Traditional Chinese medicine pharmacists prepare herbs to produce doses of concoctions they say helps combat the coronavirus pandemic at the Xiaogan Chinese Medical Hospital in Xiaogan City, in central China’s Hubei province, in February.
China’s National Health Commission reported last month that of the more than 80,000 people infected with COVID-19 since the outbreak began in December, 90 percent took some form of traditional Chinese medicine to treat their symptoms.
“TCM mixtures can be toxic, contaminated or adulterated with prescription drugs; they can also interact with prescription drugs,” Ernst said. It can also give patients a false sense of security, leading them to neglect proven medications or therapies.
“It is a legal health system in China which is parallel with Western medicine, and of course, there is also integration between traditional medicine and Western medicine,” Dr. Jianping Liu, professor of clinical epidemiology at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, told NBC News.
The lack of detail about the remedies contributes to doubts over their efficacy, Dan Larhammar, a molecular cell biologist and president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said in a phone interview.
Recent reports in the Japanese journal BioScience Trends and the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine support the various COVID-19 traditional treatments, but Larhammar said these studies and others like them lack scientific rigor — not having adequate sample sizes, using vague terms and nonpharmacological concepts or testing too many combinations of herbs to parse out their specific effects.
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