China wants to push its traditional medicine as a "Chinese solution" to the coronavirus pandemic, but its effectiveness might be creating even more skeptics amid the deadly disease.
Without a cure or vaccine to date, China has given 85% of its coronavirus patients herbal remedies in addition to mainstream antiviral drugs, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.
"We are willing to share the 'Chinese experience' and 'Chinese solution' of treating COVID-19, and let more countries get to know Chinese medicine, understand Chinese medicine, and use Chinese medicine," deputy head of China's National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine's Yu Yanhong said, according to CNN.
Wuhan's Xiong Qingzhen, 38, has rejected the bag of brown soup of 20 herbs, including ephedra, cinnamon, and licorice root, which is considered "lung-clearing and detoxing soup."
"In my opinion, it is a sheer placebo," Xiong told CNN.
But without a cure or vaccine, curing the body to conduct its fight against coronavirus might be the only way, Chinese government's push for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theorizes.
"By adjusting the whole body health and improving immunity, TCM can help stimulate the patients' abilities to resist and recover from the disease, which is an effective way of therapy," Yu said, adding TCM has helped in the past against SARS outbreaks.
TCM proponents note among the 50,000 patients released from the hospital, most of have TCM.
Yu said, in a clinical trial of 102 patients in Wuhan, TCM users had a 33% higher recovery rate.
"We must conduct double blind tests with large enough samples – and they have to be chosen completely randomly," Xiong countered to CNN.
The Beijing Health Commission's Gao Xiaojun noted 92% of coronavirus-inflicted TCM users have shown improvement.
"Traditional Chinese medicine has played an active role in improving the recovery rate and lowering the fatality rate among patients," Gao told reporters last month, per CNN.
But still the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations' Yanzhong Huang surmises most of those reports of success by TCM are likely mild cases that will recover anyway.
"You have to be mindful that 80% [of the coronavirus patients] are mild cases," he told CNN. "Even if they don't do anything they might eventually recover."
"I think the effort to promote TCM worldwide is likely to make way in certain regions, like Africa, but unless the development and marketing of TCM [conform] to the modern standards, like what was done to [malaria drug] Artemisinin, it is unlikely to be so well-received in the Western world," he concluded.
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