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Chinese Medicine for H1N1… Again

November 21st, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I had written several articles about H1N1 and how Chinese Medicine may be used to help deal with it.  Today, however, I came upon a news article announcing using a chinese medicine formula to help H1N1 (again).  This one though, left a bitter taste in my mouth.  Want to know why? Let’s quote!

TCM may be another alternative in fight against H1N1
By Channel NewsAsia’s Hong Kong Correspondent Leslie Tang | Posted: 21 November 2009 0011 hrs

HONG KONG: Hong Kong Chinese medicine practitioners are collaborating with a Macau university to test what they believe is another alternative to combating the H1N1 virus.

Okay, so far so good.  They’re taking herbs… having it tested in university…

If they are successful, the formula will be the first Chinese herbal prescription cure for H1N1.

*double take*… FIRST Chinese herbal prescription cure?

First… since when?

Hmmm, maybe they mean over the counter?  Nah.

I hope the reader can see where I may have a problem with this statement.  But anyway let’s continue

Other than Tamiflu and flu jabs, Hong Kong R&D company Rorric Biotechnology believes it may be able to offer a less invasive cure to H1N1, using traditional Chinese medicine.

Dr Chow Ching-fung, chairman of Rorric Biotechnology, said: “This formula is effective in two ways. First, it combats and eliminates the virus. Second, it boosts the immune system, helping the patient to become stronger.”

The formula is made up of 21 common Chinese herbs, such as honeysuckle and Bai Shu.

Honeysuckle, along with chrysanthemum, are among the chief herbs used in the Warm Disease School, as opposed to Zhang Zhongjing’s Cold Disease train of thought.  The Warm Disease theories and practice came about 1500 years after Zhang, during the Qing Dynasty (which ended in the early 20th century).

Unlike Cold Disease theory, which emphasizes environmental excesses, Warm Disease theory recognizes that there are infectious agents out there that can brutally invade and cause febrile disease in patients with strong immune systems.  You see, in Cold Disease Theory, exemplified by the book Shang Han Lun, it’s more of a balance between environment and pathogen.  If you’re healthy, and the environment is temperate, no problem.  If your defenses are weak, then you’d be prone to problems from environments normal people would have no problem with.  If the environmental factor is really excessive, it can overwhelm normal defenses.

But with Warm diseases, they come in and whack away.

And they’re respiratory in nature, marked by high fevers.  The stages range from flu-like symptoms to sepsis.

And they’re contagious.

In other words, sounds like … epidemic flu?

But let’s go on the article.

“Traditional Chinese medicine has a long history of being proven to have fewer side effects as it uses herbal ingredients,” Dr Chow added. “Western medicine contains a mixture of chemicals from the manufacturing process, so the risks are higher.”

Dr Chow said he had prescribed the formula, which is currently in powder form, to 100 patients suspected of contracting H1N1 and they have fully recovered.

Moreover, tests at the Wu Han Institute of Virology have shown that the formula is not only effective against H1N1, but also other mutated forms of Influenza A.

While I agree that TCM can have less side effects when prescribed properly.  But to say that western medicine has more side effects because it is a mixture of chemicals from a manufacturing process… uh… by that logic we shouldn’t decoct herbs, and we shouldn’t process them in a factory and end up with a pill.  That would also be a manufacturing process, yes?

Anyway let me explain my ultimate point here:  I am not against the standardization of chinese medicine, but as I mentioned before, Warm Disease theory in particular classifies epidemic fevers into stages.  Will this medicine be appropriate for all stages?  What are the 21 ingredients?  Is it a modification of an older formula?

Speaking of older formulas, isn’t it interesting that they chose to come up with a “new” formula instead of just taking something from Wenrelun (Treatise on Warm Diseases)?  Older formulas can’t be trademarked and patented… and so can be made into pills by anyone.

Nice to see that Chinese medicine is indeed modernizing… by becoming more like Big Pharma… (sarcasm meter. duh)

Leslie Tang, “TCM may be another alternative in fight against H1N1″ <http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/eastasia/view/1019540/1/.html> posted and accessed 11.21.09

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