Joint Contribution by China and India to Fight Coronavirus Using Traditional Methods

Wang Zanyi
April 12, 2020


The Gengzi Year(庚子年)is the 1st year of a traditional Chinese calendar with each round comprising of sixty years. Ancient people who were good at observation, discovered early that when the year passed the Gengzi year(庚子年), natural disasters and emergencies became more frequent. Some significant events that shook the world and affected stability were connected with the Gengzi year(庚子年).

Hindu calendar has a similar astrological concept: a major transit is predicted when North and South nodes– Rahu & Ketu enter Gemini & Sagittarius signs respectively. Notably, it will be one of such important transits in the year 2020.

Amidst such similar astrophysical alignments, do they have anything to do with the unfortunate pandemic outbreak early into this year?

On 24th March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the government would impose a nationwide lockdown from midnight for 21 days to stem the spread of the novel Coronavirus. This decision was made after 63 days of lockdown in the most severely affected city in China – Wuhan. 

China and India are the only two countries with a population of over one billion people in the world, and both countries are facing the same situation. The decision made by the Indian Prime Minister will be crucial for the country with a huge population.

The COVID-19 outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation(WHO) on 11th March. According to the WHO, a pandemic is “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting many people.” It has infected over 1.5 million people worldwide and is among the deadliest pandemics the world has ever seen.

Viruses have always accompanied human history, but human beings have never been conquered by any virus. The history of human resistance has always remained. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been in China for more than 5,000 years, while Western medicines have been in China for more than 100 years. With the help of modern medical technologies, we can see and study the corona virus and the mechanism of the disease, but for the past several thousand years, there was no advanced science or modern medicines to deal with deadly viruses. Ancient medicines depended on their unscientific yet reassuring abilities of healing. At the beginning of the 3rd century AD, Zhang Zhongjing’s (张仲景) “theory of miscellaneous typhoid diseases” (伤寒杂病论)mentioned “licorice with dry ginger soup” to be used to prevent ancient Chinese people from viruses. 

In ancient India, the traditional medical science Ayurveda has protected people and helped them in maintaining good health and curing specific diseases. This ancient Indian medical science talks about the balance between body, mind, and soul being a must for a healthy and long life. As the ancient Indian physician, Suśruta said, “The one who is healthy, whose doṣas, agnis, and the functions of the dhātus and malas are in equilibrium; whose mind, intellect, and sense organs are bright and cheerful.” Ayurveda cures the root of the disease and does not limit itself only to treating the symptoms, besides improving the immunity of the body as well. Some of the Ayurvedic doctors have suggested a potion that includes neem, gooseberry, kutki (a Nepalese herb), guduchi or giloy and basil –– herbs that can build immunity and prevent Coronavirus infection. The Kerala Government Ayurveda Medical Officers’ Federation state president Dr. Raghu Prasad said that even now Ayurveda medicines were provided to those working to fight against COVID-19.

During the treatment of COVID-19, the affiliated hospital of Jiangxi University of traditional Chinese medicine has applied moxibustion (艾灸)and the aromatherapy of wormwood leaves into the clinic. Moxibustion (艾灸 has been performed on all 59 COVID-19 patients, which have improved the results significantly. Also, it led to zero infection among the medical staff. Therefore, there are signs that TCM could be suitable for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Many of the successful cases showed a “Chinese plan” that combines TCM with western medicine had shown positive effects. “A total of 74,187 confirmed patients, which account for 91.5% of the total infections on the Chinese mainland, have been administered TCM as part of their treatment, and over 90% of them have shown improvement during clinical observation,” Yu Yanhong – Chinese Communist Party secretary and a top official of the National Administration of TCM stated. 

Based on clinical application, the TCM fully draws lessons from the modern medical theory and technology and speeds up the screening of effective drugs. The LAB of China institute of traditional Chinese medicine academy of sciences ABSL – 2, combined with TCM experts to fight COVID – 19 and the mechanism of pathogenesis. An animal model with similar pathological changes as a coronavirus was reproduced. Researchers studied the therapeutic effect of TCM on the human corona virus, causing pneumonia by detecting a number of indicators related to virus replication, gastrointestinal function, immune function, and inflammatory factors. Their teams have completed the screening and evaluation of the first batch of 16 types of medicines for COVID-19. It reflects the characteristics of TCM that attaches great importance to overall regulation and treatment based on syndrome differentiation and breaks through the requirements of the corona virus on laboratory safety grade. The results of treating COVID-19 patients has proved that the precious wisdom left by TCM ancestors is still effective.

Different medical systems have their own advantages. Due to historical and cultural reasons, people have different understandings of life and diseases. Whether the Western medical system or traditional system, both are based on certain standards of clinical efficacy. Therefore, we should embrace the treatment of traditional medical systems and western medicine with an open mind. 

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and India. The two great civilizations have been in continuous contact for millennia, and both medical sciences have contributed to the development of humanity. The relationship between the two countries in the political, economic, and cultural fields have been growing steadily. China hopes that the great Indian traditional medicine system also will be effective in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19, and under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, Indian people will be able to overcome the epidemic as soon as possible.

*** The author is a Ph.D. student of SVYASA University, China ***