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Zhang Boli, president of Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, is among a team studying the effects of Lianhuaqingwen capsules on the duration of Covid-19 symptoms. Photo: Xinhua

No Covid-19 cure but Chinese herb capsule shortens fever, fatigue and coughing: research

  • Zhong Nanshan among notable researchers to publish study of Lianhuaqingwen capsules in treatment of symptoms
  • Herbal compound has met resistance in the West with US and Canadian authorities warning against use as a treatment
Phoebe Zhang
A Chinese herb combination can help ease the symptoms of Covid-19, say some of China’s top scientists after conducting a multi-centre trial.

According to a previous diagnosis and treatment protocol by the National Health Commission, Lianhuaqingwen (LH) capsules are recognised for treating symptoms of Covid-19, such as fatigue and fever, but not Covid-19 itself. There is not yet a confirmed cure for the disease.

The scientific paper was published on Phytomedicine journal on May 16 and the research team includes Li Lanjuan, director of the State Key Laboratory for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, Zhang Boli, president of Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Zhong Nanshan, China’s “Sars hero” and veteran infectious disease expert.
Lianhuaqingwen is a compounded Chinese herbal medicine comprising several plant products, including Japanese honeysuckle and golden-bell.

The researchers recruited 284 Covid-19 patients in February from 23 hospitals in nine Chinese provinces for the study.

They found that treatment with LH capsules for 14 days markedly improved the rate of symptom recovery (57.7 per cent at day 5, 80.3 per cent at day 10 and 91.5 per cent at day 14).

The time to symptom recovery was also significantly shorter in the LH treatment group. For example, the capsules shortened the duration of fever by one day and the symptoms of fatigue and coughing by three days for each compared to the control group and improved chest CT images, the study found. But the degree of virus reduction did not reach statistical significance.


“In light of the efficacy and safety profiles, LH capsules could be considered for the treatment of Covid-19,” the study concluded.

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The urgency of the outbreak means no “blinding” – in which researchers and subjects do not know whether who is receiving a placebo and who is receiving possible treatment – was implemented. The researchers acknowledged this was a limitation of the study. Instead of blinding, patients were randomised to either receive the usual treatment alone or in combination with LH capsules (four capsules, three times a day) for 14 days.

Li Lanjuan, a renowned Chinese epidemiologist, was on the team to report on the effects of Lianhuaqingwen on Covid-19 patients. Photo: Xinhua

The researchers said further study was needed to determine whether a longer period of Lianhuaqingwen treatment would be more efficacious. And an extended study would be needed to thoroughly explore the effects of LH capsules on viral shedding and the resolution of all symptoms.

Previously, Zhong has publicly recommended LH capsules to treat Covid-19 patients. In early May, in a public video chat with overseas Chinese students, he said that if they showed fever symptoms, they should take medicine such as LH capsules.

The herbal medicine has met with resistance in the West, however. In early May, Canadian doctors warned against the Beijing-touted health supplement as the Chinese embassy distributed LH capsules to students there, according to CBC News.

On Tuesday, United States Customs and Border Protection officers seized three postal packages of a total of 28,800 LH capsules, citing that they violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which prohibits any food, drug, device, tobacco product, or cosmetic that is adulterated or misbranded.


Border officials said the dangers of the pills were “catastrophic” as they gave “consumers a false sense of security”.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Scientists upbeat after trial of herbal Covid-19 remedy