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Chinese Herbal Medicine Research

The following are some examples of the latest research being conducted in both Asia and the West into the efficacy of Chinese Herbal Medicine for treating a broad range of conditions.


Chinese herbs show significant results in the treatment of acne. Fifty-eight patients with acne were given a standard water decoction based on the Chinese herbal formula Qing fei yi rou tang, adjusted according to the morphology of the lesions and the constitution of the patient.  After a varied time of treatment ranging from 2 to 6 months 46 cases were classified as clinically cured (all papules, pustules, nodules and cysts cleared, with no reoccurrence), 10 cases were classified as improved (reduction in all lesions, but mild reoccurrence on stopping the herbs), and 2 cases showed no change.

Zhouxin, Z. (2001).  New Journal of Chinese Medicine.4 – 33-4

Atopic Eczema

Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) is efficacious in the treatment of severe atopic eczema in children, according to the recent report in the British Journal of Dermatology. Forty-seven children were randomly selected to receive either a specific Chinese herbal formula for widespread non-exudative atopic eczema or a placebo for 8 weeks, with an intervening 4-week wash-out period. The Chinese herbal group  showed a significant improvement compared with the placebo group. No adverse side effects of hematological, hepatic or renal nature, or toxicity were reported in any of the participants.  The researchers predicted a considerable therapeutic potential for traditional Chinese medicinal plants, not only in the treatment of eczema, but also for other skin diseases.

Sheehan, M.P., Atherton, D.J. (1992). A controlled trial of traditional Chinese medicinal plants in widespread non-exudative atopic eczema.  British Journal of Dermatology. 126 179-184 2.

A placebo-controlled longitudinal trial of at the Royal Free Hospital, London, found a specific Chinese Herbal formula to be superior to a placebo for the treatment of dermatitis. Forty adults suffering from long-term widespread atopic dermatitis were randomly selected and allocated either to a treatment group or a placebo group, and followed up for a 5 month period.  Although adults treated with Chinese herbal formula showed signs of significant improvement relative to placebo treatment, the researchers warranted further investigation into the safety of the Chinese herbal formula for patients with liver and kidney complication (reported below).

Sheehan, M.P., et al (1992). Efficacy of traditional Chinese herbal therapy in adult atopic dermatitis. The Lancet. (7) 13-17.

A second trial at the Royal Free Hospital followed up a group of 31 patients with severe atopic eczema who initially took part in a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trial of a specific formulation of Chinese herbal therapy (reported above). All patients were offered continued therapy for one year after the trial was completed. Of 17 patients who enrolled for the follow-up period, 12 had greater than 90% reduction of symptoms and the other 5 had greater than 60% reduction.  Eleven patients who decided not to continue treatment reported a gradual deterioration of symptoms, resulting in a significant difference (both erythema and surface damage) between the two groups. Toxicology screening revealed no abnormalities in either full blood counts or biochemical parameters in any patient on continued treatment. Improvement in disease was not associated with any significant change in serum IgE level or peripheral blood lymphocyte subsets.

Nagle T.M., et al (1995). Follow-up of adult patients with atopic eczema treated with Chinese herbal therapy for 1 year. Clinical & Experimental Dermatology. 20(2):136-40.

Infertility with Premature Ovarian Failure

Chinese herbs were shown to be efficacious in the treatment of infertility associated with premature ovarian failure. A single case study from Taiwan compared the effectiveness of Chinese Herbal Medicine with Clomiphene citrate therapy. The Clomiphene citrate therapy was used over 8 months and did not change the FSH and LH levels from the postmenopausal range. The Chinese herb-based formula Zuo gui Wan induced an ovulation after 4 months, and the patient fell pregnant. The authors concluded thatChinese herbal medicine can restore ovarian function effectively, offering a viable and efficacious treatment option for infertility due to premature ovarian failure.

Chao S.L., et al (2003). Pregnancy in premature ovarian failure after therapy using Chinese Herbal Medicine. A case study. Chang Gung Medical Journal. 26(6): 449-52.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A recent study has shown Chinese Herbs can ease symptoms of IBS, a highly prevalent condition with about 10% to 20% of adults suffering from the symptoms.  A large participant-blinded (i.e. participants not aware of the type of treatment) placebo controlled trial with 116 randomly selected participants was carried out at the University of Western Sydney Macarthur, Australia. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: individually tailored Chinese herbal therapy; a standard Chinese herbal formulation; or a placebo.  Both standard and individualised herbal therapies produced significant results after four months of treatment, with 76% of patients on standard herbal therapy and 64% of those on individualised therapy reporting symptom improvement, compared with just 33% of patients in the placebo group. There was little difference in initial improvement rates between patients receiving either individualised or standard Chinese herbal therapies, individual therapy proved more effective over long-term. At 14 weeks after the end of treatment participants using individualised treatment have shown better improvement than the other two groups. 

