Chinese MedicineInfection

Natural herbal medicine used to complement SARS treatment

SARS, of course, is severe acute respiratory syndrome — a viral pneumonia. There was one major epidemic in late 2002 where about 10% of those infected died.

In this study, a concoction of natural herbal medicines (NHM) plus routine western treatment appeared to be safe, with evidence of benefit over western treatment alone.

First, the details.

  • 28 patients with SARS received routine western-medicine treatment — Ribavirin (Robatol) plus clarithromycin (Biaxin).
  • They were also randomly assigned to one of the 2 herbal mixtures (NHM-A or NHM-B) or placebo.
  • Neither patients nor doctors knew the treatment given.

And, the results.

  • The NHM-A group showed significantly more rapid improvement as measured by chest x-ray (7 vs 11 days with western treatment alone).
  • 3 patients developed mild diarrhea and one had abdominal discomfort after taking NHM-A.

NHM-A included 13 herbs and was designed by a Chinese-herb consulting physician team according to the theory of Chinese medicine and their clinical experience.

The bottom line?
The availability of x-ray evidence of improvement with NHM-A, even though it was a small group of patients, is intriguing.

The researchers, were from several centers in Taiwan, and are appropriately conservative in their conclusions.

  • Too few patients to be conclusive
  • HHM-A appears to be safe in non-critically ill patients.
  • Clinical trials are feasible in the setting of pandemic outbreaks of SARS.

During the epidemic of 2002-2003, Taiwan had the 3rd highest number of cases after China and Hong Kong.

6/22/07 09:58 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.