The Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen is finally tumbling over concerns about its efficacy against COVID-19.
Find out why it has apparently fallen out of favour with the Chinese government!
Lianhua Qingwen Maker Plunged 10% Over Efficacy Questions
Traditional Chinese medicine company Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical saw its shares skyrocket by over 260% since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Driving its meteoric rise was its Lianhua Qingwen capsules, sales of which eventually accounted for 42% of their revenue.
That came to a halt on Monday, 18 April 2022, when its shares fell by the maximum daily limit of 10%, over questions of Lianhua Qingwen’s efficacy against COVID-19.
On 13 April 2022, Wang Sicong – a Chinese internet influencer, and son of Dalian Wanda Group chairman, Wang Jianlin, posted a video on Weibo questioning the efficacy of Lianhua Qingwen against COVID-19.
He pointed out that the World Health Organisation (WHO) never recommended using Lianhua Qingwen to treat COVID-19. That slashed the market value of Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical by $1.05 billion on Friday, 15 April 2022.
Then on Sunday, 17 April 2022, the Chinese health platform Dingxiang Yisheng published an article advising the public not to take it to prevent COVID-19.
That triggered a sell-off that saw its market value plunge by the maximum daily limit of 10% in Shenzhen the next day.
Lianhua Qingwen NOT Proven To Work Against COVID-19
Lianhua Qingwen has been heavily promoted by the Chinese government and the Chinese 50 Cent Army (wumao, 五毛), leading to massive sales in the global Chinese diaspora.
It then gained oversized importance when both Hong Kong and Shanghai distributed boxes of these capsules to help stave off the surge of COVID-19 in both cities.
Yet, the mass distribution of Lianhua Qingwen has done nothing to stop the spread of COVID-19 in both cities.
That’s because there never was any evidence that Lianhua Qingwen can treat or prevent COVID-19.
Its main “call to fame” was a small Chinese study conducted early during the pandemic, which showed that it had only a modest effect on symptom recovery :
- time to recover from fever : 2 days, instead of 3 days
- time to recover from fatigue : 3 days, instead of 6 days
- time to recover from coughing : 7 days, instead of 10 days
There was NO DIFFERENCE in the viral load, or the risk of developing severe COVID-19.
In other words – Lianhua Qingwen only helped to reduce symptoms, and was no different from taking over-the-counter drugs like paracetamol.
However, it was far more expensive, and had potential side effects from long-term use and counterfeit products capitalising on the hype.
The medicine could cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and rash.
Fang Bangjiang, doctor from Long Hua Hospital of the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said that Lianhua Qingwen has complex ingredients and is mainly suitable for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms of fever and pneumonia but unsuitable for prevention.
Its ingredients will affect the renal system.
Lianhua Qingwen, incidentally, is nothing more than a mix of common herbs :
Forsythia suspensa (Thunb.) Vahl (Weeping Forsythia) Fruit – 27.41mg, Lonicera japonica Thunb. (Japanese Honeysuckle) Flower – 27.41mg, Gypsum Fibrosum – 27.41mg, Isatis indigotica Fort. (Isatis) Root – 27.41mg, Dryopteris crassirhizoma Nakai (Male Fern) Rhizome and Frond Bases – 27.41 mg, Houttuynia cordata Thunb. (Heartleaf Houttuynia) Aerial Part – 27.41 mg, Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth. (Cablin Patchouli) Aerial Part – 9.40mg, Ephedra sinica Stapf (Ephedra) Herbaceous Stem – 9.14mg, Prunus sibirica L. (Bitter Apricot) Ripe Seeds – 9.14 mg, Rhodiola crenulata (Hook. f. et Thomson) H.Ohba (Bigflower Rhodiola) Root and Rhizome – 9.14mg, Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch. (Liquorice) Root and Rhizome – 9.14mg, 1-Menthol – 7.50mg, Rheum palmatum L. (Rhubarb) Root and Rhizome – 5.47mg.
None of its ingredients have been proven to cure COVID-19, although poor quality studies have demonstrated that it is effective in reducing fever. Again, you would get the same effect from the much cheaper and easier-to-obtain paracetamol…
And yes, Forsythia was the fake herbal cure promoted by Jude Law’s character – Alan Krumwiede in the medical thriller – Contagion.
Despite longstanding warnings by health authorities like Singapore’s HSA that Lianhua Qingwen cannot treat or prevent COVID-19, it continues to rack up sales amongst the Chinese diaspora globally.
Credit definitely goes towards active Chinese government promotion, and misinformation created and shared by the Chinese wumao and pro-China activists.
There is no scientific evidence from randomised clinical trials to show that any herbal product, including Lianhua Qingwen products, can be used to prevent or treat COVID-19.
Interestingly, official Chinese outlets like Global Times have now published articles about Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical’s downfall.
In addition, the Chinese government did not censor Wang Sicong’s Weibo video or the Dingxiang Yisheng article.
That suggests that the Chinese government is looking for someone to blame for their failure to contain the massive outbreak of COVID-19 in Shanghai, and Lianhua Qingwen appears to be the perfect scapegoat for their failing Zero COVID policy.
It is sad, but enlightening, to see that the myth of Lianhua Qingwen is finally being broken only because the Chinese government decided to throw it under the bus.
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
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