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January 20, 2023, 02.14 PM

However, Ben Cowling, chair of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health, told AFP: "We don't know whether these treatments are effective or not, because they haven't been studied in clinical trials."

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"I wouldn't rule out the possibility that some of them are effective, but I also wouldn't rule out the possibility that some of them might even be harmful."

The World Health Organization only recommends Covid treatments that are based on chemical drugs. When contacted by AFP about TCM, the body said it advised countries to "gather reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products".

Same logic

Western medicine remains the preferred mode of care in China, but proponents of TCM say combining the two is effective in treating Covid-19.

Liu Qingquan, director of the Beijing Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, says they "complement each other and can solve fever, sore joints, fatigue, sore throat, cough, and other symptoms".

Experts have taken to television to praise TCM since the start of the pandemic, with one product in particular – Lianhua Qingwen – benefiting from intense promotion by authorities.

Many users are convinced of its usefulness, with some studies suggesting it can help alleviate symptoms. Capsules of the medicine were given to all Hong Kong residents when a Covid wave hit the city last year.

But some online critics in China charge that Lianhua Qingwen is no more effective than peaches in syrup – a staple comfort food for sore throats in China – and social media users have complained of being handed the TCM instead of ibuprofen or paracetamol.

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