pinellia rhizome), sheng jiang* (fresh ginger; not included- you add), zi wan (aster root), kuan dong hua (coltsfoot flower), she gan (belamcanda rhizome), xi xin (Chinese wild ginger), shan yao (Chinese yam), zhi shi (immature bitter orange), chen pi (tangerine peel), and huo xiang (patchouli).
If you are suffering from on-going symptoms post-COVID infection (aka the long haul), you are not alone!
Use of one of the herbal formulas described above may (perhaps greatly) reduce your chances of lingering or returning chronic symptoms. However, if you’re already post-infection and finding resolution of symptoms difficult, the following formulas can help rehabilitate your body, cells and energy. Choose among the following 3 formulas to support a full return of physical strength and body-mind functionality (14, 15).
- Post-COVID Qi Boosting Formula: Ideal for persistent shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, poor appetite, digestive weakness, loss of taste or smell, nausea, bloating, and general sluggishness. Ingredients: ban xia (pinellia rhizome), chen pi (tangerine peel), tai zi shen (pseudostellaria root), huang qi (astragalus root), bai zhu (white atractylodis rhizome), fu ling (hoelen), huo xiang (patchouli), sha ren (cardamon fruit), gan cao (licorice), bing lang (betel nut), xiang fu (cyperus), hou po (magnolia bark).
- Post-COVID Restoration Formula: Ideal for persistent fatigue, loss of memory or focus, insomnia, dry mouth, thirst, heart palpitation, dry cough, pulmonary fibrosis, night sweats, or low-grade fever. This formula is especially appropriate for people age 60 and over, who tend towards these issues already. Ingredients: qian hu (peucedanum root), bei sha shen (glehnia root), mai dong (ophiopogon tuber), tai zi shen (pseudostellaria root), wu wei zi (schisandra fruit), shi gao (gypsum), dan zhu ye (bamboo leaf and stem), sang ye (white mulberry leaf), lu gen (phragmites rhizome), dan shen (red sage root), gan cao (licorice root).
- Post-COVID Detox Formula: Ideal for persistent fatigue, headache, muscle or joint aches, nausea, constipation, irritability or depression. Ingredients: chai hu (bupleurum root), huang qin (Chinese skullcap root), fu ling (hoelen), ban xia (pinellia rhizome), gui zhi (cinnamon twig), ge gen (kudzu root), da huang (Chinese rhubarb root), chuan xiong (szechwan lovage rhizome), lian qiao (forsythia), dan zhu ye (bamboo leaf and stem), huo xiang (patchouli).
How to take these formulas
Granules should be taken at a dose of 1 teaspoon / 2x / day for prevention, or 1 teaspoon / 3x / day for active infection. Decoctions should be taken at a dose of 1 cup / 2x / day for prevention, or 1 cup / 3x / day for active infection.
If symptoms improve but are not completely resolved, we recommend modifying the prescription to address your actual situation (a consultation is required for this service). Treatment can be stopped a few days following the disappearance of all symptoms.
Chinese Herbal Medicine for COVID-19
To recap, Chinese herbal medicine can inhibit the growth of the virus in the body, relieve patients’ symptoms and prevent serious development of the disease by lowering inflammation, protecting organ tissue, preventing progression of the illness, and supporting detoxification (8).
The result is reduced mortality, shorter duration of illness, and prevention of long-term (“long haul”) conditions.
Here is chart of these herbal formulas, what stage of illness they’re best for, and the COVID symptom picture they’re built to treat.
|Prevention||low immunity, tendency to feel cold|
Gui Zhi + She Gan Ma Huang Tang
pre-existing lung issues, vulnerable to respiratory illness, tends to feel hot
Mild to moderate infection
initial onset of lung and respiratory symptoms
Mild to moderate infection
fever, fatigue, respiratory and/or digestive complaints
Mild to severe infection
Fever, fatigue, inflammation, wide array of covid symptoms
shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, poor appetite, digestive weakness, loss of taste or smell, nausea, bloating, sluggishness
fatigue, memory loss, insomnia, thirst, heart palpitation, dry cough, night sweats, low-grade fever
|Post-COVID Detox Formula||Recovery phase|
Fatigue, headache, body pain, nausea, constipation, depression
NB: Some news outlets and doctors warn against taking any and all Chinese herbal medicines due to valid concerns of contamination with heavy metals or other toxic substances (yuck!). We are thoroughly aware of these issues and therefore we carry herbs that are certified organic and/or wildcrafted and tested for harmful substances. In order to avoid this danger, we recommend that you purchase any of these formulas through our online shop, or from another practitioner or herbal pharmacy that upholds similar standards of quality.
If you need a personalized approach for the treatment of your particular symptoms of COVID, long-haul syndrome, or other pre-existing conditions, please contact our clinic at email@example.com or 845 687 6211 to set up a tele-medicine appointment. We are happy to help you!
Yours in Health,
- Chen, Z., and Nakamura, T. (2004). Statistical evidence for the usefulness of Chinese medicine in the treatment of SARS. Phytother Res. 18, 592–594. doi:10.1002/ptr.1485
- Zhang, B.-l., Liang, S., and Zhang, J. (2004). Syndrome in TCM and therapeutic effect of integrated medicine in patients with SARS [J]. Tianjin Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 6.
- Medicine NAoTC (2020h). A variety of traditional Chinese medicine has been initially proved to have obvious curative effect, and the central guidance group requires timely summary. Available at: http://www.satcm.gov.cn/xinxifabu/shizhengyaowen/2020-03-05/13617.html (Accessed May 18, 2020).
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- Menter, T., Haslbauer, J. D., Nienhold, R., Savic, S., Hopfer, H., Deigendesch, N., et al. (2020). Post-mortem examination of COVID19 patients reveals diffuse alveolar damage with severe capillary congestion and variegated findings of lungs and other organs suggesting vascular dysfunction. Histopathology 77, 198–209. doi:10.1111/his.14134
- Potential Therapeutic Effect of Traditional Chinese Medicine on Coronavirus Disease 2019: A Review. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2020.570893
- Jimilihan, S. (2020). Study on the active components in the adjuvant treatment of novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) with Jinhua Qinggan granules based on network pharmacology and molecular docking. J. Chin. Med. Mater. 2020 (05), 1275–1283.
- Medicine NAoTC (2020c). The indications for the treatment of COVID-19 include jinhua Qinggan, Lianhua Qingwen and Xuebijing. Available at: http://www.satcm.gov.cn/hudongjiaoliu/guanfangweixin/2020-04-15/14662.html
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- Yang, Yang & Islam, Md Sahidul & Wang, Jin & Li, Yuan & Chen, Xin. (2020). Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Treatment of Patients Infected with 2019-New Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2): A Review and Perspective. International Journal of Biological Sciences. 16. 1708-1717. 10.7150/ijbs.45538.
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- Hu, K., Guan, W. J., Bi, Y., Zhang, W., Li, L., Zhang, B., et al. (2020). Efficacy and safety of Lianhuaqingwen capsules, a repurposed Chinese herb, in patients with coronavirus disease 2019: a multicenter, prospective, randomized controlled trial, in Patients with coronavirus disease 2019: A multicenter, prospective, randomized controlled trial. Phytomedicine 153242. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2020.153242
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