Bensoussan, A., et al. (1998). Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with Chinese herbal medicine. The Journal of the American Medical Association 280:1585-1589.

A second study from Sydney, Australia, lends even stronger scientific support to efficacy of using of Chinese herbs in treatment of IBS.  The randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study (i.e. both experimenters and participants were unaware of which treatment each participant was receiving) involved 116 people with active IBS recruited from hospitals and private gastroenterological practices.  Participants were diagnosed first by gastroenterologists using standard western diagnostic methods, and then by Chinese herbalists according to the principles of Chinese medicine.  Forty-three participants received a standard Chinese herbal formula, 38 received individualized herbal formulas, and 35 received a placebo indistinguishable in appearance from the herbal treatments. Participants were evaluated by gastroenterologists after eight weeks and again at the end of the 16-week treatment period.  Both the standard herbal formula and the individualized treatments were significantly more effective than placebo in relieving IBS symptoms, with patients receiving the herbal formulas scoring significantly better in four out of five key outcome measures. Furthermore, treatment benefits were more sustained in patients who took individualized formulas than in those who took the standard formula. Overall, 78% of patients taking the standard Chinese herbal formula and 50% of those taking individualized formulas showed improved, compared with 30% of those taking placebo.

(1998). Journal of the American Medical Association.

Polycystic Ovarian Disease

Chinese Herbal Medicine found to be effective in the treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD), without causing any side effects. A recent study was carried out in Japan using a specific Chinese herbal formula on participants suffering from PCOD to find an effective treatment without side effects that could be used as an alternative to clomiphene citrate or gonadotropin therapy. After a course of Chinese Herbal treatment, the FSH/LH ratio had significantly decreased, and the ovulatory rate was 70.6%. Serum testosterone did not change during treatment. The authors conclude that the Chinese formula may be useful for the treatment of anovulation in PCOS patients.

Sakai A. et al. (1999). Induction of ovulation by Sairei-to for polycystic ovary syndrome patients. Journal of Endocrinology. 46(1):217-20.


Chinese Herbs were shown to be effective in treating two types of Psoriasis. A trial was carried out at the famous Beijing Guan Anmen hospital, Department of Dermatology by Professor Zhu Renkang. One hundred and eight participants with widespread plaque psoriasis were selected. According to traditional Chinese medical diagnosis, the participants were divided into either ‘Hot Blood type’ or ‘Dry Blood type’ psoriasis group. The intervention was administered up to 24 weeks, with an average of 28 weeks. From 54 participants in the ‘Hot Blood type’ group, 72.2% had total clearing of skin; 11.1% had significant improvement; 11.1% had some improvement; and 3% had no change. From 54 participants in the ‘Dry Blood type’ group, 59.2% had total clearing of skin; 16.7% had significant improvement; 18.5% had some improvement; and 6% had no change. For the participants with a total clearing of symptoms, a follow up assessment period of between 12-32 months was carried out: 63.6% remained stable, 5% had mild relapse, whilst 25% had total relapse.

Zhuren, K. (1981). The Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. (4)22-24.

Threatened Miscarriage

Chinese Herbal Medicine shown to be effective in regulating plasma beta-EP and placental endocrine function in threatened abortion in women with a history of recurrent miscarriage.

The study of 40 women was carried out at Shanghai Gynaecology & Obstetrics Department of Shanghai Medical University. The  participants who exhibited threatened abortion (TA) and a history of miscarriage had their blood compared to that of normal pregnant women. TA group showed abnormal blood counts when compared with women having normal pregnancy, with significinatly higher plasma beta-EP level and significantly lower plasma GnRH, HCG and P4. Chinese Herbal medicine supported conception, blood circulation and protected the foetus, with 36 of the 40 participants continuing their pregnancy without TA symptoms.

Sun F, Yu J. (1999). Effect of TCM on plasma beta-endorphin and placental endocrine in threatened abortion. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 19 (2):87-9.