Principles and treatment strategies for the use of Chinese herbal medicine in patients at different stages of coronavirus infection

Am J Cancer Res. 2020 Jul 1;10(7):2010-2031. eCollection 2020.


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a novel, human-infecting β-coronavirus enveloped, positive-sense single-stranded RNA viruses, similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infection that emerged in November 2002. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the epidemic disease concepts of "febrile epidemics" (wenyi) or "warm diseases" (wenbing) are based on geographic and cultural aspects, and Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) played an important role in the treatment of epidemic diseases. CHM was widely used to treat patients suffered with SARS almost two decades ago during outbreak of SARS, with proven safety and potential benefits. TCM has also been widely used to treat cancer patients for a long history and much of them associate with immunomodulatory activity and are used to treat coronavirus-related diseases. We propose the use of CHM treatment principles for clinical practice, based on four main stages of COVID-19 infection: early, intermediate, severe, and convalescence. We suggest corresponding decoctions that exhibit antiviral activity and anti-inflammatory effects in the early stage of infection; preventing the disease from progressing from an intermediate to severe stage of infection; restoring normal lung function and improving consciousness in the severe stage; and ameliorating pulmonary and vascular injury in the convalescent stage. We summarize the pharmaceutical mechanisms of CHM for treating coronavirus via antiviral, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects.

Keywords: Chinese herbal medicine (CHM); Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); febrile epidemics (wenyi); severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS); traditional Chinese medicine (TCM); warm diseases (wenbing).

Publication types

  • Review