Coronavirus 2019-nCoV: Can Chinese Medicine help?

World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed the 2019-nCoV (Novel Coronavirus) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This is a respiratory illness with symptoms ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. The first incident of this virus emerged in Wuhan City China in December 2019 and now has a number of confirmed cases in Australia. Though similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic of 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Symptom (MERS) first reported in 2012, this new virus is another subtype of coronavirus.


Incubation period for this virus is 2-14 days. Symptoms may vary in intensity from mild to lethal. Some symptoms experienced include:

  • Fever

  • Flu like symptoms

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

How does it spread?

There is evidence showing that this is a contagious illness. Some ways it can spread are

  • Person-to-person

  • Ariel droplets from an infected person through cough or sneezing

  • Direct contact with objects or surfaces that has cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person


  • Australian Government, Department of Health does not recommend the use of surgical masks for healthy members of the public as a mask does not protect you against the virus.

  • Infected persons are advised to wear a surgical mask

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser

  • Use a tissue to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing

  • Avoid close contact with others

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces especially when someone is sick

  • Stay home when you are sick


There is no treatment for coronavirus except in the management of symptoms. Antibiotics do not work on these viruses.

Chinese medicine’s take on coronavirus

In nearly ever case of influenza, SARS, MERS and coronavirus, the most basic diagnosis is Damp Heat. In the initial stages this is in the Wei Qi level which is the outer most of the Four Levels, which show how pathogens travel deeper in to the body. Depending on symptoms presented, this diagnosis can vary. A diagnosis as Damp Heat means this pathogen thrives in a warm and damp environment which needs to be eliminated to promote healing. Some damp places to avoid include: crowded places, sauna, swimming pool, Make sure to air out rooms properly and give a generous dose of sunlight to bedding and belongings to kill bacteria and expel dampness.

How can Chinese medicine help?

As this is a virus attacking our immune system, one preventable measure we can take is by strengthening our defences. One very famous Chinese medicine classical formula named Yu Ping Feng San may help. The name translates as Jade Screen and is formulated to strengthen the defensive Qi also known as Wei Qi against pathogens as well as treat common cold symptoms. The original formula contains of just three herbs:

Huang Qi – Astragalus Root (Radix Astragali Membranaccei)

  • Tonifies Wei Qi, Stabilise the exterior and tonifies the Lungs

  • Tonify Qi and Blood

  • Strengthen Spleen and raise Yang Qi of Spleen and Stomach

  • Expel toxins

  • Generate body fluids

  • Alleviate pain

Fang Feng – Siler Root (Radix Saposhnikoviae Divaricatae)

  • Releases the Exterior and expels External Wind

  • Expel Wind Dampness and alleviate pain

  • Expel Internal Wind and stops spasms

  • Relieve Diarrhea

Bai Zhu – Wite Atractylodis Root (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae)

  • Tonify Spleen and augment Qi

  • Dries Damp and promote water metabolis

  • Stabilize Exterior and stops sweating

A paper in Phytotherapy Research (2015) states that this classical formula has previously shown to “modulate inflammatory response and phagocytosis in exerting anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects” (Du, Crystal & Zheng, Ken & BI, Cathy & Dong, Tina & Lin, Huangquan., 2015). When further tested on its impact on Influenza virus A it was found to suppress the neuraminidase activity of Influenza virus A in epithelial cells cultured in laboratory settings. This resulted in the prevention of viral release and spreading.

Dietary advice

  • If you have contracted the virus, Keep off the sugar! and not just sugar but all natural sweeteners and anything that can turn into sugar once broken down in the body from refined flours, sugars, fruits, chocolates, cakes, and many root vegetables such as potato, parsnip and carrots.

  • Raw or cold foods should be avoided as they require more energy to digest

  • Avoid caffeine and give your adrenals a rest

  • As this is a damp heat condition, avoid Hot-Foods. Meats such as lamb and beef are hot while chicken is only mildy warm. Use Steaming and boiling as cooking methods as they bring a cooling nature to foods.


Du, Crystal & Zheng, Ken & BI, Cathy & Dong, Tina & Lin, Huangquan. (2015). Yu Ping Feng San, an Ancient Chinese Herbal Decoction, Induces Gene Expression of Anti-viral Proteins and Inhibits Neuraminidase Activity. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 29. 10.1002/ptr.5290.

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