|Many Asians Turn to Traditional Medicine
By YEOH EN-LAI
The Associated Press
April 5, 2003
SINGAPORE (AP)-Ginseng, chrysanthemum, white fungus [tremella] and all manner of herbal remedies are selling fast across Asia as people seek ways to ward off severe acute respiratory syndrome, the deadly flu-like disease with no proven cure.
In Singapore, where four people have died and 100 are sickened with SARS, customer Tan Ai Bee is confident she has the stuff to ward it off-five large packets of Chinese herbs and roots meant to boost immunity. "These are for fever and flu. They can help prevent the SARS virus," said Tan. "I have been taking Chinese medicines for a long time; there is no reason to lose faith in them now."
SARS has killed at least 85 people in Asia and Canada and sickened 2,300 in more than a dozen nations as infected travelers carry the virus between continents.
On Friday, a woman died of SARS in Singapore, the country's sixth death. Singapore's government and others across Asia have appealed to people with sudden high fever or difficulty breathing to see a doctor. But many are self-medicating with herbal remedies, traditional medicines regarded in Asia as a reliable way to get well and stay well. Frankie Lew, a consultant physician at the Meiseido Chinese Medical Treatment Center in Singapore, said some might find comfort in the medicines, fearing that they will be quarantined if they go to a hospital.
"Some may not want to be isolated, so they come to us for cures," said Lew, consultant physician at the upscale Meiseido Chinese Medical Treatment center. Lew said many patients came to the center last week seeking herbal medicine for flu and pneumonia. No one said they had SARS, he said. Some people asked for a simple herbal soup mix of ginseng, roots and leaves to treat pneumonia, Lew said. The herbal cocktail costs $1.13.
Items like ginseng, chrysanthemum and white fungus are selling fast, said Chiang Pin Pin, a marketing executive with Yue Hwa Chinese Products. Another hot seller is Pientzehuang-green chiretta [Pientzehuang is the brand name; andrographis is the green chiretta, called chuanxinlian in Chinese]-tablets from China that are believed to reduce the chance of infections. They're almost sold out with no sign of being restocked, Chiang said. "Our suppliers in China are running out of stocks because people are rushing for the same items," said Chiang.
|Hong Kongers Throng Herb Stores as Virus Spreads
Carrie Lee, April 04, 2003
HONG KONG - Panic-stricken Hong Kong residents are crowding into Chinese medicine shops to buy herbs they hope will ward off or even cure a deadly pneumonia epidemic that is believed to have killed more than 80 people worldwide.
"Many more people are buying Chinese herbs for pneumonia these days than before. All Chinese medicine stores are very busy," said Chinese medicine practitioner Michael Pang. "There has been talk that certain prescriptions can cure atypical pneumonia and many people are buying herbs listed on those prescriptions," he added.
Doctors in hospitals have had some success treating patients using anti-viral drugs and steroids, but scientists have yet to find a specific cure for the highly infectious disease, called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. It has killed more than 80 people and infected some 2,400 others worldwide, including more than 700 in Hong Kong.
Though the virus is believed to be a new one, many Chinese are turning to traditional remedies, based more on centuries of experience than scientific foundation. "I'm buying this Banlangen for the first time. People say it can treat atypical pneumonia," said an elderly woman, picking a pack of herbs from a shelf.
Rumors have been swirling that tea made with Banlangen, a kind of dried plant root which is often used to treat problems like flu and sore throat, can cure the new disease.
But some Chinese herbalists have misgivings. "You cannot rule out its function altogether, it has worked on flu and pneumonia, but we can't say it's a specific cure for this atypical pneumonia because we don't even know what virus is causing the disease," Pang said.
Wu King-shing, another Chinese medicine practitioner, was prescribing another plant root believed to be able to fight a wide range of viruses. "I'd treat the disease with Huzhang [Polygonum cuspidatum]. It can suppress many kinds of viruses, including flu virus and coronavirus and has showed very satisfactory results," Wu said. "And there is no side effect." Some Hong Kong scientists believe a new strain of coronavirus, which causes the common cold, is the primary cause for the disease. "I drink the tea every other day myself," Wu said, eagerly writing a prescription for a prospective client.... Isatis root Isatis root (Isatis tinctoria; banlangen) Polygonum cuspidatum Polygonum cuspidatum (huzhang)
Both herbs are commonly used as broad spectrum antiviral agents