Skip to the very last section if you can't take the technical stuff! :) and if you want to see the new products we will be bringing to you for immune support. (But, I strongly urge you to challenge yourself and really understand how to protect yourself.)
PLEASE NOTE: We have updated this information with important new research on a potential phase 2 of this virus may require a completely different approach than the info presented below. Please make sure to read this new information.
If you are concerned about protecting your health and the health of those you love as the world is facing the continued spread of COVID-19, Chinese medicine may have much to offer that could be life-saving. In this blog post, I will do my best to distill the most recent and relevant research on the topic of using Chinese medicine to maintain immune system health during an outbreak of viral disease. This post will be long as I wish to be as thorough as possible for the sake of our customers, partnering practitioners and anyone else wanting to learn about using Chinese herbs to fortify the body and immunity. A few parts will also get a bit technical, but if you truly want to understand some of the best Chinese medicine approaches to this virus, please be brave and wade through the info -- especially if you have elderly friends and loved ones, or if you (or those you love) have compromised immunity already (then, you must read to the end). Ok, let's dive in...
(*Disclaimer: The information in this article is our best opinion on the TCM approach to COVID-19 only. It is NOT medical advice or intended in any way to be a substitute for medical advice. The information provided is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any condition or disease including corona virus (COVID-19). This is merely a presentation of our own research on the TCM principles being applied to understanding of the corona virus (COVID-19) and we could be WRONG. Please use extreme caution when assessing info about this virus and please consult your licensed medical providers for treatment options. None of the statements in this article have been validated or reviewed by the FDA**)
Many of the bitter and cold herbs in traditional Chinese medicine have been used for warm and/or hot diseases (this includes viral infections) and some of these herbs have been recognized in modern research to have remarkable antiviral and antibiotic effects. A fundamental tenant of Chinese medicine is that "superior medicine prevents disease, and inferior medicine treats disease." The Wen bing theories of Chinese medicine that describe the origins and transmission of epidemic disease and fundamental importance of the immune system in relation to pathogens holds much evidence on adaptation to changes in the climate, environment and newly emerging diseases. From the long history of understanding corona viruses as exogenous warm diseases (or wen bing diseases) and centuries of practice researching, collecting and prescribing heat-clearing herbs for these conditions, traditional Chinese medicine can offer some prospective herbal formulas for maintaining healthy immunity and clearing heat symptoms created by viral conditions.
Latest Research Identifies Six Chinese Herbs that May Help Maintain Healthy Immunity During Cornona Virus Outbreak
The Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine just published an article, "Can Chinese Medicine Be Used for Prevention of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)? A Review of Historical Classics, Research Evidence and Current Prevention Programs." In this article, the researchers studied data from historical records, cohort and population studies, clinical trials using Chinese medicine for the prevention of communicable respiratory viruses. They used data collected from the use of Chinese medicine in the SARS and H1N1 influenza outbreaks and from the 23 Chinese provinces who introduced Chinese medicine programs for the COVID-19 epidemic.
The researchers found that the main Chinese medicine goals were to tonify Qi to protect from invasion of external pathogens, to discharge heat and disperse wind, and to resolve dampness. To accomplish these goals, the following Chinese herbs were most frequently and successfully used:
Huang Qi (Radix Astragali)
Gan Cao (Radix glycyrrhizae)
Fang Feng (Radix saposhnikoviae)
Bai Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae)
Jin Yin Hua (Lonicerae Japonicae Flos)
Lian Qiao (Fructus forsythia)
Based on the human evidence collected from the SARS and H1N1 influenza Chinese medicine prevention methods, the researchers concluded that Chinese herbal formulas based on the herbs provided above could be a viable approach for tonifying Qi and maintaining healthy immunity in high-risk populations exposed to COVID-19.
Chinese Herbs Can Target and Suppress Specific Stages of Viral Activity
While this article provides a great starting place for identifying the best herbs to consider for Chinese medicine based approach to maintaining healthy immunity, there are a few more herbs that I think are vitally important to look at:
Ban Lan Gen / Isatis (Isatis tinctoria L.)
Ju Hua / Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium Ramat)
Yi Yi Ren / Coix Seed (Coix Lacryma-jobi)
Hong Jing Tian / Rhodiola Root (Rhodiola Rosea)
Dan Shen / Salvia Root (Salvia Miltiorrhizae)
Shan Zha / Hawthorn Fruit (Fructus Crataegi)
Ge Gen / Pueraria Root (Puereria Radix)
Hu Zhang / Japanese Knotwood (Polygonum Cuspidatum)
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Dong Chong Xia Cao (Cordyceps)
The reason for the inclusion of a longer list of herbs is that some of these additional herbs serve very targeted purposes for helping support the body's mission to fight corona virus. I will walk through the progressive viral stages and correlate the relevant herbs to the stages where they may be most beneficial by summarizing from Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging and Resistant Viral Infections, by Stephen H. Buhner.
