Supporting the Immune System with Traditional Chinese Medicine During the Pandemic

The benefits of Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) coming together are clear. Currently in hospitals in China, the best of both medicines are being used to support the health of patients. In China, 85 percent of the patients have been treated with both Western and Chinese medicine.

You are probably familiar with a common formula used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to support the immune system called Jade Screen (Yu Ping Feng San). A modified version of Jade Screen has recently been used in Wuhan, China during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Promising use of TCM Formula in Coronavirus Treatment

Currently, a formula called Qing Fei Pai Du Tang (Clear the Lung and Eliminate Toxins Decoction), is one being used to treat patients who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. On March 24, 2020, research was released showing that out of 1,265 patients given the formula, 1,241 recovered and were discharged.  None of the patients deteriorated from mild/moderate to severe symptoms. The signs and symptoms resolved within 3-6 days and patients tested negative for the virus within 10 days. These results sound almost too good to be true and the formula will have to undergo further clinical trials in the United States. Dr. John Chen, pharmacologist and TCM practitioner, has been working over the past two weeks with UCLA, UC Irvine, and UC San Diego, putting together a three-arm study on the treatment of COVID-19. One arm is placebo, another is a mushroom supplement, and a third arm is Qing Fei Pai Du Tang.

As promising as it sounds, this formula may not be right for you and it is always best to check with a licensed acupuncturist who is also proficient in herbal medicine. There isn’t a “one size fits all” in medicine when it comes to healing the body or supporting the body’s natural inclination towards stable equilibrium (homeostasis). Each of us is slightly different. In applying formulas, we need to be aware that our age, body type, energy level, illnesses, blood pressure, and emotional spectrum are just a few of the variables that create our whole self. The goal of a holistic health practitioner is to bring the patient into balance. 

The Four Stages

There are four basic stages in dealing with the novel coronavirus:

  1. Prevention stage.
  2. Initial stage of infection – Fever, dry cough, body aches, sneezing, and nasal congestion.
  3. Severe respiratory distress – difficulty breathing – patient should be hospitalized.
  4. Recovery phase.

The typical guidelines for prevention are the most important and can be found on the CDC’s prevention page ( Other important considerations are also ways to increase general health, such as exercise, relaxation, and proper nutrition. 

Prevention Stage Treatment

Let’s look at the Chinese medicine formula that would be used during the prevention stage. Here is one that was used at the Hubei Provincial Hospital in Wuhan, China. Its base is the very well-known formula mentioned above called Jade Screen or Yu Ping Feng San. This formula was created in 1481 by doctor Zhu Dan-Xi. It has now been modified to be more relevant to the coronavirus, by adding several herbs with anti-viral and phlegm reducing properties. 

The new formula consists of:

Huang Qi     (Radix Astragalus membranaceus)   15g

Bai Zhu       (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae)     10g dry fried

Fang Feng     (Radix Ledebouriellae)       10g

Mian Ma Guan Zhong  (Rhizoma Dryopteridis Crassirhizomatis)     10g

Jin Yin Hua       (Flos Lonicerae Japonicae)     10g

Chen Pi       (Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae)      6g

Pei Lan     (Herba Eupatorii)       10g

Huang Qi, better known as Astragalus root in the US, is known for its immune enhancing effects, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral activity. It has been found to enhance macrophage function, which are important cells in our innate immune system capable of attacking and destroying viruses and bacteria.

Bai Zhu is an herb that improves digestion and the ability of the body to assimilate the proper nutrients.

Fang Feng is an immunostimulant that is used traditionally in cases where there is headache, chills, and body aches due to infection.

Mian Ma Guan Zhong, known as the “king of antivirus” in China, and listed in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, for treatment of viral disease. It contains an acidic polysaccharide called DCP-3 that has exhibited strong anti-oxidant activity and immunomodulatory effect on macrophages. 

Jin Yin Hua is the honeysuckle flower which has been studied extensively. It has been found to have a wide range of qualities including anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory.

Chen Pi is the dried rind of a ripe tangerine (specifically Citris reticilata). Traditionally it’s used for bloating, abdominal fullness, and phlegm-damp coughs. It has bronchodilatory effects and reduces coughing.

Pei Lan, also known as orchid-grass, has traditionally been used to help with nausea, lack of appetite and abdominal distention with a thick tongue coating. In this formula it synergistically works with chen pi to help regulate the digestive system so the body doesn’t produce excess phlegm. It has a secondary beneficial effect in that it has been shown to exhibit anti-viral properties.

Let’s Talk

I’m sure you have concerns about this pandemic. Let’s talk about ways to protect yourself and your loved ones. I am happy to discuss Chinese Medicine formulas, how they work, and which might best serve your unique health needs. Remember – there isn’t a “one size fits all” in medicine – whether Eastern or Western. My goal is to help you restore and maintain your body’s natural inclination towards stable, healthy balance.

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