Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD, L.Ac.
If one were to ask me what the single greatest contribution of Chinese herbal medicine into western society might be, I would answer unhesitatingly. I would say it is the availability of herbal products to treat common viruses and bacteria. I say this not because this is TCM’s greatest hat trick. There are extraordinary herbal treatments that are superior to western medicines for a variety of non-infectious disorders. I say it because common infections are one of the main reasons people come to a health care provider, and that the conventional western medical response is inadequate, expensive, and carries health consequences. If the western medical society, or for that matter, society in general, were aware of the incredible effectiveness of commonly available Chinese herbal products, it would significantly change how common infections are treated in North America.
Currently, most infections – bacterial or viral – are treated by western doctors with antibiotics. I accept that antibiotics are the medicine of choice for infections requiring hospitalization, including deep wounds into the blood, bone and internal organs, and post-surgical prevention of infection. Unfortunately, antibiotics seem to be the only medicine given for common “out-patient” infections that infect epithelial tissue, including the sinus, throat, gums, ear, lungs, skin, urethra and bladder. For this latter group, however, about 85% of the infections are actually viral in nature, not bacterial. In these cases, antibiotics may give immediate symptomatic relief, but are essentially an inappropriate treatment. They are inappropriate for two reasons: first, people taking antibiotics for viral infections have a three-fold increase of a return infection within eight weeks, and secondly, effective herbal alternatives exist and are available.
What are the consequences of antibiotics? Primarily, oral antibiotics destroy the beneficial bacteria of the small and large intestines. These bacteria, more than 500 species, digest metabolic wastes, detoxify viral and bacterial toxins, and provide enzymes necessary for nutrients to be absorbed. When one takes antibiotics, these functions come to a stop. Worse, it gives a jump-start to the overgrowth of Candida Albicans, a fungus. The western medical community, despite the abundance of scientific evidence, minimizes or ignores the health consequences of Candida. The fungus excretes an irritating aldehyde that damages intestinal epithelium and allows “leaky gut” – the absorption of toxins, undigested foods and viruses. The result creates a toxic burden on the body and lowers the immune system significantly. (For more on this, see my article at www.drjakefratkin.com/pdf/lgs.pdf).
The use of antibiotics for common viral infections is creating a health crisis within our society. Chinese herbal products, on the other hand, offer really effective treatments for viral or bacterial epithelial infections of the nose, throat, ear, lung and urinary tract. In the Chinese materia medica, in the category Herbs to Clear Toxins and Resolve Heat, there are 23 common and available herbs that are effective for killing viruses. In the category Herbs to Clear Damp Heat, we have 9 herbs that show significant antibacterial effect. These offer a significant and inexpensive alternative to standard antibiotic treatment. Herbal formulas that combat viruses and bacteria basically rely on the inclusion of herbs from these categories
TCM approach to treating infectious disorders.
Classical formulas relied on classical Shang Han Lun approach (six divisions) and Wen Bing (four levels) to treat infections. Throughout Chinese history, specific formulas from these approaches were used to address epidemics and contagious diseases, including typhus, typhoid, smallpox, mumps, measles, diphtheria, influenza, tuberculosis, syphilis, etc. In fact, an epidemic provided the impetus for Zhong, Zhong-Jing to go on his quest that resulted in his categorization of the six divisions of pathogenic divisions (Taiyang, Yangming, Shaoyang, etc.), as described in the Shang Han Lun. At age 18, returning to his village after a three week absence, he found 80% of the villagers dead, including his entire family. This is probably from a fast acting epidemic such as typhoid or typhus.
The classical approach to infection was first described by Zhang in the 3rd century as Shang Hun Lun theory, and later, in the 18th century was further developed in the Wen Bing school of thought. The classical approach combined various therapeutic strategies in combating heat toxins that included herbs to clear wind heat, clear blood heat, nourish yin, as well as specific herbs to clear heat and resolve toxins, or clear damp-heat.
A more modern approach, developed since 1949 in Chinese hospitals, clinics, and TCM universities, is to readily increase the amount of herbs than actually destroy viruses and bacteria. An illustration of these two approaches can be seen when we compare the medicine Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian with the more modern Gan Mao Ling. Most American practitioners are familiar with both these medicines.
The Yin Qiao Formula. Originally called Yin Qiao San and catalogued by Wu Jutang in “Systematic Difference of Warm Diseases” (1798), this formula is commonly used for the early stages of wind heat with symptoms of sore throat, nasal congestion and slight fever. It is also, with additions, the prescribed treatment for chicken pox and measles. This formula only contained two “antiviral” herbs, Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicera) and Lian Qiao (Fructus Forsythia), which we now know to be effective against upper respiratory viruses. Most of the other herbs are primarily there to dispel wind or pathogenic wind: Niu Bang Zi (Fructus Arctium), Bo He (Herba Mentha), Dan Dou Chi (Semen Glycine Soja Praeparatum) and Jing Jie (Herba Schizonepeta). Two other herbs complete the formula: Dan Zhu Ye (Lophatherum Folium) to clear internal heat and Jie Geng (Platycodon Radix) to guide the formula to the lung channel. As you can see, the majority of the herbs dispel wind heat, not clear heat toxins. And yet, it is a very good formula for early stage common cold. If taken within the first 12 hours, it can stop a cold from settling in.
