4 Stages of Preventing and Treating COVID-19: A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine understand 4 Stages of preventing and treating COVID-19.  For each stage different herbal medicines may be used, and according to the symptoms which are manifesting.  This article will cover those four stages, and relevant details about some of the herbs used in each stage.  


The 1st Phase - Prevention of Infection


The first stage is prevention and should be addressed by common measures like washing hands and social distancing.  We may also take herbs to modulate and boost our immune system, and one of the main herbs we use in Chinese medicine is Astragalus (Huang qi).  Scores of research have been done on this plant demonstrating its ability to strengthen and regulate immune functions.  Here is a link to the National Institute of Health site. Research on Astragalus (Huang qi)


Additionally, in the first stage of prevention Chinese doctors recommend a formula consisting of three herbs: Astragalus, Atractylodes, and Siler.  This formula is called Yu Ping Feng Wan, and is well known for boosting immune function and preventing infectious disease.  


For people at high risk of infection, such as health care workers and immuno-compromised people, the preventive formula can be combined with other herbs that are used in early stage infection.  We will discuss these below, but for now I want to bring attention to medicinal mushrooms as many people are taking these for preventive measures for coronavirus.   


Mushrooms like Reishi, Shitake, and Chaga are commonly known to be beneficial for the immune system; however, care must be taken with these herbs, as they may overstimulate the immune system, and contribute to the cytokine storm, inflammation, and pneumonia.  For this reason it has been suggested that these be avoided according to research provided by Dr. Andrew Weil M.D.  See the article Integrative considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  


The 2nd Phase - Early Stage Infection


This phase of infection occurs when typical symptoms appear such as high fever, sore throat, and dry cough.  This stage will last 1 -4 days for many people, before it advances to mid and late stage infection.  At this time it is critical to take herbs that have anti-viral properties, and formulas such as Yin Qiao Wan or Sang Ju Yin Wan.  Herbs such as Honeysuckle, Scutellaria, and Houttuynia should be used for fever and combating the infection.  


In some cases other herbal formulas may be used, but Yin Qiao Wan and Sang Ju Yin are good foundation formulas for the initial symptoms and even later stage patterns.  Many of my colleagues are also suggesting adding Scutellaria and Houttuynia cordata, as they are very effective for infectious conditions, and significant research has been done on these for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and other coronaviruses. [1, 2] 


The herb Scutellaria baicalensis contains a substance called baicalein, which has shown anti-viral properties against dengue, influenza, and other viruses.  The following link will take you to very a very professional article on drugs.com, which discusses the therapeutic effects of Scutellaria and the chemical compound baicalein.  Chinese Skullcap, Scutellaria, and Baicalein.

If you are interested in purchasing these herbs go to this page: Chinese Herbal Medicine for Coronavirus and COVID - 19



The 3rd Phase - Mid and Late Stage Infection


As the coronavirus infection advances a cytokine storm may develop that causes significant inflammation and damage to the lungs, resulting in pneumonia.  Primary symptoms at this stage are shortness of breath and chest pain.  Digestive symptoms may also start to develop, and people with diabetes, heart disease, and kidney conditions are also more predisposed to severe late stage symptoms.  When the disease reaches this level, people will need to go to the hospital.  

Herbs may also be used at this stage, but unfortunately herbal medicine is usually over looked by allopathic medical care providers.  Huge amounts of research has gone into the biochemical components of herbs, and much is understood about how they work.  However, our current medical model, which is structured around pharmaceuticals and profit, often dismisses herbs, yet looks to their natural compounds for new drugs to be made.  This is a topic that deserves a complete article in itself.  


The 4th Phase - The Recovery Phase

In the fourth phase the patient is recovering from the worst symptoms, and is out of the critical phase of the late stage infection.  Depending on various factors such as the patients overall condition and medical history, different herbs and formulas can be used for recovery.  Essentially, adaptogens and herbs that build strength and nourish the body are used. Astragalus is good for this phase, as is ginseng and similar herbs.  For the best results however, one should work with a Chinese medicine doctor that is skilled in this level of recovery.

If you are interested in purchasing herbs to assist in prevention, early stage infection, or recovery, click here Herbs for Corona Virus.  



1. A current update on the phytopharmacological aspects of Houttuynia cordata

​Manish Kumar, Satyendra K. Prasad, and S. Hemalatha

Pharmacogn Rev. 2014 Jan-Jun; 8(15): 22–35.nese Herbs for Co


2. Unraveling the Molecular Mechanism of Traditional Chinese Medicine: Formulas Against Acute Airway Viral Infections

Molecules. 2019 Oct; 24(19): 3505.

Published online 2019 Sep 27​