Spotlight: More Britons turn to traditional Chinese medicine amid coronavirus outbreak

Source: Xinhua| 2020-04-15 20:40:36|Editor: Xiaoxia
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by Xinhua writer Yu Jiaxin

London, April 15 (Xinhua) -- "I'm waiting for the delivery of Traditional Chineses Medicine (TCM). They are still on the way," Natasha Chalumeau, a 48-year-old Londoner said expectantly.

As a beneficiary of TCM, Chalumeau had received acupuncture and Chinese herbs treatment for about three years to improve her immunity. "The efficacy is obvious and that's why I ordered herbal remedies this time. Being preventive is more important than reactive," she told Xinhua.

In Britain, a growing number of people are seeking TCM remedies to prevent or help treat COVID-19. As the country braces for its "darkest hour", the novel coronavirus-related death toll has surpassed 12,000 as of Monday afternoon while the lockdown is still in place without a clear timeline to end.

"Among my patients, Britons who are turning to TCM almost doubled compared with before," said Tianjun Wang, chairman of the UK Traditional Chinese Medicine Forum and the initiator of UK TCM Network. The consultants are mainly Chinese at the beginning, but more Britons are joining in now, he said.

For TCM clinics like Wang's, due to the high demand, the prescriptions of TCM have increased sharply by 5 to 10 times compared with before the coronavirus epidemic.

London-based Chinese Medicine expert Lihua Li said the engagement across her social media platform has skyrocketed since the beginning of March. "Our consultation numbers have broken record with 300 people receiving online consultation within a month with a growing number of non-Chinese customers from UK and Europe," she said.

Although many clinics are closed due to the lockdown, practitioners like Wang are doing remote consultations and prescribing appropriate remedies to patients.

Wang told Xinhua that his diagnostic approaches, among others, include inquiring patients' symptoms online and checking the patients' tongue if needed. Herbal remedies will be prescribed if necessary.

Professor Songxuan Ke, founder and principal of Asante Academy of Chinese Medicine in London, said many of his patients with typical symptoms reported improvement soon after taking the Chinese herbs, and they have recommended TCM to more people.

"But I always advise them to contact local hospitals first to seek help in case hospital interventions are needed," Ke said.

According to practitioners interviewed, the majority of local people turned to TMC are those wishing to improve their immune system. A small number are patients infected with mild symptoms of COVID-19.

In Britain, a surge in confirmed cases poses a great challenge to the capacity of NHS (National Health System). Most people are asked to stay at home, and those who have mild symptoms also need to isolate for seven days before seeking medical help. Concern over lack of due help and treatment is also one of the reasons why more people turned to TCM to improve immunity, according to TCM practitioners.

Now that China has progressively curbed the virus domestically and is helping other countries to combat the virus, the contributions of TCM can not go unnoticed.

According to the National Administration of TCM, clinical observation showed that TCM has proven to be effective in the treatment of over 90 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland by relieving symptoms, slowing the progression of the disease, and boosting the recovery of patients.

Professor Ke explained to Xinhua that patients with the pneumonia caused by COVID-19 have difficulty in breathing because their lungs are blocked by mucus. "TCM could help clear the mucus by reducing dampness of the body to reach an 'internal balance' while some chemical medicines may cause more mucus," he said.

"People in the West have very limited knowledge about Chinese medicine and naturally are very sceptical about Chinese medicine, especially to treat this vicious epidemic," said Ke.

However, TCM should not be seen as alien to Western societies, said Ke. In TCM, there's a saying goes like "food and medicine (herbs) share the same origin," he said, adding that food therapy, more widely acceptable in the West, is an inextricable part of TCM.

"TCM never made claim to be able to kill the virus now and more research is needed," Ke said, "perhaps East and West cooperation will speed up a better treatment."