Early Onset of Corona Virus Infection
Corona viruses attach to the ACE-2 on the surfaces of the epithelial cells of the lung, lymph and spleen. Gan Cao and Huang Qin, as well as other plants containing high amounts of procyanidins and lectins (like elder and cinnamon) can help, in varying degrees, to block the attachment of the virus to the ACE-2.
Once the virus has begun to attach to the ACE-2, its function becomes increasingly degraded. (It is important to note that the ACE-2 function tends also to naturally degrade as people age, which can help explain why the corona viruses produce more negative effects in the elderly. Ge Gen and Dan Shen upregulate and protect ACE-2 activity and expression. When ACE-2 is present, ACE inhibitors increase and help protect the lungs from injury (Shan Zha and Ge Gen).
Mid-Late stages of Corona Virus Infection and Cytokine "Storm"
When viral infections progress, inflammatory cytokines become strongly upregulated to the point where PGE2 (prostaglandin E2) and TGF-β both rise. Dang Gui and Huang Qi may be helpful in lowering TGF levels.
In some cases of progressive infection of corona virus, cytokine cascades (sometimes referred to as "cytokine storms") are triggered. In a cytokine cascade, levels of HMGB1 (a protein coding gene) are high--particularly in those who die from the virus. The cytokine cascade signals a "massive immune cell migration, infiltration, and accumulation into the lung tissues." The cytokine upregulation also typically becomes greater with age, and thus more dangerous. A sharp reduction in IL-1β (Interleuken 1 beta, a cytokine protein that in humans is encoded by the IL-1β gene) has been shown to "significantly decrease the impact of the disease on the infected and to inhibit mortality." Hu Zhang, Huang Qin, Cordyceps, Ge Gen, and Boneset may help to reduce IL-1β. (Image credit to Cytokinestorm.com)
As a result of the cytokine cascade, severe cellular hypoxia occurs - a "hypoxia-deoxygenation injury cycle" that causes tremendous damage to the lymph, lungs and spleen. In order to prevent this organ damage, the cells must be protected from this induced cellular hypoxia. Hong Jing Tian, or Rhodiola root, may help to prevent hypoxia-induced oxidative damage, increase oxygen utilization efficiency and increase diffusion of intercellular oxygen. Protecting the lymph and the spleen are also essential. Shang Lu and Huang Qin are often used in TCM to support these organs.
Since corona viruses target and destroy ciliated cells and their ability to help move mucous up out of the lungs, Coryceps, olive oil, olive leaf and other berberine plants may help protect the cilia.
As autoantibodies are produced and attack epithelial and endothelial cells, more damage is done. Hu Zhang may help protect endothelial cells, while Huang Jing Tian, Dang Gui and Cordyceps may help reduce the autoimmune response.
The cytokine cascade also inhibits the maturation of dendritic cells, which prevents them from "simulating an effective adaptive immune response," decreases T cell activation, and allows the corona virus to penetrate and damage the lymph organs of the lungs. Cordyceps stimulates dendritic cell maturation and Gan Cao, Elder and Zinc may help increase T cell counts.
The general SARS protocol:
Herbs found (in this book) to have been beneficial specifically for maintaining healthy immunity during the SARS virus outbreak were: Huang Qin, Ban Lan Gen (Isatis) or Osha Root, Gan Cao, Lian Qiao, Ku Shen.
Protocol to reduce HMGB1 levels during cytokine cascades/cytokine storms:
Formulation 1: Tincture combination of Dang Gui and Dan Shen in equal parts. Dosage: 1 tablespoon every hour. Or...
Formulation 2: Strong infusion of Dang Gui and Dan Shen. 4 ounces of each herb submerged in 1 gallon of just-boiled water. Remove from heat. Let sit 4 hours and strain. Drink 12 ounces every hour.
Chinese Herbs Previously Used in China to Maintain Immunity During SARS Corona Virus Outbreak
The Prince of Wales Hospital was the site of Hong Kong's first SARS outbreak. The healthcare workers at this hospital were taking an herbal mixture, the main ingredients of which were, wild barley (coix) and Ban Lan Gen (Isatis root). The recipe was similar to the ones used in the hospitals in Guangdong, the southern province of China, where the virus first emerged.
Wild Barley, is also known as Yi Yi Ren or Coix (Coix lacryma-jobi) and appears in several Chinese medicine formulations for immune-boosting during the SARS epidemic. Coix contains coixenolide, a compound that is being studied for its antiviral effects.
