Already, panic is breaking out in various parts of the world after recent reports of swine flu in Mexico. People in Hong Kong and Taiwan are already preparing for the arrival of this virus, and here in Mainland China, media coverage is gaining ground.
It is already recognized that, especially in the treatment of viral illnesses, the use of Chinese Medicine has certain advantages. If you look at the tomes of books covering the pharmacological properties of herbs, youâ€™ll realize that many of them have anti-viral action. Without going into the specifics, we can make a broad assertion that:
Most times, because concentration is not high, the action of many of the active ingredients are weaker than if extracted or mass-manufacture for one particular phamocologic action e.g. in the case of neuraminidase inhibitors oseltamivir (tamiflu) or zanamivir.
There are many ingredient in one herb, and many more newly created constituents with pharmacologic action that are formed after decocting or after the initial decoction is metabolized in the body. That is much we donâ€™t know.
But we do know that certain group of herbs especially have anti-viral properties. Many of these herbs appear in some formulas used to tackle this group of disease called warm diseases (æ¸©ç—…). While it is considered improper by the TCM community to label this whole set of diseases as â€œinfectious diseases,â€ most of the diseases discussed here fall under the â€œinfectiousâ€ category.
For those interested, just within the damp-heat category of formulas, we use the relative dominace of damp and heat to decide on the use of a group of herbs, mainly aromatics (åŒ–æ¹¿è¯) and diuretics (åˆ©æ¹¿è¯). For those interested, check out formulas like san ren tang (ä¸‰ä»æ±¤), ganlu xiaodu dan (ç”˜éœ²æ¶ˆæ¯’ä¸¹) and even qingwen baidu yin (æ¸…ç˜Ÿè´¥æ¯’é¥®). These formulas are useful to look into and even use, of course with the caveat – pattern differentiation, pattern differentiation, pattern differentiation.
Even a simple formula like huoxiang zhengqi san (è—¿é¦™æ£æ°”æ•£) is very useful, not just in treating stomach flu and the pathologic manifestation of a rotavirus, but also as a prophylactic when your body needs an immune boost. I use it and it works.
Note: In the herbal textbooks, many of the herbs are classified in categories – our initial acquaintance with them as neophytes. But we often see these herbs used very differently. Take for example danggui (å½“å½’): did you know that it was used to treat cough? Or the very famous womenâ€™s decoction siwu tang (å››ç‰©æ±¤): did you know it was used to treat external trauma?
The interesting thing about herbs is that they are natural and are not isolated constituents. Viruses may have a harder time building up resistance against a broad attack of â€œnaturalâ€ ingredient than a compound more defined as ribavirin or zanamivir. Thatâ€™s the strength of Chinese herbs against viruses.