For centuries the Shang Han Lun stood as the classical text for dealing with acute illnesses. But a rage of epidemics in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries showed that its formulas often failed when dealing with epidemic pathogens.
New approaches were developed for these special cases, used in conjunction with classical formulas when indications matched.
Here we present – on an open-source basis – some of these special techniques in the current context so that we do not have to re-experience the failures but instead can learn from those recent centuries of medical development.

Latest update: 12 pm, April 28, 2020


Patients suffering from symptoms of covid-19 are interested in Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) as a therapy to reduce symptom severity, prevent disease progression and avoid hospitalisation. In response, the Seattle Institute of East Asian Medicine and the Center for Integrated Care have developed a prospective cohort study to observe, describe, and report outcomes from the clinical management of adults using CHM. Patients are invited to enroll in the observational study and their symptom severity, pattern diagnosis, herbal therapy and change in symptom severity after treatment will be among the data collected.

This study is unique in that it will be “pragmatic”, meaning practitioners will provide an individualised formula at each tele-visit according to the patient’s presentation. Historically, CHM is used to treat cough, shortness of breath and fatigue.  Studies of standardised CHM therapy for SARS and H1N1 influenza prevention and treatment found the mechanisms of action may be due to anti-inflammatory effects and antiviral activity. But, there is a gap in our understanding regarding the clinical application of individualised CHM in a real-world setting. In this community sample of people experiencing symptoms that may be related to covid-19, we are collecting pragmatic clinic data on CHM therapy for coronaviruses. To date, there are no formal data from the United States or other Western countries on this treatment.

Patients are enrolled through a screening process that evaluates their current health status. After providing informed consent, patients are then evaluated by an experienced practitioner, and an individual herbal formula will be dispensed. Follow-up will occur regularly, and we will be reporting our results in an ongoing fashion through updates on our website. The study design was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of SIEAM and the University of Utah. Approval by the IRB is required for research that involves humans and ensures the research design is ethical, and patients will not be harmed while participating in the study.

The value of this project is two-fold. First, we will learn more about how CHM may help people suspected to have covid-19. Second, we will describe CHM as it practised in the real world in response to a pandemic.

We look forward to learning more and sharing our results with you. For more information and to track our updates, go to and look for the links on this project.

Lisa Taylor-Swanson, Craig Mitchell, Lee Hullender Rubin, Katherine Taromina, Lisa Conboy

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