Fa-Thalai-Chon (FTC) For Prevention of COVID-19 Infection

A plant widely used in Asia for upper respiratory tract infection is getting a close attention in the medical community for preventing Corona virus infection. Researchers in Thailand reported that in a study of 832 patients with mild symptomatic Covid-19 infections, they found that those who took the herb, popularly known as Fa-Thalai-Chon (FTC), for five days showed a significant improvement in their conditions within five days.

The study, conducted in December 2020 involved 832 patients in nine government hospitals, with 309 of them given the herbal medicine. Researchers reported that 306 out of 309 showed “a significant reduction in symptoms starting day 3 with continuous reduction in viral loads, and none (virus) could be detected on day 5.” They said that three patients developed pneumonia but finally recovered.

In contrast, the researchers reported, 77 patients from the group of 526 who didn’t receive the medicine showed increased severity of symptoms, including pneumonia, or required intubation. “We conclude that FTC can treat mild Covid-19 infections and prevent pneumonia by 94.3%,” said the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, which conducted the study. 1

The herbaceous plant Andrographis paniculata, native to India, and is widely cultivated in southeast Asia and China. Formulations containing the bitter leaves of the plant are listed in traditional Indian and Chinese Pharmacopeias for treatment of bacterial infection and to boost the body’s immune system. In Thailand, formulations of the herb are an approved medicine for cold, cough and flu, and is listed on its National List of Essential Drugs and is reimbursed by the government.
Andrographis paniculata contains andrographolides and other compounds which have been found to stimulate the general immune system and inhibit inflammation and microbial activities in the body. The active compounds of the plant, most concentrated in the leaves, have shown, in past studies, to have broad spectrum antiviral activities, such as blocking the entry of virus into cells and blunting the process of viruses replicating themselves; and anti-inflammatory effects in treating upper respiratory tract infections.

Although long in use, andrographolide in FTC is now receiving heightened interest due to the resurgence of Covid-19 infections.

In a retrospective study conducted by another group of researchers in Thailand between December 2020 - March 2021 of 539 asymptomatic or mild covid-19 cases found that andrographolide in FTC had 98.8% efficacy in preventing pneumonia. Dr Amporn Benjaponpitak, lead investigator and Director-General, Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, concluded that “Given a correct dosage of FTC in a timely manner to 4 early COVID-19 cases can prevent 1 pnuemonitis case. The only case in FTC group that developed pneumonitis was because of late administration, i.e, FTC was given on day 11 after the manifestation of symptoms.”

In another small study conducted between May-June 2021 andrographolide in FTC outshined the popular drug Favipiravir. It involved 120 cases of Covid-19 infections who were divided into four groups, each receiving a different drug for five days. One received FTC, the second a herb known as Boesenbergia rotunda (Finger Root), the third a combination of the herbal plants given to the first and second group, and the fourth Favipiravir. The results as reported on 18 June 2021 by Dr Anek Mungormklang, Director of the Institute of Urban Disease Control and Prevention, showed that “FTC was more effective in preventing of pneumonitis and reducing respiratory tract viral load faster than favipiravir.” 3
2) Effect of Andrographis paniculata treatment in early- stage COVID-19 on prevention of pneumonia: A retrospective cohort study. 2021. Benjaponpitaka A .et al, (Abstract, submission for publication)
3) Experience in using Thai herbal medicines in large cluster of Covid-19 cases in BKK prisons. Anek Mungormklang, Director of the Institute of Urban Disease Control and Prevention.