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Traditional medicinal approach for prevention of COVID-19


By Dr. Pathirage Kamal Perera

As scientists race to find a cure and vaccine for COVID-19 outbreak, China is increasingly turning to its traditional remedies. As of late last month, more than 85% of all coronavirus patients in China about 60,000 people had received herbal remedies alongside mainstream antiviral drugs, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology (http://www.xinhuanet.com/fortune/2020-02/22/c_1125609475.htm.). By adjusting the whole body health and improving immunity, traditional medicine can help stimulate the patients’ abilities to resist and recover from the disease, which is an effective way of therapy, further adding that traditional medicine had helped fight viruses in the past, such as the SARS pandemic in 2002 and 2003 that killed hundreds in China.

According to the published data of Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11655-020-3192-6 ), the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to prevent epidemics of infectious diseases were traced back to ancient Chinese practice cited in Huangdi’s Internal Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing) where preventive effects were recorded. There were three studies using CM for the prevention of SARS and four studies for H1N1 influenza. None of the participants who took CM contracted SARS in the three 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 the prevention of COVID-19, 23 provinces in China issued TCM programs.

Prana jeewa

The main principles of TCM use were to tonify qi (Traditional Sri Lankan Medicine, it is known as Jeeva/Prana) 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). In conclusions based on historical records and human evidence of SARS and H1N1 influenza prevention, traditional medicine formula could be an alternative approach for the prevention of COVID-19 in high-risk populations. This made confidence on why herbal and plant-based remedies may have an edge over pharmaceuticals due to the plant’s synergistic complex nature. This natural approach is far more challenging to both bacterial and viral infections. Taking an herb or several herbs that are anti-bacterial and anti-viral can prove to strengthen the immune system and fight viruses like the coronavirus.Considering Sri Lanka also blessed with traditional Sri Lankan medicine (TSM) including Ayurveda medicine. TCM and TSM has many commonalities, from something as simple as how long each has been around, to diagnostic, practices and teachings such as holistic approach. TCM and TSM also share medical treatments, for example both traditions use rather common herbal remedies. Both traditions also share the common idea that healing by Prakriti (personalized) based holistic approach   (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5388077/). Traditional Chinese Medicine and TSM have similar theoretical teachings. In Chinese medicine, it is best when the body is in a balance that is when Yin and Yang are balanced. Yin describes the cool, wet and feminine, while Yang describes the hot, dry and masculine. If the body does not maintain a balance between Yin and Yang, ailments will occur. Like in TCM,  Traditional Sri Lankan Medicine treatment relies on the concept of balancing the Sheetha(Cold) and  Ushna(Hot) and it leads to balance main three body humors (Va -Pith- Sem) in the body. Just as an imbalance of Yin and Yang can lead to ailment, an imbalance in one of the humors leads to sickness as well.

In Sri Lanka these established traditional medicine systems should be coexist to major stream medical systems to overcome pandemic disease outbreak.  In current outbreak, TCM   used in much effective way to shorten and lessen the viral effect (To read: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tVCEbrHbY0ocghvJO06cAP_3y8GWcCz2/edit) (https://www.fip.org/files/content/priority-areas/coronavirus/CPA-CORONAVIRUS-2019-nCoV-Expert-Consensus-on-Guidance-and-Prevention.pdf ).

Traditional herbal preparations and preventive measures

Most of herbs that have traditionally been used as comfort measures against influenza would likely be effective to provide comfort against the coronavirus outbreak. Herbs that have strong anti-viral properties may also protect against cytokine storms that appeared in COVID-19 outbreak. According to some findings, a cytokine storm (To read: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30628-0/fulltext ) can both sicken and kill patients who are infected with COVID-19 virus. The storm occurs when an overproduction of immune cells and their activating compounds (cytokines), surge these activated immune cells into the lungs. The resulting lung inflammation and fluid buildup can lead to respiratory distress which can be contaminated by secondary bacterial pneumonia. This is what often leads to death. Clearly, avoiding a cytokine storm is very important. Anti-viral TSM formulas may be helping this condition but need more effective clinical trials as China is currently conducting while practicing it.

Yoga – Surya Namaskar

During the worst of this outbreak, we must be prepared to hunker down in the family isolation. And of course, a good healthy balanced diet, exercise (Yoga – Surya Namaskar and Taichi may be much more effective), a regular sleep schedule, proper hydration (clean water , and consistent intake of vitamins C and D3, as well as Magnesium and Zinc rich foods and fruits will be crucial (By the natural way). And for any of you readers who still smoke you must quit completely now, or your statistical chances of surviving a COVID-19 infection are quite low.

Note:  COVID-19 pandemic outbreak as a community we have to strictly follow government rules and regulations to minimize the spreading. First step is not to be panic. Because it increases psychological stress and it leads to reduce immunity power (22.A Guidance Manual on Mental Health During the NCP Outbreak (22.A Guidance Manual on Mental Health During the NCP Outbreak新冠肺炎疫情下的心理健康指导手册英文版-陕西师大社.pdf). And also not use any medicine without advice from a physician.

Dr. Pathirage Kamal Perera, Senior Lecturer | Institute of Indigenous Medicine, University of Colombo, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka