Belinda (Beau) Anderson
PhD, MA(Ed), LAc
“What The Covid-19 Pandemic Showcased About Practice-Based And Scientific Research Into Chinese Herbal Medicine In The United States”
The COVID-19 pandemic threw the global spotlight onto Chinese herbal medicine in an unprecedented way. Faced with a deadly disease spreading rapidly around the world with no viable biomedical treatments, Chinese herbal medicine received a new level of interest. Following reports of its widespread and successful use to treat symptoms and reduce mortality associated with COVID-19 in China, experienced herbalist rushed to buy Chinese herbal medicine leading to a global shortage. Articles in scholarly journals and webinars started appearing in early 2020, along with reports in the popular media outlining the use of Chinese herbs for COVID. Positive and negative perspectives of the effectiveness fueled ongoing debate while licensed acupuncturists in the US quietly mobilized a collegial effort to treat COVID patients using telehealth often going above and beyond to ensure timely and appropriate formulas were received by their patients.
Such efforts also reinforced a new and emerging perspective on evidence-based medicine as it is applied to ancient healing practices such as East Asian medicine. Such practices are built upon a foundation of thousands of years of practice, documentation, and observation. Is this not what we would call observational research? Had it not been for this foundation of knowledge US acupuncturists would have faced the same struggles as biomedical practitioners – a new disease with no known treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic not only showcased the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine, it also highlighted the different epistemological paradigm of East Asian medicine that imparts therapeutic adaptability and flexibility. This different way of knowing how to treat ‘new’ diseases also engenders a different way to look at research as it is applied to East Asian medicine.
The presentation will discuss the outcomes of a survey and interviews with acupuncturists who prescribed Chinese herbal medicine during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on understanding how practitioners went about treating a new disease during a global public health emergency. The implications of this study upon conventional models of evidence-based medicine and its application to ancient health practices will be examined, including the critical thinking process associated with devising herbal formulas, observing outcomes, and amassing collective experience. Conventional approaches to investigating the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine for COVID-19 infection are underway and these will also be discussed in terms of the broader agenda for Chinese herbal medicine research in the US.
Dr. Anderson is Associate Dean and Professor of Allied Health at Pace University in the College of Health Professions (NY), an Associate Clinical Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, NY), and a Research Professor at Pacific College of Health and Science (Pacific College, NY). She earned her PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Sydney (Australia), her Masters in Higher Education from Teachers College Columbia University, and her Masters in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (New England School of Acupuncture). Dr. Anderson has over 25 years of administrative, clinical, research and teaching experience. She was the Academic Dean at Pacific College for 12 years (2006- 2018). Dr. Anderson is an NIH-funded researcher and her recent research focuses on implementing acupuncture in community-based clinics, educating clinicians in evidence based medicine, and the use of Chinese herbs to treat COVID-19 symptoms. Dr. Anderson was a member of the NIH National Advisory Council for Complementary and Integrative Health 2018-2021, serves as Deputy Editor for Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, and is Co-Chair of the Research Working Group of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health (ACIH) within the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM). From 2009-2018 she maintained a Chinese medicine private practice at New York University Fertility Center and is an internationally recognized expert in the use of acupuncture to improve assisted reproductive outcomes. In 2020 Dr. Anderson completed the Duke University year-long Leadership in Integrative Health and Medicine program.