We located one systematic review of Chinese herbal medicines for atopic eczema.25 This review reported two randomised trials of atopic eczema, one on adults26 and one on children.27 The authors concluded "At present it is unclear whether Chinese herbal treatments of eczema do more good than harm".
A further two trials have now been identified.28,29 All four trials evaluated an oral Chinese herbal decoction comprising Ledebouriella seseloides, Potentilla chinensis, Clematis armandii, Rehmannia glutinosa, Paenia lactiflora, Lophatherum gracile, Dictamnus dasycarpus, Tribulus terrestris, Glycyrrhiza glabra and Schizonepeta tenuifolia, except Sheehan et al.26 who used Anebia clematidis instead of Clematis armandii.
Sheehan et al.26 compared Chinese herbs (as above) in a decoction and a placebo comprising of a mixture of "inert" plant materials, once daily for 8 weeks in 47 children with atopic eczema. Median percentage changes in the clinical scores for erythema compared with baseline were 51% for Chinese herbs and 6-1% for placebo. Change in surface damage was 63-1% and 6-2% in the Chinese herb and placebo groups, respectively. A 1-year follow up study of the children concluded that Chinese herbal medicine, in the medium term, was helpful for approximately half the children who originally took part in the RCT.30
Sheehan et a/.27 also compared the Chinese herbs (as above) in a decoction and an "inert plant" placebo, once daily, in 40 adult patients with atopic dermatitis. Significant improvements were reported for erythema (P<0-001) and surface damage (P<0-001) with the herbs compared with the placebo.
The study by Latchman et al.29 evaluated the same combination of Chinese herbs finely ground and in a more palatable form of freeze-dried granules over an 8-week period in 18 patients with atopic eczema. There was a significant reduction in erythema and surface damage compared with baseline (P<0-001). There were no difference in clinical outcome between formulations.
The study by Fung et al.28 evaluated the same combination of Chinese herbs compared with "inert plant" placebo over an 8-week period in 40 patients with atopic eczema. There was a general trend of clinical improvement for both Chinese herbs and placebo.
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