It’s Taking the Pharmaceutical Industry by Storm, but Does Lianhua Qingwen Actually Cure COVID-19?

Lianhua Qingwen is prominently used to treat COVID-19 and respiratory diseases in China, which begs the question – is it the cure for the dreaded virus?

Two boxes of Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang on a wooden table

Inspired by a medical textbook written 1,800 years ago, Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang is a highly sought-after Chinese traditional medication for COVID-19 and respiratory diseases. It was first created to fight SARs and is also used as an adjuvant drug — a drug that increases the efficacy of another — for tonsillitis and hand-foot-mouth disease. 

Its use in the treatment of COVID-19, specifically, is controversial, as the efficacy of its ingredients isn’t clinically proven. In addition, Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang uses ephedra – a herbal ingredient banned in Malaysia. This ingredient a key component of amphetamines, a nervous system stimulant used as a recreational drug.

It’s time to set the record straight about the medication and identify potential alternatives that can help address the symptoms of COVID-19.

A hazed view of skyscrapers and buildings
Air pollution is a trigger of respiratory diseases.

Understanding How Respiratory Diseases Transpire

These diseases typically affect the airways and other structures within the lungs and respiratory system. Common causes are: 

  • Infection 
  • Air pollution 
  • Tobacco smoking 
  • Inhalation of dust and occupational chemicals like asbestos or radon 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) divides the pathologies behind respiratory diseases into two categories, Exogenic and Endogenic: 

  • Wind 
  • Cold
  • Fire (also called Heat)  
  • Dampness
  • Phlegm  
  • Qi (vital life force) Stagnation  
  • Fluid retention 
  • Blood Stasis  

“If you’ve recovered from a severe episode of influenza, pneumonia, COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, or if you’re suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you may be vulnerable to Qi, Yin (cooling energy and body fluids), and Yang (warming energy) deficiencies. Different organs other than the lungs too, can be affected,” cautions Real Health Medical Senior TCM physician Brandon Yew.

So, Is Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang Actually Safe for Use?

Many believe that Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang provides a considerable, effective relief of symptoms for mild to moderate cases of respiratory diseases. It’s formulated with 13 herbal ingredients that collectively reduces phlegm, and alleviates a cough, fever, sore throat and breathlessness by doing away with Toxic Heat. These include: 

  • Ephedra (ma huang, 麻黄) 
  • Gypsum (shi gao, 石膏) 
  • Liquorice (gan cao, 甘草) 
  • Mint (bo he, 薄荷) 
  • Patchouli (huo xiang, 藿香) 
  • Rhodiola (hong jing tian, 红景天) 
  • Rhubarb (da huang, 大黄) 
  • Honeysuckle flower (jin yin hua, 金银花) 
  • Isatis root (ban lan gen, 板蓝根) 
  • Rhizoma Cyrtomii (guan zhong, 贯众) 
  • Weeping Forsythia (lian qiao, 连翘) 
  • Bitter Chinese almonds (xing ren, 杏仁) 
  • Heartleaf Houttuynia (yu xing cao, 鱼腥草) 

It can also relieve the symptoms of COVID-19. It’s ability to prevent or directly cure an infection however, isn’t medically established.

It’s not advisable for people to self-medicate or purchase Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang over-the-counter. “It totally depends on body constitutions, disease severity, and the existence of comorbidities. Improper use of the medication can lead to health complications,” warns physician Yew.

Instead, seek professional help from both a clinical physician and licensed TCM practitioner, as respiratory diseases can be life-threatening.

Boy wearing a blue-coloured medical mask as he looks out an open window
he use of herbal formulas can offer relief from the mild symptoms of COVID-19.

Alternative Medications for Symptomatic Relief of COVID-19 and Respiratory Diseases

If you’re unsure about using Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang to ease COVID-19 or respiratory disease symptoms, fret not. The use of various formulas derived from herbal ingredients can be beneficial. These are:  

  • Gan lu xiao du dan (甘露消毒丹)  
  • Qing wen bai du yin (清瘟败毒饮)  
  • Yin qiao san (银翘散)  
  • Ma xing shi gan tang (麻杏石甘汤)  
  • Wei jing tang (苇茎汤)  
  • Qing fei pai du tang (清肺排毒汤)

These formulas work similarly to Lianhua qIngwen jiaonang, that is they are able to clear heat toxins and dampness to relive fever and body aches, and dispel phlegm to soothe cough and breathlessness. From a modern pharmacological scientific standpoint, these formulas demonstrate considerable anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-pyretic, immuno-modulatory, broncho-dilating and mucolytic effects. Hence, they show promising therapeutic influence on respiratory diseases like influenza, H1N1, and the SARs virus.

Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that Lianhua Qianwen Jiaonang, like herbal formulas, are suitable for mild COVID-19 or respiratory diseases. Do speak to a TCM professional before using the different formulas, especially if you have symptoms of greater severity. 

Perhaps Malaysia’s Ministry of Health Malaysia can consider the approval for the medication, especially if it has the potential to promote faster recovery from the dreaded virus. 

References

  1. South China Morning Post. 2020. Chinese traditional medicine treatment for Covid-19 inspired by 1,800-year-old medical textbook produces fortune for makers. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

 

  1. ScienceDirect. 2021. Challenges and strategies for implementing Chinese medicine during COVID-19 in Malaysia. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

 

  1. NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE. Respiratory disease. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

 

  1. World Health Organization. Chronic respiratory diseases. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

 

  1. American Dragon. HERB FORMULAS. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

 

  1. National Library of Medicine. 2020. Potential therapeutic effect of Qingwen Baidu Decoction against Corona Virus Disease 2019: a mini review. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

 

  1. National Library of Medicine. 2020. Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment of COVID-19. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

 

  1. 9. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2020. Deciphering the Pharmacological Mechanisms of Ma Xing Shi Gan Decoction against COVID-19 through Integrating Network Pharmacology and Experimental Exploration. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

 

  1. 10. Hindawi. 2014. Chinese Herbal Medicine (Weijing Decoction) Combined with Pharmacotherapy for the Treatment of Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

 

  1. 11. American Dragon. HERB FORMULAS. [online] [Accessed 26 April 2022]

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