Coronavirus Part 1: How can you reduce the risk of infection?


We are in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic which is yet to peak. There is a lot of uncertainty and fear, as the media and people’s minds are occupied by numbers (how many diagnosed, how many dead, how many ventilators needed but not available). Not enough information is out there on what we can do.

Wuhan China is my hometown. I have watched closely since the coronavirus broke out there. I have collected and sorted through lots of information, both truths and myths. I hope to find reliable information and practical tips on what we can do to minimize the risk of infection and to treat it when you suspect you have the symptoms.

I shared what I know with my patients and friends in two emails. One friend suggested me posting on my blog. Here is the first part discussing how to reduce your risk of infection by coronavirus.

Dear patients,

I hope all is well with you in this unprecedented time. When a pandemic like this happens, it is important to stay calm and have a strategy. In this email, I would like to share some practical tips to reduce your risk of infection by Covid-19. I hope you find them useful.

Stay calm. We will fare well.

If you live in the Tucson area, keep in mind there are several things working in our favor. First, Covid-19 is a damp toxin epidemic in the Chinese medicine perspective. It appears to be worse in cold humid climate and better in warm and dry areas. Tucson is also less densely populated than metropolitan cities. In addition, the state and local governments took actions early enough which should make a bigger impact.

What can I do to reduce the chance of Covid-19 infection?

There are a few things most of us already know, but because they’re so important, I still want to repeat them here.

  1. Stay home. Minimize trips.
  2. When you must make a trip, wear a mask. (Make sure the white side of the mask touches the face.) Wear gloves or use sanitizing wipes to touch shopping carts, door knobs, elevator buttons etc. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  3. Set up a disinfecting station at the front door. Use sanitizing gel, rubbing alcohol (must be 70%, 50% not enough), disinfecting wipes, diluted bleach (1/3 cup in 1 gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons in 1 quart) etc.
  4. Disinfect your hands and door knobs before entering the house.
  5. Wash hands with soap (soap is important!) frequently and thoroughly.
  6. Gargle with salt water or Listerine twice a day. Use Neti pot to rinse nasal passages twice a day. Wash face including eyelashes twice a day. All of these measures will reduce the viral attachment to the mucous surface and decrease the number of viruses entering the lungs.
  7. Drink warm or at least room temperature water. Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends not drinking ice cold water. Drink water often.

In addition, these supplements and herbal medicine can help reduce the chance of viral infection.

  1. Vitamin C 500-1000 mg per day. Vitamin D and zinc are important too.
  2. Many herbs such as echinacea, elderberry and garlic as well as supplements such as NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) and Quercetin are helpful.
  3. I like supplements like Airborne and Wellness Formula (Source Naturals) in particular, because they combine all the above in one pill. They’re available online, but some are out of stock right now. The prices have risen too. But try the following Amazon links. You can also search at other online stores.


Wellness Formula 

       4. If you live in a warm dry area like Tucson, use the combination of two Chinese herbal formulas, i.e. Yu Ping Feng and Yin Qiao (also called Yin Chiao). Yu Ping Feng improves immunity, and Yin Qiao helps reduce viral infection symptoms. Take 1/2 recommended dosage on the bottles for prevention purposes. For example, many Chinese herbal medicines come in the form of teapills, which are very small round pills. The recommended dosage is often 8 teapills, 3 times a day. In such case, take 6 teaspills twice a day for prevention of COVID-19.  But if you are a cold person, which means that you tend to feel cold, hate cold weather, prefer warm foods and drinks, tend to have running nose and thin white phlegm, do not use Yin Qiao. Use the combination of Yu Ping Feng and licorice ginger tea instead shown in the next section.

Here are the Amazon links for Yu Ping Feng and Yin Qiao. I’m providing several in case some are out of stock.

Yu Ping Feng 

Yu Ping Feng 

Yin Chiao

Yin Chiao        

5. If you live in a cold humid area, use the combination of Yu Ping Feng and licorice ginger tea. Yu Ping Feng improves immunity. Licorice ginger tea warms the lungs and keeps pathogens out. A hospital in China gave this tea to their support staff during the epidemic, and nobody was infected. One word of caution: if you have uncontrolled hypertension, do not take licorice ginger tea, because it can increase blood pressure. If you have hypertension but it is well-controlled by medications, you can still drink it but at half dose.

Once again, the dosage of Yu Ping Feng for prevention purpose is 1/2 recommended dosage on the bottles.

 Here are the Amazon links for Yu Ping Feng, licorice extract and ginger extract.

Yu Ping Feng 

Yu Ping Feng

Licorice root extract

Ginger root extract

How to make licorice ginger tea:

  • Mix 1/4 tsp of licorice root extract and 1/4 tsp of ginger root extract with 8 oz water. Heat on stove or with microwave and stir to dissolve the herbs. Drink warm, twice a day.
  • Once again, don't drink this tea if you have uncontrolled hypertension. If your hypertension is well-controlled by medications, you can drink a half dose. Monitor your blood pressure.

Message from a Chinese doctor fighting on the frontline

I spoke to my Chinese medicine teacher Dr. Xiaoqin Wang yesterday. She is Head of Chinese Medicine Nephrology Department of Hubei Provincial Chinese Medicine Hospital in Wuhan. Her department was converted to an infectious disease unit in February and admitted 80 coronavirus patients with severe conditions. They have all recovered and been discharged now. So she is back home and self isolating for 14 days.

She told me three important things.

First, this virus is preventable. More than 3,200 medical workers in Wuhan were infected, because they didn’t know at the beginning and they had a severe shortage of protective gears. However, among 42,000 medical workers from other provinces who rushed to Wuhan to help, the infection rate was almost zero because they came prepared with sufficient protection. Therefore she said, “Minimize going out. Wear masks and goggles. Wash hands frequently. Those things help.”

Second, this virus is strange. It affects two types of people most, weak elderly and healthy young people. Four medical workers were infected in her department, two with serious conditions were healthy young male doctors.

Third, Chinese herbal medicine is useful for treating this virus.

Chinese herbal medicine for Covid-19

In my last email, I mentioned a Chinese herbal formula with 97% effective rate among 1,261 patients. Many patients have since asked me where they can buy it, or if I can make it. Unfortunately, this herbal medicine is not available in US. So don’t go online and buy herbs with similar names. They are not the same. Theoretically I can make the herb. But there are two challenges.

First, the key herb Ma Huang (ephedra) is not available as a single herb in the US. I cannot compound the formula without it. Second, several important herbs in the formula are in short supply or out of stock. Therefore how to scale up is a challenge.

However, this is not the only herbal formula that’s proven effective for COVID-19. There are at least six formulas that have demonstrated therapeutic effects. I will give you an update next time. And I am working on how to make them available to you.

Stay healthy!

Y. Clare Zhang, PhD, MAcOM, LAc
Y. Clare Zhang Practice of Oriental Medicine
6650 N. Oracle Road Suite 100, Tucson, AZ 85704
2930 N. Country Club Road, Tucson, AZ 85716
Tel: (520)320-1953