Liu Huawei, a renowned traditional Chinese medicine expert in Shaanxi province, checks the condition of a child with cerebral palsy. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Although in his 70s, Liu Huawei, a well-known practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, still contributes to the prevention and control of COVID-19 in his own way.
Liu has retired from the position of president of Shaanxi Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital.
On Jan 21, two days before the first three cases of COVID-19 in the province were detected, Liu and four of his students stayed up until midnight to discuss the cause and the treatment of the illness from the perspective of TCM.
The discussion was conducted under the request of the Health Commission of Shaanxi Province, in the hope of making some contributions to the battle against the outbreak in Wuhan, capital of the hardest-hit Hubei province on the Chinese mainland, and meanwhile protect people in Shaanxi from the disease.
The discussion was efficient. By analyzing the symptoms and pulses of the patients in Wuhan, as well as examining their tongues, which were recorded in photos and shared by some TCM doctors in Wuhan, Liu and his students concluded that people caught the pneumonia-like disease because of coldness and moisture in nature. These are believed to be harmful to people's health in TCM theory, and attack people who are unable to defeat them as their bodies are too weak.
"As Wuhan is located in an area where a number of rivers and lakes converge and intertwine, and rainfall has been frequent since the beginning of the year, leading to a large amount of cold and moisture in the environment," Liu says, adding that the treatment of the COVID-19 in Wuhan should focus on eradicating the two harmful elements that enter people's body.
In the meantime, Liu found with relatively high temperature and little rainfall in the winter of 2019 and the spring of 2020, the climate in Shaanxi was different from that in Wuhan: apart from cold and moisture, there was also some heat and dryness. This might also harm people's health. Excessive heat or dryness in the body causes harm, especially when people don't have enough qi, or overall energy, in their body or if their qi is not in a good state.
Accordingly, he figured out several TCM prescriptions, consisting of a series of herbal medicines such as huoxiang (agastache rugosus), suye (folium perillae), jiegeng (platycodon grandiflorum) and bohe (mint).The mixture of them is supposed to be conducive to reduce moisture and confine heat and dryness in the body to a proper amount.
His conclusions and prescriptions were adopted by the Shaanxi provincial guidebook on using TCM to prevent and control the COVID-19, says Ma Zhanping, leader of the Shaanxi TCM expert team on the treatment of COVID-19, also a student of Liu.
"What's more, my teacher's judgment about the disease and the prescriptions he gave were quite similar to what was described in the third and fourth pilot edition of the national guidebook on the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, which were released on Jan 23 and Jan 27 respectively," says Ma, who is also the director of department of pulmonary disease at Shaanxi Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital.
"It's not an easy achievement as there weren't first-hand cases in Shaanxi when my teacher did all these," he adds.
Liu paid attention to the collection of first-hand materials in the front line and kept a close look on the development of the disease. While one of his students, Qu Xiaoyuan, a doctor from Shaanxi Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, was working voluntarily in Wuhan in February and March, Liu asked Qu to accumulate materials and test whether his understanding about the pneumonia was correct.
"When I was working in Wuhan, I felt that my teacher's understanding about the COVID-19 is in-depth and correct although he was 800 kilometers away. This comes from the rich experiences of an outstanding TCM doctor," Qu says.
"I made several telephone calls to my teacher to talk about some of my observations and confusions in Wuhan, and my teacher's remarks were always helpful and inspiring to my work there," he adds.
Now the autumn - one of the seasons that people are vulnerable to respiratory infectious diseases - is approaching. Apart from some basic habits to help people stay away from the virus, such as washing hands often and doing sports regularly, Liu recommends people to take some actions from the perspective of TCM.
"As lungs dislike coldness, we should stay warm, keep ourselves away from cold, wet places and take sunbath often. Also, we should eat more food of white color, such as tremella, pears and Chinese yam, which are good to the lungs," Liu says.