Ban Lan Gen, or Isatis root, already mentioned, was clinically proven to be an effective antiviral and was provided to medical personnel first in Hong Kong before being distributed more widely to the general public.
Several food therapies and Chinese herbal combination therapies were publicized by TCM doctors during the SARS epidemic. The following are some of the popular examples provided by Acupuncture Today:
Food Recipes for Strengthening Immunity during SARS
- White radish, 500 g; scallion (including roots), 100 g. Boil the 2 ingredients together to make a soup and drink. This preparation makes a 1 day supply for 5 people.
- Scallion, 500 g; garlic, 250g. Slice both ingredients very small. Add water, 2 liters and boil. Recommended to be taken 1 teacup full, three times daily.
Herbal Combination for Strengthening Immunity during SARS
- Yu Ping Fang San: This formula is made of of three herbs - Huang Qi, Fang Feng and Bai Zhu.
- Combination of Da Qing Ye, Ban Lan Gen, and Guan Zhong, 30 grams each. This formula is boiled and taken as a tea.
- Combination of Guan Zhong, Zi Su Ye, Jing Jie, 10 grams each; and licorice, 3 grams. This formula is also boiled and taken as tea, 3 times daily.
- Preventative Anti-influenza Tea: Da Qing Ye (10g), Ye Ju Hua (10g), Guan Zhong (10g), Jin Yin Hua (20g), Lian Qiao (12g), Gang Mei Gen (20g). Boil and take as tea, once per day for 3 days.
- Si Jun Zi Tang: A classic Chinese medicine formula with immune-stimulant effects.
- "Double Stuff" Tea: Equal portions of Ye Ju Hua (Wild Chrysanthemum) and Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle Flower). Boiled and taken as tea. This well-known tea is used as a "detoxicant" remedy for feverish ailments. This formula was promoted by the Director of ITM's China office, Fu Kezhi. He also made the recommendation that those without any fever yet should drink green tea with Hang Zhou white chrysanthemum flower together, 6-9 grams a time, 2-3 times daily in about 1.5 liters of boiled water
Chinese Herbal Medicine Prescriptions Made During SARS
The Journal of Chinese Medicine (England) reports that on two herbal formulas devised by the University of Hong Kong, School of Chinese Medicine for strengthening the immune system in the SARS epidemic (severe acute respiratory syndrome) amongst the staff at their clinics, none of whom became infected.
SARS General Use Immune Boosting Formula:
- Ban Lan Gen (12g)
- Jin Yin Hua (15g)
- Lian Qiao (15g)
- Yi Yi Ren (15g)
- Tai Zi Shen (15g)
- Bai Zhu (15g)
- Gan Cao (9g)
SARS Immune Boosting Formula for Those With Weak Constitution With Dampness
- Huo Xiang (15g)
- Pei Lan (9g)
- Jin Yin Hua (12g)
- Lian Qiao (12g)
- Sang Ye (15g)
- Ban Gan Len (9g)
- Bai Zhu (15g)
- Yi Yi Ren (18g)
- Tai Zi Shen (18g)
- Gan Cao (9g)
Highlighted Herbs: Jin Yin Hua and Ban Lan Gen
As you have probably already noticed, Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle flower) is very frequently mentioned in the institutional recommendations provided by research centers, hospitals and administration of both China and Hong Kong for maintaining immunity to help the body in its job of warding off corona virus, colds and flus. Honeysuckle flowers are known to be gentle on digestion, are pleasant tasting, readily available, inexpensive and have enjoyed a very long history of traditional use. Modern studies have recently revealed antiviral properties of both Jin Yin Hua and Ban Lan Gen (Isatis root and leaf) and have validated their traditional Chinese medicine use for wen bing (viral symptoms).
Plum Dragon Picks: Four ESSENTIAL Herbs to Consider for Immune System Maintenance During Corona Virus.
Xinhua, Chinese state press, published an article on Jan. 31, 2020 claiming that "the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences) and the Wuhan Institute of Virology had discovered that the Shuanghuanglian oral liquid could be used to "inhibit" the 2019-nCoV."
What is particularly interesting, given the all of the above information we have so far compiled, is that this liquid is made from a blend of Jin Yin Hua, Huang Qin and Lian Qiao. Here, we find more support that a blend of these herbs may help to maintain immune system health, and may help to relieve symptoms of fever, cough and sore throat.
SIMM released another statement on Feb. 1 to verify the Jan. 31 Xinhua report, saying that the conclusion is based on “the results of laboratory in vitro studies” and “further clinical studies are needed to confirm it.”
In 2003, during the SARS epidemic, SIMM was the leader in confirming that Shuanghuanglian oral liquid had anti-SARS coronavirus effect. In the decade following the SARS outbreak, a SIMM team conducted many studies that confirmed the Chinese herbal medicine's efficacy against influenza virus (H7N9, H1N1, H5N1), SARS-CoV and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS). They reported obvious antiviral effects.
