With coronavirus dominating headlines and prompting people to clear pharmacies of hand sanitizer, face masks, and even toilet paper, some Americans are turning to alternative medicine to prevent COVID-19 infection.
Speaking with New York City acupuncturist and herbalist Clayton Shiu, Reuters profiled the latest trend spurred by anxiety over the coronavirus: herbal remedies.
“It was like a light switch was flipped,” Shiu told reporters, referring to the jump in demand for herbs and other holistic remedies as cities like New York consider ambitious quarantine efforts.
While the U.S. focuses on developing vaccines in clinical settings with partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, Reuters reports that the Chinese government jumpstarted emergency research programs to mitigate the massive outbreak near Wuhan in mainland China that included traditional Chinese medicines.
One of Shiu’s suppliers, Kamwo Meridian Herbs, recorded twofold increases in herb formulas that aim at treating flu-like symptoms and support immune system function. Shiu also said that within the community of Chinese herbalists, experts have been sharing thoughts on formulas to help prevent and treat COVID-19, which increase both demand and prices.
Some of the more popular formulas include ingredients like honeysuckle, cinnamon twig and peony root.
Naturally, the jump in demand has strained supplies. This is both due to demand as well as a drop in global travel that slows trade, as most of the herbal products are imported from China.
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) formally recognized traditional medicines, including herbal remedies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has written extensively on the topic as well, but has not recommended using herbal remedies as treatment for the coronavirus.