Her­bal reme­dies for the coron­avirus spark de­bate in China

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Bei­jing, China - A claim by Chi­nese sci­en­tists that a liq­uid made with honey­suckle and flow­er­ing plants could help fight the deadly coron­avirus has sparked fren­zied buy­ing of the tra­di­tional medicine, but doubts quickly emerged.

As the death toll from the SARS-like pathogen sweep­ing the coun­try con­tin­ues to rise, shop­pers have swamped phar­ma­cies in search of ‘Shuanghuan­glian’.

The rush came af­ter in­flu­en­tial state me­dia out­let Xin­hua re­ported on Fri­day that the esteemed Chi­nese Academy of Sciences had found the con­coc­tion ‘can in­hibit’ the virus.

Videos shared on­line showed long lines of peo­ple in sur­gi­cal masks lin­ing up at night out­side drug stores, pur­port­edly in hope of snap­ping up the prod­uct, de­spite of­fi­cial ad­vice that peo­ple avoid pub­lic gath­er­ings to pre­vent in­fec­tion.

It quickly sold out both on­line and at brick-and-mor­tar stores, but re­sponses to the rem­edy’s sup­posed ef­fi­cacy have ranged from en­thu­si­asm to scep­ti­cism on Weibo, China’s Twit­ter-like so­cial me­dia plat­form. And state me­dia sounded a more cau­tion­ary note on Satur­day, with broad­caster CCTV pub­lish­ing an in­ter­view with Zhang Boli, one of the re­searchers lead­ing out­break con­tain­ment ef­forts, who warned of po­ten­tial side ef­fects from the medicine.

The Peo­ple's Daily news­pa­per, a govern­ment mouth­piece, said ex­perts ad­vised against tak­ing tra­di­tional reme­dies with­out pro­fes­sional guid­ance.

But the claim comes as Bei­jing looks to in­cor­po­rate tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine (TCM) into its na­tion­wide fight against the virus. Re­searchers at the state-run academy, a top govern­ment think­tank, are also study­ing the po­ten­tial use of a plant com­monly known as Ja­panese knotweed to al­le­vi­ate symp­toms.

The Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion on Tues­day said TCM prac­ti­tion­ers were among nearly 6,000 re­in­force­ment med­i­cal per­son­nel be­ing sent to Wuhan in Hubei prov­ince, ground zero of the out­break.

The strat­egy has reignited fierce and long-run­ning de­bate about the ef­fi­cacy of TCM, which has a his­tory go­ing back 2,400 years and re­mains pop­u­lar in mod­ern-day China.

Marc Freard, a mem­ber of the Chi­nese Medicine Aca­demic Coun­cil of France, said he be­lieved tra­di­tional for­mu­la­tions could be used to treat peo­ple with symp­toms rang­ing from fever to thick phlegm. But he warned that many reme­dies on the mar­ket were of ques­tion­able qual­ity and ad­mit­ted that TCM ‘lacks sci­en­tific stan­dards of ef­fi­cacy’ be­cause it re­lied on ‘in­di­vid­u­alised treat­ment’.

Tra­di­tional medicines were widely used in China in con­junc­tion with Western meth­ods dur­ing the 2003 epi­demic of SARS, or Se­vere Acute Res­pi­ra­tory Syn­drome, which killed 774 peo­ple world­wide.

But a 2012 study in the Cochrane Data­base of Sys­tem­atic Re­views found com­bin­ing Chi­nese and Western medicines ‘made no dif­fer­ence’ in bat­tling the dis­ease.

The Chi­nese govern­ment has in­creas­ingly pro­moted tra­di­tional medicine abroad in re­cent years, often with na­tion­al­is­tic un­der­tones.

Chi­nese Academy of Sciences had found a con­coc­tion ‘can in­hibit’ the virus



An employee at a tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine store in Bei­jing on Satur­day

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