American Herbal Pharmacopoeia;
Taipei Medical University
Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine College, Berkeley;
Taipei Medical University;
Institute of Ben Cao Gang Mu at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine
COVID, TCM, Tele-health, Herbal Resources
For the past two years, the global pandemic of COVID has had a tremendous impact on practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in the United States. The rapid onset of cases caused many TCM clinics to transition to tele-health for patient treatments; thus, many practitioners greatly reduced their volume of acupuncture treatments and increasingly focused on herbal medicines that could be prescribed remotely. At the same time, the American TCM supply chain was subjected to unprecedented challenges, including increased shipping costs, longer production times, and fluctuating herbal material costs.
During the spring of 2020, American suppliers of Chinese herbs experienced an unprecedented surge in sales volume. Several individual herbs essentially sold out on a national scale; the vast demand for Chinese herbs in America even became a feature story in Hong Kong newspapers. Widespread media articles on COVID formulas such as Qing Fei Pai Du Tang and Lian Hua Qing Wen caused the sales of specific herbs to surge. For example, Huang Qin sales nearly tripled in March and April of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019; sales of Ban Xia and Chen Pi doubled and Yu Ping Feng San sales were over 700% higher than normal. However, herbs such as Tu Si Zi decreased by about 40% during the same period, and formulas such as Si Wu Tang were down nearly 50%. By the spring of 2020, the American TCM market was almost entirely sold out of its reserves of Kuan Dong Hua, Zi Wan, Pei Lan, Guan Zhong, She Gan, and Huo Xiang. While most herbal shortages have now been resolved, the American TCM market has been deeply impacted by inflationary pressures; acupuncture practices are gradually recovering but the rapid rise of tele-health and the increasing complexity of the herbal supply chain are likely to have an enduring impact on American TCM practitioners.
Luo, H., Tang, Ql., Shang, Yx. et al. Can Chinese Medicine Be Used for Prevention of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)? A Review of Historical Classics, Research Evidence and Current Prevention Programs. Chin. J. Integr. Med. 26, 243–250 (2020).
Conflict of Interests:
The author reports no conflicts of interest related to this study.
Eric Brand is a Chinese medicine practitioner with a passion for materia medica. Eric graduated from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in California in 2003 and earned his PhD at the School of Chinese Medicine at Hong Kong Baptist University in 2017. He currently serves as a TCM advisor to the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and is a Guest Professor at the Institute of Ben Cao Gang Mu of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, as well as an Assistant Professor at Taipei Medical University. Eric served as Chair of the U.S. delegation on the ISO Technical Committee for international TCM standards (ISO TC 249) from 2014 to 2017, and he is the founder of the herbal company Legendary Herbs.