Written by Andrew Flower
What is the Jade Screen Project?
“Everybody had the same terrible, terrible fatigue. So I just told everybody about the ‘trial’ and everybody… and, and those who signed up… you know, just, just got better. Really, really quickly.” (JSP service user)
The Jade Screen Project (JSP) offers immune-enhancing and anti-viral herbal formulae for people working in the NHS, care homes, and those providing essential support services, that might reduce the risk and potential severity of infection.
We want to step forward to help those who are on the front line at greater risk of infection from Covid-19, by offering free CHM. We want to give it for free because we feel they deserve this level of support, as they are putting their lives on the line.
The Jade Screen is taken from the name of an ancient formula, which was used to protect people from infection. The formula’s name was derived from the Feng Shui practice of placing a screen made of the jade stone in rooms to protect people from draughts, the reference to jade reflects value and strength, and screen indicates a barrier – together it is considered something both protective and precious to have around the home.
The Jade screen, both the formula and the metaphor of protection, is our inspiration to offer our support to people working in environments where there is an increased risk due to high viral load.
Setting up The Jade Screen Project
The Jade Screen Project (JSP) was set up in April 2020 by a small group of Chinese herbal medicine practitioners in response to the rapidly developing healthcare crisis caused by Covid-19, and its potentially devastating effect on frontline workers. The name of the project was derived from a famous 13th century Chinese herbal formula designed to protect against infectious disease. Our aims were to replicate findings in Hong Kong from the 2002-3 SARS epidemic and anecdotal reports from Wuhan, China, in 2020, that described the use of immune regulating and anti-viral herbal medicines in helping to protect healthcare workers from contracting disease. Our second aim was to provide herbal support for people who had contracted the virus and were managing the disease at home, and our third objective was to use herbal medicine to promote recovery from the chronic symptoms of disease now known as ‘Long Covid’.
Setting up the project was exciting and exhausting. We conducted rapid reviews on all the English and Chinese language literature describing the treatment of Covid-19 and similar coronaviruses with Chinese herbal medicine (CHM). Most of the data described the treatment of acute disease and various protocols that had been tested or were biologically plausible as preventative interventions. We quickly formulated this review into treatment guidelines and ran three training seminars to inform our herbal colleagues of our findings. Seminars were free and were conducted via Zoom. Over 100 herbal practitioners attended, 50 of whom then signed up to provide a network of herbalists prepared to treat frontline workers.
We now had a theoretical framework we could apply to treating Covid and a group of practitioners prepared to treat frontline workers free of charge. In parallel to these encouraging developments we approached Balance Healthcare Ltd, who agreed to provide heavily discounted herbs for the project. We desperately needed funding to enable to project to become operational and this was generously provided in the form of two £5000 grants from the Earthsong Foundation. Chinese herbal medicine in the UK now had a portal which it could use to make a contribution to the fight against the pandemic.
Herbal Medicine for frontline workers
We saw our first patient, a policeman with acute Covid symptoms, on May 1st 2020, and we have now treated 230 frontline workers coming from an astonishing array of occupational backgrounds including surgeons, care workers, teachers, GPs, youth workers, nurses, mental health workers, pharmacists, train and bus drivers, and physiotherapists. Initially our treatments tended to focus on providing preventative herbal formulae with a smaller number of people presenting with acute disease. Over time there has been an increasing emphasis on helping people with the debilitating chronic symptoms of Long Covid. In light of the recent introductions of the vaccine we decided that from January 2021 we should focus our limited resources on supporting people with acute disease and with Long Covid. In addition to the generous support of Earthsong we have raised over £10,000 in donations from professional bodies and individuals who have want to help the project, or who have been the recipients of JSP treatments. This is fantastic but unfortunately it is not enough to enable us to continue providing free herbal care-especially to patients with Long Covid who require complex and expensive interventions to help restore them to good health and enable their return to work. We need to find new sources of funding to enable us to continue to provide herbal support to frontline workers who have risked their health to provide vital services that we all depend on.
Who are the practitioners?
We are a group of experienced practitioners and researchers of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) who want to make a positive contribution during the current pandemic. We are committed to providing accessible, high quality, evidence-based care using herbal medicines.
We are very moved by the response from the CHM community, who have registered as JSP practitioners and are all offering their services free of charge.
As a measure of our offering the best service we can, we have elected to choose practitioners for our service who are registered members of their professional association, so we can be sure of the high standard of the treatment we are offering.
These practitioners have also undergone specialised training in Covid-19 infection management based on research from Chinese treatment protocols currently used in the pandemic.
