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TCM goes around the world to help fight COVID-19

(People's Daily Online)    08:44, March 25, 2020

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and TCM doctors are playing increasingly important roles in global efforts to fight the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as the pandemic impacts countries more heavily with each passing day.

Italians welcome the second Chinese medical team made up of 13 experts at Milan Malpensa Airport, Italy, with a banner saying “We are spindrifts of the same sea, leaves of the same tree, and flowers of the same garden.” (Photo/Courtesy of Blazing Youth Community)

On March 18 local time, a Chinese medical team made up of 13 medical experts, including two TCM experts, arrived at Milan Malpensa Airport, Italy, with nine tons of supplies donated by east China’s Zhejiang province for medical treatment and protection.

Yang Junchao, vice president of the Zhejiang Provincial Hospital of TCM, was one of the two TCM experts in the team. It was the first time China had sent TCM experts to a foreign country to help fight COVID-19.

The combination of TCM and Western medicine has led to significant achievements in China’s efforts to fight the epidemic, said Yang, adding that TCM is drawing increasing attention from other countries.

“We will introduce China’s experience in fighting the epidemic to Italy,” Yang said. She disclosed that they will share China’s TCM treatment plans and clinical thinking for COVID-19 with Italy, introduce TCM and its theory to the country to enhance Italian people’s scientific understanding of TCM, and provide medical advice for local communities and overseas Chinese.

TCM has been a highlight in China’s efforts to fight COVID-19, said Zhang Boli, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) and one of the leading experts advising on the epidemic fight in central China’s Hubei province, epicenter of the epidemic in China.

Zhang, who is also the president of Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, disclosed that some academic institutions in South Korea, Japan, and Italy have sent letters to China asking it to share its experience in fighting COVID-19 and its use of TCM, and asking China to provide Chinese patent medicines.

On various online medical consultation platforms around the world, the combination of TCM and Western medicine has already played important roles in fighting COVID-19 worldwide and helping overseas Chinese.

Wencheng county in Wenzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province, has set up 40 WeChat groups to provide health consultation services for overseas Chinese whose original family homes are in the county. Each WeChat group has nearly 500 people.

The members of the WeChat groups can describe their symptoms, and also upload relevant materials including laboratory test reports and pictures of coating on the tongue to seek doctor’s advice, which is based on both TCM and Western medicine.

“There is a TCM doctor in each of the WeChat groups, and all overseas Chinese from Wencheng county can ask for medical consultation in the WeChat groups,” said Zhou Jie, deputy administrative director of the publicity department of Communist Party of China (CPC) Wencheng county committee.

“Wencheng county is a well-known hometown of overseas Chinese. Almost every family here has family members living abroad. These overseas Chinese have a special preference for TCM and put a lot of trust in it,” Zhou said, stressing that “the combination of TCM and Western medicine has significantly alleviated the anxiety of overseas Chinese over the disease.”

As part of efforts to help overseas Chinese fight the epidemic, the Federation of Jiangsu Returned Overseas Chinese in east China’s Jiangsu province helped launch the “online clinic” of Jiangsu Provincial Hospital of Chinese Medicine, allowing TCM to benefit more overseas Chinese and help with the global fight against the virus.

The phone number of the “online clinic” has now become an “international hotline”, as more and more patients are now making video calls from other countries to seek medical consultation for COVID-19, according to Wu Wenzhong, vice president of Jiangsu Provincial Hospital of Chinese Medicine.

The hospital is making the appropriate arrangements for connecting with TCM institutions in countries including Germany, the Netherlands and Canada, and is also preparing to launch a platform that helps overseas TCM practitioners consult with the hospital on COVID-19, Wu disclosed.

TCM doctors at the hospital have recently held discussions with overseas TCM experts on different TCM treatment and prevention plans against COVID-1 on its international TCM telemedicine teaching cooperation platform. The platform links institutions in more than 10 countries and regions including the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia, Switzerland, Brazil, Ireland, and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese patent medicine, Chinese herbal tea, and TCM decoction have also become increasingly popular with people in many countries.

Since Feb. 27, Chinese doctor Chen Zhen, chairman of TCM company Oriental Herbs, has offered people free herbal tea in Budapest, capital of Hungary, at 11 a.m. every day.

The prescription for the herbal tea was based on guidelines for TCM diagnosis and treatment released by China’s National Health Commission (NHC) and various provinces, according to Chen.

Chen and another TCM doctor named Zhang Qingbin have also developed several other TCM prescriptions to help treat the disease, and posted them online to help overseas Chinese, Chen explained.

“So many people come for the herbal tea. There’s a long queue here every day. Many Chinese living in Hungary’s neighboring countries drive here specially for the herbal tea. And it’s not just Chinese: many local residents also come with thermos cups and jugs to take the herbal tea home for their families,” Chen told People’s Daily while giving out the herbal tea and preparing medicinal materials.

Besides Hungary, TCM is being eagerly sought after in many other countries during the epidemic.

“Many people come to my clinic and ask for 20 or even 30 bags of TCM for prevention of the epidemic. We’re about to run out of stock. I need to restock TCM quickly,” said Wu Binjiang, dean of the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and also vice chairperson of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies.

According to media reports, US orders for TCM for relief of cold and flu symptoms and boosting immunity have almost doubled since this February, with some Chinese patent medicines sold out and some Chinese herbal medicines becoming hard to find.

In addition to traditional Chinese herbal medicine, many physical methods used in TCM for boosting immunity and enhancing epidemic prevention and control have also been introduced to foreign countries to fight COVID-19.

On March 12, some German patients were seen practicing a set of exercises named Ba Duan Jin, which literally means “eight steps to healthy living”, at Koetzting Hospital of Chinese Medicine in Bavaria, Germany, under the instruction of a TCM doctor.

Ba Duan Jin, the ancient Chinese martial art of Tai Chi, and TCM therapy known as Er Xue Ya Dou, which means “pressing granules on auricular acupoints”, are all important methods used in TCM to boost immunity and prevent and control the epidemic, said Dai Jingzhang, president of the Koetzting Hospital of Chinese Medicine.

“We have also developed epidemic prevention TCM decoctions for German patients based on the practical experience of TCM services for patients in China, and offered the decoction to our patients and colleagues,” Dai disclosed.

The hospital is now attempting to provide prescriptions for their epidemic prevention decoctions and various TCM methods which are useful for coping with COVID-19 for everyone in Germany and Europe, said Dai.

In addition, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, co-founder of the Koetzting Hospital of Chinese Medicine, is also making arrangements to send medical teams and offer medical supplies including Chinese medicine to Germany and other countries in Europe, according to Dai.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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