Updated: May 8
A formula and a project for the COVID-19 pandemic
In this article we introduce you to an 800 year old Chinese herbal formula that has been used extensively in the recent COVID-19 pandemic, introduce the exciting Jade Screen Project that is supporting front-line workers with Chinese herbal medicine, and provide you with the latest information on the forthcoming Chinese herb course at The White Crane Academy starting in September 2020.
As practitioners of Chinese medicine we are in a difficult position in the current health crisis. On the one hand we have Government guidelines and instructions from our professional associations that inform us we should stay at home and refrain from practising… and on the other hand we are trained in a system of medicine that has a 2000 year old tradition of treating epidemic diseases similar to COVID-19. We have potentially important tools that could make a positive contribution to the provision of vital healthcare… but our hands are being tied behind our backs. How frustrating!
What about our existing patients or new patients seeking help in the prevention and treatment of the virus? As medical practitioners we have a duty of care to these people, irrespective of the semantic confusion that currently exists around terms like Allied Health Professionals. This dilemma is difficult to manage and I suspect many of us are finding interesting ways of balancing social and professional responsibilities.
Whilst I have suspended all acupuncture treatment for the moment I have been able to provide continuity of care for most of my patients by using online consultations to diagnose and treat with Chinese herbal medicine. I have also been able to offer herbal prophylaxis based on studies from Hong Kong during the 2003 SARS epidemic and more recently from treatment guidelines drawn up in Wuhan and other Chinese provinces. I have also treated a number of patients with COVID-19 with promising outcomes. This is definitely one of the advantages of having a foot in both acupuncture and herbal camps. I would like to share two ways in which you may also be able to benefit from the herbal option.
The first involves the Jade Screen Project.
This is named after a famous 800 year old Chinese herbal formula called Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Wind Screen Powder) that is designed to strengthen the Wei Qi and stabilise the Exterior of the body. It is comprised of three herbs Huang Qi (Astragalus membranaceus), Bai Zhu (Atractylodes macrocephalae) and Fang Feng (Saposhnikovia divaricata). Huang Qi is usually considered the Sovereign herb and is prescribed in a relatively large dose. It strongly tonifies the Lung and Spleen Qi and stabilises the Exterior of the body. Modern research has found that Huang Qi has an immune enhancing and immune regulating action (for example by increasing macrophage and natural killer cell cytotoxicity) and it is commonly used to help support people with chemotherapy induced leucopenia, as well as in the prevention and treatment of a number of common allergic and auto-immune diseases. Bai Zhu assists the action of Huang Qi by predominantly strengthening the Spleen and then, by virtue of Earth generating Metal, it helps to further tonify the Lungs and thereby enhances the Wei Qi. Unsurprisingly research has shown that Bai Zhu can also enhance both cellular and humoral immune responses. Fang Feng (literally ‘Guard against Wind’) supports the action of both of these herbs by circulating in the exterior and expelling pathogenic Wind when it tries to invade the body. Some sources also say that it acts a conductant herb by taking the Qi strengthening action of its companion herbs to the Exterior of the body. This is an elegant little formula that is frequently used in the UK clinic to good effect in the treatment of conditions such as asthma, hay-fever, frequent infections, and as an adjuvant treatment during chemotherapy. It is also the mainstay of several formulae used to help reduce the incidence and severity of infection from COVID-19.
This brings us back to the Jade Screen Project. This project was set up by a team including teachers and students from the White Crane Academy of Chinese Herbal Medicine to provide high quality Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) free of charge to those front-line workers who have been affected by, or are at high risk of developing, COVID-19. We offer support in the prevention, treatment and recovery from COVID-19. We have collated and reviewed the best quality research coming out of China and are surveying an international panel of CHM experts in order to develop a consensus on good practice to inform our treatment.
Frontline workers, including NHS staff, care home workers, anyone providing essential support services including bus drivers, people working in supermarkets, and teachers, can self-refer and will be seen online by an experienced CHM practitioner. We have built up a network of practitioners and we have been received generous funding from Sebastian Pole and his Earthsong Foundation, and the kind offer of discounted herbs from Balance Healthcare Ltd. to enable this project to get off the ground. This means both the consultation and the herbs are provided free of charge-for as long as our funding permits. If you, a family member, or a friend are working as frontline worker then we encourage you to use this service to help in the prevention or management of COVID-19 related disease.
Finally, for those of you with an interest in studying herbs to deepen and broaden your understanding and practice of Chinese medicine we are pleased to announce that the White Crane Academy will be running its second 3-year diploma course in September 2020. Our course has recently achieved the accolade of full EHTPA accreditation that testifies to the quality of the course and guarantees automatic entry into the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine. We have also taken into account the economic impact of the current pandemic on acupuncturists and have decided to reduce our fees for this year’s intake. We have bursaries and scholarships available too… so now is a good time to use the dark days of COVID-19 as a springboard into the challenging but rewarding journey of studying Chinese herbal medicine.