Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbal medicine for COVID-19 (multiple reviews)

Added June 7, 2021

What is this? Traditional Chinese medicine and other forms of herbal medicine have been suggested as treatments for COVID-19 patients. The findings of several systematic reviews are summarised here. More details on these reviews, including citations and links to their full text, are available further down this page.

What was found: Herbal and traditional Chinese medicine (alone or in combination with Western medicine) may improve patient outcomes for COVID-19 patients. However, the conclusions should be interpreted with caution because of the generally low quality and small number of studies included in the reviews.

The effects of herbal and traditional Chinese medicine on mortality for COVID-19 patients are uncertain.

The Xiong review (search up to 21 June 2020) reported that the potential benefits of traditional Chinese medicine might apply to COVID-19 patients irrespective of disease severity. The other reviews were limited to patients with mild-moderate infection or did not comment on disease severity.

The Li review (search in February 2020) and the Zeng review (search in May 2020) reported that Lianhua Qingwen treatment increased the disappearance rate of major symptoms in COVID-19 patients. The Li review also showed no difference in the incidence of adverse reactions with Lianhua Qingwen combined with conventional drugs, compared to conventional drugs alone.

The Fuzimoto review (search up to 6 April 2020) suggests that several herbs or natural compounds might be therapeutic options to support COVID-19 treatment protocols.

What are the reviews:

Citation: Ang L, Song E, Lee HW, et al. Herbal Medicine for the Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2020;9(5):1583.

In this rapid review, the authors searched for randomized trials of herbal medicines for COVID-19 patients. They did not restrict their searches by language or type of publication and did the search on 12 May 2020. They included 7 trials (855 patients) comparing combined herbal and Western treatment versus Western treatment alone, from China; 4 of which included only mild or moderate COVID-19 infection. They also identified 32 ongoing trials.

Citation: Chen Y, Guo JJ, Healy DP, et al. Effect of integrated traditional Chinese medicine and western medicine on the treatment of severe acute respiratory syndrome: A meta-analysis. Pharmacy Practice. 2007;5(1):1-9.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for randomized and non-randomized trials of traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine versus Western medicine alone for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). They restricted their searches to articles published in English or Chinese from 2002 to 2006 and did their search in August 2006. They identified 16 randomized trials (866 participants) and 8 non-randomized trials (812 participants). They assessed the overall quality of the evidence to be low.

Citation: Fuzimoto A, Isidoro C. The antiviral and coronavirus-host protein pathways inhibiting properties of herbs and natural compounds- Additional weapon is the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic? Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2020;10(4):405-19.

In this rapid review, the authors searched for studies of the antiviral properties and mechanisms of action of herbs or natural compounds against the SARS coronavirus. They restricted their searches to articles published in English and searched up to 6 April 2020. They included 43 papers (approximately 45,000 tested substances).

Citation: Li B, Ren Q. Systematic review of traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen in the treatment of new coronavirus pneumonia. Medical Case Reports and Reviews 2020;3:1-6.

In this rapid review, the authors searched for studies of Lianhua Qingwen combined with conventional drugs versus conventional drugs alone for COVID-19 patients. They did not restrict their searches by date, language or type of publication and did the search up to February 2020. They included 3 prospective studies based in China.

Citation: Liu X, Zhang M, He L, et al. Chinese herbs combined with Western medicine for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012;(10):CD004882.

In this Cochrane review, the authors searched for randomized and quasi-randomized trials of Chinese herbs combined with Western medicines versus Western medicines alone for SARS patients. They did not restrict their searches by language of publication and did the search in March 2012. They identified 12 randomized and 1 quasi-randomized trials (total: 640 participants), evaluating 12 different Chinese herbs. They assessed the overall quality of the evidence to be low.

Citation: Xiong X, Wang P, Su K, et al. Chinese herbal medicine for coronavirus disease 2019: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Pharmacological Research. 2020;160:105056.

In this rapid review, the authors searched for randomized trials of Chinese herbal medicine and Western medicine versus Western medicine alone in COVID-19 patients. They did not restrict their searches by language of publication and did the search on 21 June 2020. They included 18 randomized trials (2275 participants), which were all conducted in China. They assessed that most of the included studies were of a poor methodological design.

Citation: Zeng M, Li L, Wu Z. Traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen treating corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PloS ONE. 2020;15(9):e0238828.

In this rapid review, the authors searched for randomized trials of the clinical efficacy and safety of Lianghua Qingwen for COVID-19 patients. They searched up to May 2020. They included 2 randomized trials (142 participants) from China.

Other reviews of this topic:

Citation: Leung PC. The efficacy of Chinese medicine for SARS: a review of Chinese publications after the crisis. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2007;35(4):575-81. (Evidence Aid summary available here.)

Citation: Li X, Feng G, Ma W, et al. Traditional Chinese Medicine Syndromes of the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia: A Systemic Review and Meta-analysis. World Chinese Medicine. 2020;15(3):305-14. (Evidence Aid summary available here.)

Language: Chinese; Free to view: No

 

Disclaimer: This summary has been written by staff and volunteers of Evidence Aid in order to make the content of the original document accessible to decision makers who are searching for the available evidence on the coronavirus (COVID-19) but may not have the time, initially, to read the original report in full. This summary is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians, other health workers, professional associations, guideline developers, or national governments and international agencies. If readers of this summary think that the evidence that is presented within it is relevant to their decision-making they should refer to the content and details of the original article, and the advice and guidelines offered by other sources of expertise, before making decisions. Evidence Aid cannot be held responsible for any decisions made about the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the basis of this summary alone. The text can be shared and re-used without charge, citing Evidence Aid as the source and noting the date on which you took the text.

Share