How Huang Qin, Jin Yin Hua, Ban Lan Gen and Lian Qiao Work To Help Support the Body's Natural Defenses
In the earlier discussion about how the escalation of coronavirus can cause a cytokine cascade or cytokine storm, it was shown that one way to prevent this "storm" from becoming lethal and reduce the severity of damage was to sharply reduce IL-1β. Huang Qin, a heat-clearing, phlegm-removing herb, traditionally used in Chinese medicine to cool heat, drain fire and clear damp-heat in TCM, also helps to alleviate inflammation by decreasing the expression of interleukin IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-12.
Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle flower), is used in TCM for exopathogenic wind-heat or epidemic febrile diseases. It has shown many pharmacological effects such as: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-angiogenic, antipyretic, antiviral and hepatoprotective actions. Jin Yin Hua contains luteolin, (suppresses inflammatory mediator release by blocking NF-kB and MAPKs pathway activation in HMC-11 cells) which is important for two reasons:
- Luteolin helps to block attachment to the ACE-2.
- Luteolin helps to block activation of MAPK pathway.
Ban Lan Gen (Isatis) is used in Chinese medicine for cooling the blood. Its pharmacological actions are: antibiotic, antiviral, anti-diabetic, and immune-stimulating effects. Ban Lan Gen can significantly inhibit the release of inflammatory mediators from the microphages such as NO, PGE2 and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Isatis has also been found to be clinically effective against infections caused by influenza viruses including SARS. (Osha root is said to be the North American equivalent of this herb and is often used interchangeably with Isatis.)
One Chinese Herb Could be Essential For Supporting Your Body's Natural Defenses
Lian Qiao (Forsythia) is used in traditional Chinese medicine to expel wind and heat and to disperse stagnation. Its pharmacological actions are: antiviral, choleretic, antipyretic, hepatoprotective, antiemetic, and diuretic. Lian Qiao inhibits the production of inflammatory mediators such as NO, and inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-a, and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). Cytokine cascades are triggered by high levels of PGE2 and IL-1β, thus the ability of Lian Qiao to inhibit both, makes it one of the most important herbs to consider for supporting your body and immune system during a corona virus outbreak. Like Yu Jin Hua, Lian Qiao has also been shown to reduce activation of MAPKs.
Forsythia also suppresses influenza a virus-induced RANTES secretion (RANTES levels are elevated in about half of those infected by corona virus) by human bronchial epithelial cells to stop accumulation of inflammatory cells in the infective sites. Suppression of RANTES secretion has been reported to play a crucial role in the progression of chronic inflammation.
If this one herb, Lian Qiao, can help inhibit or suppress 4 of the main actions that lead to cytokine storming, then it should be very carefully considered for helping to support the body's natural immunity and viral defenses. Hopefully, it is more clear now, why the combination of Lian Qiao and Ban Lan Gen are mentioned so often by SARS researchers and how they work together in the body to help keep the body's immunity strong.
We are working very hard to put together some herb packs and combination herbal extracts for you as fast as we can. We now have a Wen Bing formula comprised of these top 4 recommended herbs available for pre-order. Sign up for our email list if you want to be notified as soon as these products are shipping. We hope to have them within a few days. Send us your positive energy, thoughts, prayers and support to get this accomplished for you.
Much love to all -- together we rise.
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please notify me when you can ship, interested in wen bing and herb packets. thank you!
Being a longtime user of your products I can attest to the quality and potency of your products so as soon as your herb packets are available please call me ASAP I would like to order enough for approximately 5 members of my family who have compromised immune systems! God bless and stay safe! 🙏
Please let me know when available for sale!
Please notify me ASAP regarding bulk purchases for preventative and remedial packages in reference to treatment of the current wen bing pandemic.
Please contact me so that I can order your immunity inducing packets.
Interested in herbal packets, please let me know when available. Thank you!
Please call me when they arrive!
Interested in wen bing products
Interested in your new herb packets when available.
Please notify when COVID 19 protocol products become available – thanks.
Please notify me when Wen Bing formulas are available.
I am interested too. Please let me know when available. Thank you.
Please notify me when Wen Bing formulas are available.
Hi. Thank you for all your research. I would like to be notified when products become available. Thank you!
I am interested in your Weng Bing herbal packets when they become available
PlEASE I WISH TO ORDER. I AM HERE IN MARYLAND.
Please keep me posted by email as your products become available. I am a L.Ac and herbalist in Colorado. Thank you
Do you ship your products to Canada? If so I am interested in placing an order.
So interesting, but will have to several times. Thank you. Where can some of these herbs be sourced?