Week 9: Final Paper Rough Draft and Chapter Updates

Here's an update on how my final paper is going! I'm still working on adding more information on specific herbal remedies to tie my paper into the rest of my chapter. With my group we came up with how we wanted to order our papers together so they flowed in a logical fashion. My paper would go last so I'm also working on writing a short conclusion for the chapter. I am currently also trying to find public domain images for my paper which has been a bit difficult, so I'm spending some more time on that right now. I've included the original images I was interested in but will need to update these due to copyright.

Introduction

In December of 2019, a case of pneumonia in which the cause was unknown in the city of Wuhan, China was reported to the World Health Organization. The virus that caused this was identified as a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), also known as COVID-19. On January 30th, 2020, the World Health Organization announced the epidemic as a huge public health concern on the international level (Guo et al. 2020). The situation escalated greatly and has affected populations on a global scale as many cities and towns lock down and individuals quarantine at home in hopes that the situation will improve. On an international level, China is commonly perceived as the origin of the virus as they had the first reported cases. However, as more and more discoveries are made, there have been modifications to the exact timeline of the novel virus. For example, many countries, states, even counties in the United States have reported that their first known cases of COVID-19 are earlier than they had originally thought. Despite these new revelations, the general public currently views China as the country that COVID-19 originated from. As a result, there has been increased racism towards anyone of Chinese descent and even those of other Asian descent if they look Chinese. This anti-Asian racism has occurred for quite a long time as the history between China and other Western countries dates back many centuries ago. Without exception, the types of medicine in these countries soon interacted. Significant interaction between Western medicine and “Oriental” medicine such as Traditional Chinese Medicine started after the Opium War in the 1800s (Chen and Hao 2003). With the increasing popularity of holistic and precision medicine in Western medicine, there is also an increasing overlap between these types of medicine. More and more individuals who normally turn to Western medicine have also been seeking methods of Traditional Chinese Medicine. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, alternatives to Western medicine have been placed at the forefront, like herbal remedies of Traditional Chinese Medicine and ayurvedic medicine and other natural home remedies, bringing increased emphasis on these types of medicine in a time of uncertainty and fear. None of these methods have proven to be more effective than another. While these types of medicine are commonly perceived as binary and opposite of each other, this isn’t the case. From this current situation, it is evident that dualisms are not as accurate of a conceptual representation and that the framework of these medicines and much more should be as a spectrum or mixture, even if the overlap is miniscule, as represented by yin and yang.

Treatments for COVID-19: Western Medicine

Currently, there is still no conclusive evidence of one treatment or cure being better or more effective. Furthermore, the any potential detrimental side effects of these treatments are still unknown. As a result, the focus is on prevention as scientists and other professionals rush to find a cure, giving a nod toward holistic and preventative medicine. In the United States and many other countries, washing one’s hands with soap for twenty seconds and social distancing are just some of these measures. One treatment that has been proposed to combat COVID-19 is the vital lupus and antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine; however, the supply of hydroxychloroquine is running out as it is being used for treatment despite lack of evidence proving its efficacy against the novel virus (Boseley 2020). The United States Food and Drug Administration has warned that a detrimental effect of this drug is potential heart problems (Karni and Thomas 2020). However, even President Trump of the United States has announced on record that he is taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure and that it is a “game changer” (Karni and Thomas 2020). Unfortunately, he is only focusing on one side of the hydroxychloroquine coin while ignoring the other.

Another drug that has been proposed to be effective is remdesivir, an experimental anti-viral drug. In past laboratory trials, remdesivir has shown potential as a treatment for MERS and SARS, which are in the same family of coronaviruses as the current virus of interest (Park 2020). On April 29th, early review of data from a clinical trial at the University of Chicago hinted that remdesivir may be the way to go, but more research needs to be done (Park 2020). Currently, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is promoting remedesivir as a treatment for sicker patients (Park 2020). Despite the vast number of ongoing clinical trials, there aren’t any definitive answers yet. This lack of answers in Western medicine, many have turned elsewhere to search for answers.