We also carried out our own survey of experienced practitioners based in different countries to find out their own clinical CHM experience with patients who have been affected by COVID-19.
What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) is an ancient system of medicine developed and refined in China and other East Asian countries over the past 2000 years, using the active compounds available from hundreds of different plants. Although they are not refined and isolated as they are in modern drugs these plants enable what has been described as a polypharmacy that allows many compounds to operate together to generate a therapeutic effect.
CHM herbal formulas are normally between 10-15 different herbs containing plant extracts that have immune-regulating, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory effects. These individualised formulas are worked out after the practitioner notes down the precise nature of the symptoms, as well as any underlying health conditions and medication being taken.
CHM has demonstrated a preventative effect in previous coronavirus epidemics – a large study from 2003 during the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong compared 1,063 healthcare workers taking CHM with 36,111 who did not, and found that those who did had a much lower infection rate.
CHM is part of an array of support and advice that a qualified herbalist can offer. Having seen the evidence from both our clinical practice and research into the benefits of herbal medicine, we feel strongly about stepping forward to support those who are putting their lives on the line, and helping them during this incredibly difficult and stressful time.
We have seen in our clinics the results of the support we offer our clients, and through researching treatment protocols used over centuries in response to pandemics, infectious respiratory diseases and rehabilitation from chronic illness, we strongly believe that our skills and experience will be useful for those right at the edge of the crisis.
What is the research?
A final word on how we are evaluating the project. In April we submitted a research proposal on preventative care to St Thomas’s Hospital and over the summer we had discussions with the Department of Primary Care in Southampton University about a research project treating patients with Long Covid. Sadly, for reasons that to be frank escape me, neither project was considered to be worth developing. In the absence of formal academic support we have used MYMOP (a validated patient centred outcomes measure) to assess the results of our interventions and we have also conducted a number of in-depth interviews with JSP patients to explore their experience of the project. We are currently conducting a service evaluation to look at all aspects of what we do that will hopefully result in quantitative and qualitative data being written up and published. We hope that this might provide a rigorous rationale to persuade funders and professional researchers to investigate the project.
There are studies on the front page of the Jade Screen Project website, for those interested in the science behind CHM being able to supress viral replication, and inhibition of the SARS protein entering the cell’s receptor sites, which is how the virus enters the cells. There are also studies showing how herbs may have anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory effects by reducing cytokine levels and enhancing immune mechanisms.
Several studies have confirmed the ability of mushrooms in general to increase the effectiveness of both our innate and adaptive immune response to a range of pathogens, including viruses. Reishi has a strong anti-inflammatory activity, as well as the quality to curb viral replication. Covid-19 enters cells via angiotensin-converting receptors, which the triperpenes and proteins from Reishi have been shown to block.
Herbs such as Patchouli and Japanese Knot Weed are considered to have anti-inflammatory and immune-protective qualities, that are amongst a wide range of herbs available to herbalists. These three herbs in particular are very useful in our formulae, where we call them by their Chinese names of Ling Zhi, Huo Xiang and Hu Zhang.
A meaningful contribution in the fight against Covid-19
“Good luck with the project and everything. I hope that would be great to see it more in the mainstream and helping more and more people because I know it can do that now” (JSP service user)
In the meantime we soldier on, making a small but meaningful contribution in the fight against Covid-19. My experience, and that of my colleagues, is that CHM can help manage acute disease and significantly speed up recovery from Long Covid. I hope we can find a way to continue and develop the support we provide to frontline workers and to extend it to the growing numbers of people who have been laid low by this disease.
We’re not asking the people on the frontline to pay for either the herbs, or the consultations, as we feel they deserve our support and have put their lives on the line for all of us.
All donations we receive will go towards paying for their herbs. Our time, research and consultations are being gifted as a token of our thanks for their courageous work. We are hopeful that our support will help to protect those who are in such a perilous situation.
All the money donated via our donation pages goes directly to paying for the herbs, which have been provided at a generous discount, allowing your money to go even further.
All admin costs are covered by internally generated donations, meaning all our fundraising from the public can go directly to covering the cost of the herbs.
Please help us to support those who really deserve it! If you can’t support us financially, please do share our page on Facebook and Instagram, and let your friends know, especially if they are working on the front-line and you feel they would benefit from our support.
All donations received by the Jade Screen Project go towards funding herbal medicine for our frontline workers. If you would like to support our work and make a donation you can do so using the payment details on our website http://jadescreen.co.uk/donate/ or via our GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-jade-screen-project. We are grateful for all donations (however large or small). Thank you.