Chinese medicine effectively relieves COVID-19 symptoms

1 Nov 2023

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Professor Bian Zhaoxiang (middle), together with his research team members Mr Cheung Chun-hoi (2nd left), Dr Zhang Jialing (1st left), Mr Luo Jingyuan and Wong Hoi-ki (2nd and 1st right), analysed patient statistics to deepen the medical community’s understanding of the symptoms during the early and middle stages of COVID-19 infection as well as the post-COVID syndrome.


People who took Chinese medicine after COVID-19 infection required a shorter time to test negative in rapid tests, and experienced significant symptom relief compared to those who did not take Chinese medicine, according to a study led by the School of Chinese Medicine (SCM).

The study also found that 55% of the patients continued to experience at least one long COVID symptom for six months to a year after infection.

The research findings were published in a number of papers in international academic journals including the Journal of Medical Virology and The American Journal of Chinese Medicine.

The HKBU research team led by Professor Bian Zhaoxiang, Director of the Clinical Division at SCM, conducted a retrospective study using patient statistics collected by the “HKBU Chinese Medicine Telemedicine Centre Against COVID-19” (the Telemedicine Centre) during the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team analysed data from about 13,000 patients who were infected with COVID-19 from March to May in 2022.

Among the patients, 93% experienced at least one symptom in the first four weeks of infection. Symptoms included cough, sputum, dry throat and sore throat. Although the symptoms gradually subsided over time, the prevalence of fatigue increased.

To evaluate the efficacy of Chinese medicine, the researchers selected 311 patients who had taken Chinese medicine for five days within 10 days after diagnosis, and another 311 patients who had not taken any Chinese medicine during the same period. The results showed that the patients who took Chinese medicine needed an average of seven days to test negative in rapid tests, and experienced an average of four symptoms, which were significantly milder compared to those who didn’t take Chinese medicine. The average time to test negative for patients who did not take Chinese medicine was eight days, and they experienced an average of 11 symptoms. The results showed that Chinese medicine is an effective treatment for COVID-19 infection.

The team conducted a follow-up telephone survey from November 2022 to January 2023 with over 6,200 COVID-19 patients who sought medical consultation at the Telemedicine Centre between December 2021 and May 2022. The study found that 55% of patients still experienced at least one long-term symptom. The most common symptoms were fatigue, brain fog and cough.

Professor Bian says, “HKBU established the Telemedicine Centre during the COVID-19 outbreak to provide free treatments for COVID-19 patients. We analysed the Centre’s data to deepen the medical community’s understanding of the symptoms during the early and middle stages of COVID-19 infection as well as the post-COVID syndrome. It allows the public to understand the effectiveness of Chinese medicine in treating COVID-19. The study also shows that the tele-services of Chinese medicine can be an important component of Hong Kong’s healthcare and disease prevention system.”

To address the issues of long COVID, Professor Bian’s team has initiated a series of clinical and basic research, including a survey of COVID-19 patients with diabetes and a clinical trial conducted in collaboration with other partners to investigate the efficacy, safety and action mechanism of senlingcao oral liquid in treating long COVID fatigue. These projects aim to further explore the impact of COVID-19 and its treatment options.