Traditional Chinese herbal treatment shows promise

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Wendan’s Decoction (WDD) is one of the classic Chinese herbal formulas widely used in China for psychotic symptoms. It is believed to be safe, accessible and inexpensive. Now a team of investigators[1] of the University of Traditional Chinese Medicine of Shanghai in China undertook a systematic review of the Cochrane methodology to study the effects of WDD on the clinical outcome of treatment of people with schizophrenia in 15 randomized controlled trials involving 1437 patients comparing the WDD with antipsychotics, placebo, or combination interventions. The authors concluded that there is some evidence to suggest that WDD may have overall positive short-term antipsychotic effects compared to placebo or no treatment. However, when WDD was compared to conventional antipsychotics, there was no effect; but when WDD was combined with an antipsychotic some positive effects were found with the combination causing fewer side effects.

What did we learn from this study? It appears that Chinese herbal formulas are clearly not as effective as our usual antipsychotic drugs for treating schizophrenia, but when used in combination with regular antipsychotic therapy they have slight benefits in populations. studied, where there may well have been at least one placebo-induced phenomenon in some studies or some patients. So we must not ignore these therapies, especially in cultural groups who believe in them, but we must make our patients understand that conventional Western-style drugs are more effective for conditions like schizophrenia.

Thanks for listening to this Medscape Psychiatry Minute. Continue to enjoy your practice.


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