Some people are nervous about taking Chinese medicine. Don’t be. It’s good stuff, widely used around the world, it provides ingredients to Western medicine, and one practicioner won a Nobel Prize in medicine for a recipe she found in an ancient Chinese book of remedies. Aleesha Naqvi reports
MANY NON-CHINESE Hong Kongers have probably never or rarely taken traditional Chinese medicine before. The term itself might conjure up images of dried-up seahorses and snakes in jars, although the reality is quite different. Even if you don’t usually go looking for traditional Chinese medicine, later this month every Hong Konger will have some at home, courtesy of a gift package from the city government!
Don’t panic. First, it’s safe. Second, it’s optional. Third, it’s designed only to be taken if you have symptoms of Covid-19.
But is Chinese medicine trustworthy? The short answer is Yes. Traditional Chinese medicine has been used for thousands of years, and has commanded respect from top scientists worldwide. Not only have an increasing number of clinical studies been done, but there are numerous “crossover” cases.
Case in point: The Chinese scientist Tu Youyou won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery of an anti-malaria drug based on a plant she read about in a book on Chinese medicine more than a thousand years old. She saved millions of lives all around the world.
Also, you may have noticed how turmeric has suddenly become hugely fashionable in health food shops around the world. The spice has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. Now that its benefits have been proven, it is being used internationally.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
The Chinese medicine that the Hong Kong government is sending to your household this April is the capsule Lianhua Qingwen, the name of which includes the Chinese word for honeysuckle:
Lianhua Qingwen 连花清瘟
Lianhua Qingwen 连花清瘟 is a traditional Chinese medicine developed in 2003 to fight the SARS epidemic, it was approved by the China Food and Drug Administration and China’s health commissioner in 2004, and it was listed as a treatment for influenza and respiratory diseases. It is taken in capsules, manufactured by Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical Co Ltd. The capsules contain 13 ingredients, 11 herbal, plant-based sources, including rhubarb, apricot kernels, and the medicine’s namesake: honeysuckle. The ingredients are decocted, distilled, filtered, refrigerated, mixed with powdered sugar, dextrin, or starch, and finally dried, before being made into a capsule. The formula is based on medical texts from the Han dynasty (202BC-220AD) and has since been tested in modern pharmacological and clinical studies, including with Covid-19 patients.
The name: 连 lián is from 连翘 liánqiào, the flower Forsythiae Fructus. The Lianqiao flower possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral activities. 花 is from 金银花 jīn yín huā, better known as Honeysuckle. Honeysuckle is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat inflammatory diseases and has been used as a dietary supplement for many centuries, folkloric myths associate the plant with dreams and good luck.
And finally, 清瘟 qīngwēn means to cure pestilence. We could all benefit from not having pestilence, that’s for sure!
The medicine has been proven to work, as it has been observes to improve the clinical symptoms of coronavirus, and relieves cough, fever, and fatigue. Lianhua Qingwen also helps clear the coronavirus and remove toxins, expanding the lungs to improve respiratory health. Reminder that the Lianhua Qingwen capsule should only be taken if you are presenting symptoms of Covid-19 and if you have any questions ask your doctor for advice.
TWO OTHER MEDICINES
In addition to Lianhua Qingwen, the Hong Kong government is introducing two other items: Jinhua Qinggan and the Xuebijing Injection. These won’t be sent to you, but will be available in hospitals.
Jinhua Qinggan (金花清感) is a traditional Chinese medicine developed in 2009 during the H1N1 influenza pandemic, it comes as a granule that dissolves in boiling water. The granule contains 12 herbal components including honeysuckle, mint, and liquorice.
The medicine clears heat from the body and detoxifies the lungs, hence the name meaning a “cleared feeling”. It also improves the recovery rates of lymphocytes and white blood cells. In a trial, the patients who took the granule tested negative for Covid on average two and a half days earlier than the group who did not take the granule.
The Xuebijing Injection (血必净) is a traditional Chinese medicine that is injected into the bloodstream in extreme cases of illness. The injection was developed for SARS in 2003 and contains five herbal extracts, ingredients include safflower, Chinese angelica root, and red peony root.
血必净 xuè bì jìng means to keep the blood clean, this is because the medicine is typically used to detoxify and remove blood stasis. The injection will be used in Hong Kong hospitals to treat more severely ill Covid patients. The Xuebijing injection, combined with modern Western medicine can increase the rate of hospital discharge by accelerating the process of healing and getting patients to test negative for Covid faster.
Even nervous people who shy away from Chinese medicine should not throw away their gift package. Also inside, you’ll find rapid tests and KN95 masks, useful for everyone.
Image at the top from Hello I’m Nik/ Unsplash