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Research on Chinese medicine for colds and ‘flu

Last updated: 12 March, 2017
by Steven Clavey, Traditional Chinese Gynaecology

Chinese medicinal herbs for influenza.

Most Chinese medical herbs in the included studies showed similar effects to antiviral drugs in preventing or treating influenza. Few were shown to be superior to antiviral drugs. No obvious adverse events were reported in the included studies.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Mar 28;(3):CD004559. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004559.pub4.

Jiang L, Deng L, Wu T.

BACKGROUND: Influenza is a communicable acute respiratory infection which, during epidemics, can cause high morbidity and mortality rates. Traditional Chinese medicinal herbs, often administered following a particular Chinese medical theory, may be a potential treatment of choice.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of Chinese medicinal herbs used to prevent and treat influenza and to estimate the frequency of adverse effects.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched CENTRAL (2012, Issue 11), MEDLINE (January 1966 to November week 2, 2012), EMBASE (January 1988 to November 2012) and CNKI (January 1988 to 29 March 2012). We also searched reference lists of articles and the WHO ICTRP search portal (November 2012).

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing traditional Chinese medicinal herbs with placebo, no treatment or conventional medicine normally used in preventing and treating uncomplicated influenza.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed trial quality.

MAIN RESULTS: We included 18 studies involving 2521 participants. The methodological quality of 17 included studies was poor. Included RCTs separately compared medicinal herbs with different antiviral drugs, precluding any pooling of results. Only three indicated that compared with antiviral drugs, Chinese medicinal herbs may be effective in preventing influenza and alleviating influenza symptoms. ‘Ganmao’ capsules were found to be more effective than amantadine in decreasing influenza symptoms and speeding recovery in one study (in which adverse reactions were mentioned in the amantadine group although no data were reported). There were no significant differences between ‘E Shu You’ and ribavirin in treating influenza, nor in the occurrence of adverse reactions. Ten studies reported mild adverse reactions.

AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS:

Most Chinese medical herbs in the included studies showed similar effects to antiviral drugs in preventing or treating influenza. Few were shown to be superior to antiviral drugs. No obvious adverse events were reported in the included studies. However, current evidence remains weak due to methodological limitations of the trials. More high-quality RCTs with larger numbers of participants and clear reporting are needed.

 

Compound Formulas of Traditional Chinese Medicine for the Common Cold: Systematic Review of Randomized, Placebo-controlled Trials.

This systematic review indicated that compound formulas of TCM, compared with placebo, can provide benefits to patients with the common cold, with no serious side effects having been identified in the included trials.”

Altern Ther Health Med. 2015 Nov-Dec;21(6):48-57.

Li G, Cai L, Jiang H, Dong S, Fan T, Liu W, Xie L, Mao B.

CONTEXT: The common cold is one of the most frequent acute illnesses of the respiratory tract, affecting all age groups. The compound formulas of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are frequently used to treat the common cold in China and other parts of the world. Until now, however, the efficacy and safety of compound formulas of TCM for the common cold, studied in comparison with placebos, have not been systematically reviewed.

OBJECTIVES: This literature review intended to assess existing evidence of the effectiveness and safety of compound formulas of TCM for the common cold.

DESIGN: Randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) comparing compound formulas of TCM with placebos in treating the common cold were included, regardless of publication status. The research team searched the Cochrane Library, PubMed, Embase, the Chinese Biomedical Literature Database, the Chinese Scientific and Technological Periodical Database, the Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure and the Wangfang Database from their inceptions to December 2013. The team also searched Web sites listing ongoing trials and contacted experts in the field and relevant pharmaceutical companies to locate unpublished materials.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed the methodological quality of included studies, using the Cochrane risk of bias tool.

MAIN RESULTS: A total of 6 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials involving 1502 participants were included. Most trials had a low risk of bias. Five were conducted in mainland China and 1 in Hong Kong; 5 were multicenter clinical trials and 1 was a single-center trial; 4 were published in Chinese and 2 were published in English. Compound formulas of TCM were superior to placebos in reducing disease symptoms, inducing recovery from a TCM syndrome, and increasing quality of life. In addition, the formulas were superior in shortening the duration of the main symptoms, the amount of time for a decline in temperature of at least 0.5°C to occur, and the duration of any fever. The team did not perform a summary meta-analysis due to clinical heterogeneity. No serious adverse event (AE) occurred in either the treatment or the control groups.

CONCLUSIONS:

This systematic review indicated that compound formulas of TCM, compared with placebo, can provide benefits to patients with the common cold, with no serious side effects having been identified in the included trials. However, due to the small number of included studies and of participants and the unclear risk of some biases in the included studies, more high-quality, large-scale RCTs are still warranted to clarify fully the effectiveness and safety of compound formulas of TCM in treating the common cold.

 

Andrographis paniculata (Chuān Xīn Lián) for symptomatic relief of acute respiratory tract infections in adults and children: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

A. Paniculata appears beneficial and safe for relieving ARTI symptoms and shortening time to symptom resolution. However, these findings should be interpreted cautiously owing to poor study quality and heterogeneity.”

PLoS One. 2017 Aug 4;12(8):e0181780. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181780. eCollection 2017.

Hu XY, Wu RH, Logue M, Blondel C, Lai LYW, Stuart B, Flower A, Fei YT, Moore M, Shepherd J, Liu JP, Lewith G.

INTRODUCTION: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a substantial threat to public health. Safe and effective alternatives are required to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing. Andrographis Paniculata (A. Paniculata, Chuān Xīn Lián) has traditionally been used in Indian and Chinese herbal medicine for cough, cold and influenza, suggesting a role in respiratory tract infections (RTIs). This systematic review aimed to evaluate the clinical effectiveness and safety of A. Paniculata for symptoms of acute RTIs (ARTIs).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: English and Chinese databases were searched from their inception to March 2016 for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating oral A. Paniculata without language barriers (Protocol ID: CRD42016035679). The primary outcomes were improvement in ARTI symptoms and adverse events (AEs). A random effects model was used to pool the mean differences and risk ratio with 95% CI reported. Methodological quality was evaluated using the Cochrane risk of bias tool; two reviewers independently screened eligibility and extracted data.

RESULTS: Thirty-three RCTs (7175 patients) were included. Most trials evaluated A. Paniculata (as a monotherapy and as a herbal mixture) provided commercially but seldom reported manufacturing or quality control details. A. Paniculata improved cough (n = 596, standardised mean difference SMD: -0.39, 95% confidence interval CI [-0.67, -0.10]) and sore throat (n = 314, SMD: -1.13, 95% CI [-1.37, -0.89]) when compared with placebo. A. Paniculata (alone or plus usual care) has a statistically significant effect in improving overall symptoms of ARTIs when compared to placebo, usual care, and other herbal therapies. Evidence also suggested that A. Paniculata (alone or plus usual care) shortened the duration of cough, sore throat and sick leave/time to resolution when compared versus usual care. No major AEs were reported and minor AEs were mainly gastrointestinal. The methodological quality of included trials was overall poor.

CONCLUSIONS:

A. Paniculata appears beneficial and safe for relieving ARTI symptoms and shortening time to symptom resolution. However, these findings should be interpreted cautiously owing to poor study quality and heterogeneity. Well-designed trials evaluating the effectiveness and potential to reduce antibiotic use of A. Paniculata are warranted.

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