BEIJING: As Coronavirus rips through China´s vast population, making millions sick and fueling a shortage of drugs, many are turning to old-school traditional medicines to battle the aches and pains of the virus.
President Xi Jinping has promoted traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) since the start of the pandemic, while health officials have hailed its “important role” in fighting the coronavirus.
Encompassing a range of treatments from herbal remedies and massages to acupuncture and diets, TCM has been used for thousands of years to treat all manner of ailments.
Critics say it is pseudoscientific and ineffective in treating actual illness, and there is little peer-reviewed data to back claims of its efficacy. But millions in China use it, often in conjunction with modern medicine to alleviate symptoms.
Beijing consultant Yu Lei, 38, had a fever after catching Covid, so he made a herbal tea with reputed anti-inflammatory properties featuring cassia twig — a kind of Chinese cinnamon — peony roots, liquorice, jujubes and ginger.
“In our family, we often use Chinese medicines,” he told AFP, adding that his fever subsided after drinking the brew.
According to followers like Yu, TCMs have fewer side effects and work slower to regulate the body, rather than Western medicines that “fight the symptoms but rarely the source of the illness”. Beijing has urged local authorities to “actively and objectively publicise the role and efficacy of TCM brews in the treatment of Covid-19”.
However, Ben Cowling, chair of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong´s School of Public Health, told AFP: “We don´t know whether these treatments are effective or not, because they haven´t been studied in clinical trials.”
“I wouldn´t rule out the possibility that some of them are effective, but I also wouldn´t rule out the possibility that some of them might even be harmful.”