Skip navigation

Chinese herbs for eczema

Clinical bottom line: There is preliminary evidence that chinese herbs may be of benefit in the treatment of eczema in children and adults. Larger trials are required to adequately establish the benefit and harm of this treatment.


Systematic review

Armstrong N C, Ernst E. The treatment of eczema with Chinese herbs: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Br J Clin Pharmacol, 1999; 48, 262-264.

Date review completed: March 1998

Number of trials included: 2

Number of patients: 68 analysed (37 children / 31 adults)

Control group: placebo

Main outcomes: erythema and surface damage

Inclusion criteria were randomised controlled trials of herbal remedies for eczema; clinical measure of eczema improvement; adult or paediatric population; any language.

Reviewers extracted information on sample, intervention, main outcome measure and statistical results, and provided a descriptive summary. Changes in erythema and surface damage were expressed as median percent or mean proportional change with 95% confidence interval.

Findings

Two of two trials indicated benefit of herbal remedy over placebo. Both trials were double-blind and crossover in design.

One trial was carried out in 47 children with extensive nonexudative atopic eczema, over an eight week treatment period. Active intervention comprised ten different plants traditionally used in Chinese medicine for eczema treatment. Of the 37 children analysed, for erythema scores there was a 51% decrease (95% CI 34.5 to 72.6) with active and a 6.1% decrease (95% CI -25.2 to 30.7) for placebo. For surface damage scores there was a 63.1% decrease (95 CI 34.5 to 72.6) with active and a 6.2% decrease (95% CI -25.2 to 30.7) with placebo. Both scores suggest a benefit with herbal remedy.

The second trial was carried out in 40 adult patients, with similar methodology over an eight week treatment period. Improvement was the mean proportional change between the end of placebo and the end of active phase based on logarithmic values. Of the 31 adults analysed, for erythema scores there was a 46% (95% CI 25.2 to 67) mean proportional change between the end of placebo and active phases. For surface damage scores there was a 49% (95% CI 27 to 71) mean proportional change between the end of placebo and active phases.

Reviewers note that both trials were carried out by the same research group, and that trials were too small to determine treatment effect. Reviewers note that blinding may not have been maintained and that placebo herbs were not tested to ensure that they were inert for the target condition. Non-blind and non randomized one year follow-up data is also provided.

Adverse effects

Adverse effects were described as mild. Two patients reported slight abdominal distension and headaches. No signs of short-term toxicity were reported, but it is unclear how this was monitored.

Further reading

Related topics