The medicines are identified based on symptoms of the disease like cough, fever and headache   

Younten Tshedup 

The Department of Traditional Medicine Services (DTMS) has identified three potential medicines to treat Covid-19 patients.

A committee of Drungtshos, based on symptoms of the disease such as fever, cough and headache among others established that the identified medicines have proven effective for the treatment.

Chief programme officer with the department, Drungtsho Choegyel Dorji said that the medicines were not specifically designed and prepared to treat Covid-19. “But they have been used to treat other diseases with similar symptoms,” he said.

The three medicines are – Tsow-gyapa (with eight ingredients), Chung-nga (with five ingredients) and Taag-Zee Rib – and usually works independently otherwise, Drungtsho Choegyel Dorji said.

However, given the multiple symptoms associated with Covid-19, a patient, should they choose to use it, would be given a combination of the three.

“Because Covid-19 is a new disease and much about the virus is unknown, we cannot guarantee that these medicines will work.”

He said that similar to other traditional medicines that the department supplies, the three identified medicines are also prepared based on the guidelines prescribed in teachings by the Buddha of Medicine and have proven effective on many patients for other diseases with symptoms similar to Covid-19.

He said that even if the medicine fails to cure the patient, it would not have any adverse effect. “All our traditional medicines are prepared using natural ingredients, including herbs and minerals. There is no side effect.”

The committee has presented its findings to the technical advisory group (TAG) of the health ministry.

The committee has also made sure that there is adequate quantity if in case people start using the medicines.

Besides the medicines, the department has also prepared physical activity and mental health counselling provisions for patients.

DTMS’s director general Kuenga Tshering said that in many countries, including China, and those in the Middle East and Europe, traditional medicine had supported the allopathic treatment in combating the pandemic.

He said that the department, as a part of the health system, wanted to contribute too.

Traditional medicine was integrated into the formal system of health care in 1968.

DG Kuenga Tshering said that records showed that many pandemics in Tibet and parts of Russia and other countries resorted to using traditional medicines to treat people.

He said that although traditional medical services were availed mostly by the elderly, of late, with the introduction of acupuncture services, their centres have seen more patients.

On average, over 300,000 people avail their services annually that includes medicine and other therapeutic facilities.

“We need to create more awareness on the benefits of using traditional medicine. For instance, treatment of some chronic diseases like arthritis, migraine and sinusitis are very effective with the traditional medication,” he said.  “In a recent study, traditional medicine was more effective in treating certain skin diseases than with western medicine.”

A committee of doctors and drungtshos is also formed to explore possibilities of combining and complementing allopathic and traditional medication together.

Kuenga Tshering said, “The very essence of establishing the traditional medicine system in the country was to provide people with an option of treatment.” The service was also started to preserve the tradition and knowledge of ancient traditional medicine.

“In the Western world, traditional alternative health care is becoming very popular. Here in Bhutan, we have great support from Their Majesties and the government. Therefore it is an opportunity for us to advance our traditional medicine practices and usage,” he said.

He added that while keeping the core practices of traditional medicine intact, it is now time to promote the use of new technology in service delivery. “This is time for us to have a combination of modern and traditional medicine to treat old and new diseases effectively.”