Did the US National Center for Biotechnology Information confirm that the Chinese herbal medicine Lianhua Qingwen can treat COVID-19?
Find out what the FACTS really are!
Claim : US NCBI Confirmed Lianhua Qingwen Treats COVID-19!
This claim was initiated by the OneNews Philippines website, through their article US Health Agency Says Traditional Chinese Medicine Can Help COVID-19 Patients Recover Faster.
It has since been shared by Chinese medicine and natural health advocates, as well as antivaxxers on social media.
It’s pretty long, so please skip to the next section for the FACTS…
The US National Center for Biotechnology Information said “overall,” treatment with the Chinese herbal medicine Lianhua Qingwen for 14 days resulted in a “significantly higher rate of, and a shorter time to, symptom recovery.”
The United States’ National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCIB) stated in a May 16 study that the traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen (also Lianhuaqingwen) “could be considered to ameliorate clinical symptoms” of coronavirus disease 2019.
Truth : US NCBI Did NOT Say Lianhua Qingwen Treats COVID-19!
This FAKE NEWS is based on a piece of shoddy journalism by OneNews Philippines, which is apparently the online platform for The Philippine STAR.
Unfortunately, it’s being used by Chinese medicine and natural health advocates, as well as antivaxxers, to push Lianhua Qingwen as a legitimate alternative to vaccination. It’s not, and here are the reasons why…
Fact #1 : National Center for Biotechnology Information = NCBI
The correct acronym for the US National Center for Biotechnology Information is NCBI.
OneNews Philippines kept using the wrong acronym, NCIB, in their article. That’s how shoddy they were.
Fact #2 : NCBI Maintains Databases Of Biomedical Literature
National Center for Biotechnology Information is a branch of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), whose purpose is to maintain databases of biomedical literature.
They do NOT conduct clinical studies, or peer-review them. Think of them as librarians, not scientists.
OneNews Philippines is wrong to claim that the NCBI conducted a study of the Chinese herbal medicine, Lianhua Qingwen.
Fact #3 : It Was A Chinese Study
The study that OneNews Philippines quoted was actually a small Chinese study by Ke Hu et. al.
Registered under the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry (no. CTR-TRC-20000029434), this study was conducted between 2-15 February 2020 in 23 hospitals across 9 Chinese provinces.
It had NOTHING to do with the US National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Fact #4 : Lianhua Qingwen Had Modest Effect On Symptoms
The study did not show that Lianhua Qingwen was capable of treating COVID-19, only that it had 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
It was also a small RCT study with just 284 patients, divided into two groups of 142 patients.
Fact #5 : NCBI Did Not Endorse Lianhua Qingwen
Just to be clear, the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) did not say that Lianhua Qingwen “could be considered to ameliorate clinical symptoms” of COVID-19.
Neither did they endorse the use of Lianghua Qingwen in the treatment of COVID-19, not even for faster symptom recovery.
Fact #6 : Lianhua Qingwen Not Approved By US FDA
Some of those who shared this fake news also claimed that the US FDA approved Lianhua Qingwen. That’s categorically false.
Fact #4 : Lianhua Qingwen NOT Proven To Cure COVID-19
Despite being approved as a treatment for mild to moderate COVID-19 cases in China, there is currently no evidence that Lianhua Qingwen can cure COVID-19.
That’s hardly surprising because Lianhua Qingwen is merely a mix of 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.
And yes, Forsythia was the fake herbal cure promoted by Jude Law’s character – Alan Krumwiede in the medical thriller – Contagion.
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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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