Treatments for COVID-19 in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Another type of medicine that has grown in popularity more recently despite its long history is Traditional Chinese Medicine. One prevailing thought in Traditional Chinese Medicine is of the importance of qi, a vital energy claimed to help maintain health (Cyranoski 2018). Each organ in the body even has yin and yang within them, and each organ is normally predominated by one or the other (“Yin and Yang Theory”). This type of medicine is also based on a yin and yang theory in that they believe illness is caused by an imbalance between yin and yang, focusing heavily on natural causes of illness and disease (“Classics of Traditional Chinese Medicine: Yin and Yang” 2012). These practices have long been put into use in China and even other Asian countries, but there have been concerns about the actual effectiveness of these treatments, as they are often natural and herbal-based.

In the past, research has claimed that Traditional Chinse Medicine was effective during the SARS epidemic of 2003 (Yang and Zhang 2020). The anti-malarial drug, artemisinin was actually extracted from sweet wormwood, which is a traditional Chinese herb (Yang and Zhang 2020). This history would soon play a role in 2020. As the novel coronavirus was first reported in China, Chinese health professionals and government have had to deal with many issues in regard to the virus and finding promising solutions.

The Chinese government has claimed to the public that their Traditional Chinese methods have been effective against COVID-19. According to Li et al.’s meta-analysis of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine as a treatment for COVID-19, “Studies have reported that Chinese herbal formula, such as San Wu Huangqin Decoction, Lianhuaqingwen Capsule, and Yinhuapinggan granule, possesses antiviral effects, which might be associated with blocking of the proliferation and replication of the viral particles, and that they might be able to improve lung damage by influenza viruses” (2020).  In another study, 3100 medical staff of Traditional Chinese Medicine were sent to assist with the treatment period in the Hubei province by utilizing Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques such as acupuncture and decoction (the most common form of delivery of Chinese herbal medicine), which was done in wards designated for these treatments (Ren et al., 2020). Based on 102 cases of mild symptoms treated with this method, there suggested an improvement based on various measures, such as recovery time of body temperature and length of hospital stay (Ren et al., 2020). Although these results show promising results with Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are many critics and skeptics. In a response to the aforementioned publication, Paul E. Gray and Yvonne Belessis state that it is too early to make this conclusion. They cite that there are concerns over “the association between traditional herbal medicine and severe, non-infective interstitial pneumonitis and other aggressive pulmonary syndromes” and consequently, one can’t distinguish between lung injury due to COVID-19 or the treatment (Gray and Bellessis, 2020). This further shows the divide and lack of definitive answers surrounding the situation. However, this doesn’t mean that the method is fully ineffective. Due to the uncertainty and lack of conclusive evidence for a cure, many have also turned away to other techniques.

Natural and Herbal Remedies for COVID-19

With the lack of a known cure, many different home and natural remedies have surfaced, from honey to elderberry (Shapiro 2020). In one form of alternative medicine to Western medicine, ayurvedic medicine, one expert states that “As long as we keep our agni (digestive fire) strong, then illness will not happen to us. So, Ayurveda has a great way of prevention. [This is] How we can prevent being affected by coronavirus. Keep your agni strong and, to do that, follow your dinacharya. It is the first important thing that Ayurveda recommends” (Ayurvedic Perspective on COVID-19”). Many herbal remedies have surfaced as well. In Madagascar, the president has touted consuming an herbal drink everyday as a treatment (The Associated Press 2020). Similarly, the Zimbabwe’s government have stated that herbal treatments can be an effective treatment for COVID-19 (Mayhunga 2020). This is not similar to how President Trump had been touting hydroxychloroquine, as these treatments don’t have conclusive beneficial effects. Many of these approaches look holistically at the body with regard to nature and how an individual interacts with daily activities. Moreover, many of these methods have no proven efficacy, but people are willing to try them. This willingness to try alternatives demonstrates that Western and alternative medicine can find a bridge.

Interestingly, the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine believes “the target organ location of COVID-19 is the lung, and the etiology attribute is ‘damp and toxin plague’” and this organ is the organ of the tiger zodiac sign (Ren et al., 2020). As a result, one treatment that was developed targeted the lung. They screened for potential targets and found that those treated exhibited co-expression of ACE-2, the COVID-19 receptor; they found that it can inhibit COVID-replication through acting certain ribosomal proteins (Ren et al., 2020). The figure below shows chest CT scans of a patient who was suspected to have COVID-19 and indicates that the lung returned to normal after Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment. This suggests that two frameworks that appear distinct can come together to serve a greater purpose and push for progress.

