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Substituting Acupuncture for Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of COVID-19

A Discussion of Acupuncture and Herbal Formula Correlates


by Dr. Young Wei Chieh


Original Article "談據方用針治療新冠病毒" Translated (with annotation) by Noach Bittelman

(The following article was written by my teacher Dr. Young Wei Chieh and published on his blog post on April 22, 2020. I translated the original article, "談據方用針治療新冠病毒", into English for Dr. Young, he posted the translation on April 29, 2020. I thought it would be useful for readers of this blog to have access to Dr. Young's unique thought process about substituting acupuncture for herbal formulas.}

The National Health Institute in mainland China has established a special herbal formula to treat the Wuhan Coronavirus. This formula has achieved a 90% success rate in treatment of the disease. The formula is a combination of four classical formulas, with the addition of a small number of other herbs. These four formulas are: 1. Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang, 2. Wu Ling San, 3. Xiao Chai Hu Tang, 4. She Gan Ma Huang Tang. In many countries outside of China the herb Ma Huang/Herba Ephedra, an extremely essential component of the formula, is illegal. Given this situation, what are we to do when treating COVID-19? We can make use of the acupuncture-herb correlation technique, whereby we substitute acupuncture points for herbal formulas. The question then arises—which points should be chosen to substitute for the herbal formulas which make up the special Coronavirus formula? Herein I will respond to the inquiries from students and others about this question, and discuss my perspective on the acupuncture-herb correlates. When analyzing the current Wuhan COVID-19 illness which began at the end of 2019, we can see that the primary disease mechanism is cold damp. The special formula mentioned above, known as “Qing Fei Pai Du Tang/Clear the Lungs and Detoxify Formula”, was established as the standard formula to treat COVID-19. Formula components, rationale, and purpose: Qing Fei Pai Du Tang consists of four famous formulas, all of which have their origin in the Han Dynasty classic Shang Han Za Bing Lun, (known in English as the Classic of Cold Induced Disorders), written by Zhang Zhong Jing. Formulas which are ascribed to Zhang Zhong Jing are known as classic formulas. The current formula, Qing Fei Pai Du Tang includes within itself the four classic formulas Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang, Xiao Chai Hu Tang, Wu Ling San, and She Gan Ma Huang Tang. Qing Fei Pai Du Tang has two primary medical goals—1) harmonizing the Shao Yang, and 2) spreading and draining the Lungs and clearing excess; clearing excess is the dominant component of the formula, which is what makes it so clinically effective. This particular epidemic exhibits a number of Shao Yang level symptoms, such as a bitter taste in the mouth, eye discomfort, sore throat and lack of appetite, emotional vexation and dry heaves or vomiting, a sense of oppression in the chest and fullness in the ribcage area. This explains why Xiao Chai Hu Tang is used. The Excess symptoms, which manifest as a very large amount of sticky, viscous fluids which fill the lung cavities and cause obstruction of the breathing process, represent a very predominant component of the way the illness manifests. The Lungs becoming filled with sticky and viscous fluids is an indication that the patient has an overabundance of fluids and dampness; these fluids and dampness can obstruct the circulation of qi and blood in the Lungs. Wu Ling San is able to warm the Yang and lead out fluids. On the one hand it can strengthen the qi transformation mechanism, and when the qi transformational capacity is strong it can transform water in the body into the Jin and Ye fluids the body requires. On the other hand Wu Ling San can help the body to lead out excess wastewater by way of urination. During COVID -19 the fluids become thick, sticky, and viscous, with phlegm accumulating in the lungs. As the amount of phlegm in the lungs increases the lun