Insights

I’m going to use this page to add useful insights about Chinese Medicine.

2/28/2020

Given the current concern about coronavirus COVID-19, I thought it would be interesting to add the following excerpt from an interview with Dr. Wang Ju-Yi, by Daniel Maxwell in the Journal of Chinese Medicine.

“Another incident that left an impression on me was when I first started studying medicine in 1956. That spring there was an outbreak of encephalitis B (Japanese Encephalitis) in Hebei province, Northern China. The onset of this disease is very rapid and its symptoms include fever that won’t abate, projectile vomiting, coma, rapid breathing and sometimes pneumonia. It was very prevalent in children, and the mortality rate was high – 40 to 50 per cent. Because it was such a severe disease, the authorities turned to Western medicine ‐ primarily antibiotics such as penicillin.

“Unfortunately it was not particularly helpful, and most people assumed that because of the severity of the disease Chinese medicine would also be ineffective. But because so many people were dying, the community got together and hired a renowned doctor called Pu Fu‐Zhou (蒲辅周). When he examined the patients, he identified their condition as a classic Bai Hu Tang [White Tiger Decoction] pattern, involving an excess of fire. Therefore he prescribed the medicinals Shi Gao, Zhi Mu, Jing Mi and Gan Cao. Many people recovered after taking this formula.

“Its effectiveness surprised even the Western doctors, who began to promote its use to treat this disease. The mortality rate dropped to less than 20 per cent. My fellow students and I were very excited and proud that Chinese medicine could treat such severe diseases. Even the doctors who had previously doubted or even actively opposed Chinese medicine started to keep this formula in their cabinets for this condition. Because of this many students actually switched from studying Western medicine to study Chinese medicine. This one formula made us all very happy for a while.

“But the following year there was another outbreak of encephalitis B. Everyone presumed that Bai Hu Tang would be just as effective as the previous year, but unfortunately this time it did not work as well. Many people died and everyone was confused. They tried modifying the formula, by adding new herbs and increasing the dosages, but to no avail.

“Eventually they again sought the advice of Dr. Pu Fu‐Zhou, and asked why the formula was no longer effective. He examined the patients again, but identified that the presentation had changed. This time the formula needed to be modified by adding Cang Zhu, because there was now dampness as part of the presentation. And just by adding this herb, the formula again became effective.”

(An Interview with Dr. Wang Ju-Yi, Daniel Maxwell, Journal of Chinese Medicine, No 96, June 2011.)

This story is interesting because it shows not only how effective Chinese herbs can be for infectious diseases, but how important making the right diagnosis is.

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