Beijing pushes traditional herbal remedy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 May, 2009, 12:00am

Mainland health authorities have released three herbal medicine prescriptions they claim can block and cure swine flu.

The Ministry of Health posted the formulas on its website yesterday and told public health departments in every province to be aware of the worth of traditional treatments.

The prescriptions describe the H1N1 virus as a 'fiend' that will spread from the lungs, to the stomach and then to the blood. The first remedy was to 'rinse the lung' by drinking the mixed soup of sunburn ephedra, almond, fresh gypsum, bupleurum, scutellaria, fructus arctii, notopterygium and liquorice.

But if the virus 'stormed the stomach', the patients would vomit and a different treatment would be needed. Puerarin, baicalin, berberine, Atractylodes, Agastache, ginger banxia, suye and honokio would drive the virus into faecal matter.

The ministry said the worst stage was when 'the fiend infests the blood', when patients would encounter high fever, restlessness, difficult breathing and even coma. Blood-cleansing ingredients including sunburn ephedra, almond, gualou, rhubarb, fresh gypsum, chishao, and water buffalo horn could then be used.

A news release from the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine said yesterday the prescriptions were developed by a team of herbal specialists on Wednesday.

'They analysed symptoms reported in Mexico and other countries and concluded that the disease was just a kind of flu,' it said. 'So the experts developed formulas based on their rich experience with flu treatment.'

The ministry said last week traditional medicine doctors must be represented on decision-making bodies at every level of the government during public health emergencies. But some critics said the prescriptions were total nonsense and put the public at risk.

Biologist Fang Shimin said herbal medicine had never cured any pandemic.

'When Sars [severe acute respiratory syndrome] broke out, the Ministry of Health also released so-called traditional prescriptions and sold them to the entire population,' Dr Fang said.

'Many people reported being poisoned after drinking the soup.

'Those herbal doctors were in Beijing and have never seen a single swine flu patient. How can they develop reliable prescriptions based on the imagination?

'This time the mainland government is using administrative power to plant a herbalist into every contingency task force, whose opinions can only impede scientific medical measures. It is reckless.'