The Gan Mao Ling Formula. Most savvy clinicians, however, have moved away from Yin Qiao Jie Du San to Gan Mao Ling, because it is stronger and more effective. Gan Mao Ling is a modern formula, and when you look at its composition, what you find is that four very strong antiviral herbs make up 75% of the formula: Gang Mei Gen (Radix Ilex Asprella), San Cha Ku (Radix Evodia Lepta), Ban Lan Gen (Radix Isatis), and Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicera). The other two herbs, ostensibly wind heat herbs, are included to help lead the formula to effected areas: Huang Jing Cao (Herba Vitex) to the sinuses, and Ju Hua (Flos Chrysanthemum) to the eyes. The two main herbs, Gang Mei Gen andSan Cha Ku actually make up 56% of the formula. These are newly utilized herbs, not described in the classical literature, and yet are used because of their very effective antiviral properties. In this formula, little attention is given to the traditional orientation of dispelling wind, instead relying on the clinical effect of actually destroying the pathogenic virus responsible for the symptoms. This is a more western approach, but for the modern clinician – in China as well as North America – the successful effects warrant its application.
Treating SARS. Classical principles still apply, and this is obvious in how the Chinese Ministry of Health is recommending treatment for SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Various formulas are offered for prevention and treatment of SARS, and the following formula, for the stage of lung fire with sticky phlegm and fever, illustrates the combined classical and modern approach.
Huang Qi (Radix Astragalus) 12 %
Fang Feng (Radix Ledebouriella) 12
Ge Gen (Radix Pueraria) 8
Chuan Bei Mu (Bulbus Fritillaria) 8
Huang Qin (Radix Scutellaria) 8
Mu Dan Pi (Radix Cortex Moutan) 7
Da Qing Ye (Herba Isatis) 12
Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicera) 12
Yu Jin (Rhizoma Curcuma) 9
Guan Zhong (Rhizoma Dryopteris) 12
In this formula, the main herbs to clear heat toxins are Da Qing Ye, Jin Yin Hua, and Guan Zhong. Guan Zhong can be considered a modern, recently utilized herb, and has been used alone for the treatment of influenza. The herb Ge Gen dispels wind heat, Chuan Bei Mu clears sticky phlegm responsible for cough, and Huang Qin aids in subduing lung fire. Mu Dan Pi and Yu Jin circulate liver blood and relieve costal congestion. By combining Huang Qi with Fang Feng, the formula utilizes two of the Jade Screen herbs (Yu Ping Feng San) to support the wei qi. The clinical results when used alone or combined with western respiratory support proved more effective then the conventional western approach alone in the recent SARS epidemic in China.
Available Chinese Herbal Products for Treating Viruses. Below are several examples of currently available products with antiviral applications that are made in China, Taiwan and the United States. All are GMP level products (Good Manufacturing Practice), and do not contain any pharmaceuticals, heavy metals or any other contaminants. Specific information about applications can be found in the product guides offered by the manufacturers.
For early stage of common cold, with symptoms of slight fever, sore throat, nasal congestion and achiness in the upper back:
yin qiao san
LONICERA & FORSYTHIA FORMULA (Taiwan Extract Granules) YIN QIAO JIE DU WAN
yin chiao FORMULA (Golden Flower, Health Concerns, Kan, Plum Flower)
YIN QIAO JIE DU WAN (Bioessence, Herbal Times)
Formulas with similar applications:
CHAI GE JIE JI WAN (Herbal Times)
CHRYSANTHEMUM 9 (Seven Forest)
COLD AWAY (Health Concerns)
COLD SNAP (Oriental Herb Co.)
INITIAL DEFENSE (Kan)
For more severe symptoms of common cold or flu, use:
GAN MAO LING (Golden Flower, Kan, Plum Flower)
ZHONG GAN LING (Golden Flower, Kan, Plum Flower)
ILEX 15 (Seven Forest)
For symptoms of swollen glands or swollen tonsils, use:
pu ji xiao du yin wan
PU JI XIAO DU WAN (Herbal Times)
SCUTE & CIMICIFUGA COMBINATION (Taiwan Extract Granules)
UNIVERSAL BENEFIT TEAPILLS (Plum Flower)
For acute and chronic viral infections, use:
chuan xin lian
ANTIPHLOGISTIC FORMULA (Kan)
CHUAN XIN LIAN (Plum Flower)
CHUAN XIN LIAN KANG YAN WAN (Bioessence)
wu wei xiao du wan
DANDELION & WILD CHRYSANTHEMUM COMBINATION (Taiwan Extract Granules)
FIVE FLAVOR TEAPILLS (Plum Flower)
PATRINIA 7 (Seven Forest)
The following products are also designed for use with acute or chronic viral infections. See the manufacturers’ literature for specific applications.
ASTRA ISATIS (Health Concerns)
BIDENS 6 (Seven Forest)
CLEAR HEAT (Health Concerns)
ENHANCE (Health Concerns)
FORSYTHIA 18 (Seven Forest)
HERBAL ABX (Evergreen Combinations)
ISATIS 6 (Seven Forest)
ISATIS GOLD (Health Concerns)
LONICERA COMPLEX (Evergreen Combinations)
PARIS 7 (Seven Forest)
PATRINIA 7 (Seven Forest)
PHLOGISTICLEAN (Chinese Modular Solutions)
SCROPHULARIA 12 (Seven Forest)
VIOLA CLEAR FIRE FORMULA (Golden Flower)
Clearly, Chinese herbal products offer a variety of effective solutions for common viral presentations.
Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD, L.Ac. has been a practitioner of Oriental medicine since 1978. He is the author of CHINESE HERBAL PATENT MEDICINES: THE CLINICAL DESK REFERENCE (2001), and is the editor-organizer of Wu and Fischer’s PRACTICAL THERAPEUTICS OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE (Paradigm Publications, 1997). He was awarded ACUPUNCTURIST OF THE YEAR in 1999 by the American Association of Oriental Medicine (AAOM). Dr. Fratkin lives in Boulder, Colorado, and maintains a web site at www.drjakefratkin.com
© Copyright 2010 Jake Paul Fratkin. All Rights Reserved.