Misrepresentation as Duality

Often times, things are represented as binary: black and white, day and night, east and west, etc. Even yin and yang seem like a duality but the theory itself focuses on how things aren’t binary and can be found within one or the other. However, the representation of these and other ideas in this manner can be misleading. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an “us against them” mentality in that people tend to think only of those that they are most similar to and not people in other groups. For example, one huge duality is “black” versus “white” in the access to health care and incidence rates of COVID-19 in each group. While it is true that African Americans are shouldering “a disproportionate burden of illness and death” from COVID-19 as a result of structural and systemic issues, pitting the two sides against each other won’t do anything to improve the more pressing situation of finding a solution to the pandemic (Williams 2020). Even though these issues are important to address and highlight and shouldn’t be discounted, promoting the difference between certain groups may not help push for a solution to the greater picture.

A huge contributor is the consistent representation of duality, as even seen in the image above of the face masks as black and white. Perspective makes a significant difference in how a situation is approached and influences future thoughts and actions. Visual and artistic representations of dualism can significantly perpetuate this perspective. Using the medium to change the conceptual framework can influence a whole myriad of ideas, from medicine to culture. In the ongoing situation, the viewpoint and attitude should be shifted to not only focus on certain aspects of the entire COVID-19 pandemic that are often opposing each other.

In reality, everyone is vulnerable to the virus, young and old, male and female, “black” and “white”, rich and poor, etc. and everyone in between. This dualistic perspective can only pit one against the other. This is also seen in the skepticism of many to take any advice or suggestions from China seriously, like using Traditional Chinese Medicine as a potential treatment for COVID-19. In the United States, the great focus is on finding a vaccine in Western, allopathic medicine. Instead, there should be a focus on coming together using common threads to promote solidarity in fighting this global pandemic. Fear and uncertainty have driven the general public to view the virus in a certain manner and pushed them to accept almost anything that may seem effective against COVID-19, even if its effectiveness remains unproven. While this has exacerbated a dualistic framework, it has also pushed for a promotion of the overlap of ideas such as the integration of herbal remedies from alternative medicine and Western medicine.

Conclusion

All in all, there are many different types of medicines in play. Culture and history play a huge role in which types is used in certain places. The current COVID-19 situation is no exception. With the lack of a known cure, there is much speculation over which treatments and methods are beneficial and if certain suggested interventions are harmful. Fear and uncertainty have played a powerful role in this situation. Due to the lack of a definitive treatment and/or cure, many individuals have turned to alternative medicine out of fear and uncertainty despite the unproven efficacy of these methods. Even though there aren’t any proven treatments as of yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has served to further integrate different types of medicine and bring more attention to alternative methods of treatment out of necessity. Traditional Chinese Medicine is just one of many proposed alternatives that also don’t have any proven effectiveness to fight the virus. Herbal remedies and home remedies like honey and elderberry also may not prove to treat the virus, but these remedies may help an individual in terms of their holistic health, such as boosting the immune system which makes them more equipped to fight off other diseases and illnesses. What proves to be more promising is combining knowledge and practices from the different types of medicine and working to find a better solution. Accordingly, this position has shown that the duality between Western and Eastern Medicine can be misleading, pitting one against another. Dualisms are prevalent in everyday life, but this conceptual framework has its faults. Visual and artistic representations contribute to this structure. Instead, reframing thinking to be spectral can make a huge difference and change one’s entire perspective. Even an idea like yin and yang may appear binary, but there is actually an interaction of the two sides. This returns to the yin and yang theory that there is duality in nature, but there is an interaction between the two sides to create harmony and balance (“Yinyang (Yin-yang)”). With respect to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the perspective of the general public plays a huge role. Instead of an “us versus them” attitude, as seen with China and the rest of the world and even with Caucasian Americans and African Americans, there should be solidarity and union. Herbal remedies may be effective and Western medicine may be effective. Finding more methods to integrate this supposedly oppositional ideas may prove to be the solution in the end.

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