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Chinese herbal medicine and depression: the research evidence

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

  • Lee Butler
  • Karen Pilkington
Background: Alternative approaches for managing depression are often sought and herbal mixtures are widely used in China. The aim of this paper was to provide an overall picture of the current evidence by analysing published systematic reviews and presenting a supplementary systematic review of trials in Western databases.

Methods: Searches were conducted using AMED, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, MEDLINE/PubMed, PsycINFO, and trial registers. Results were screened and selected trials were evaluated by two reviewers working independently. Systematic reviews were identified and assessed using key criteria.

Results: Five systematic reviews were located addressing the Chinese literature, adjunctive use of Chinese herbs, and the formulae Chaihu-Shugan-San, Xiao Yao San, and Free and Easy Wanderer Plus. The supplementary review located 8 trials, 3 of which were not included in previous reviews. Positive results were reported: no significant differences from medication, greater effect than medication or placebo, reduced adverse event rates when combined or compared with antidepressants. However, limitations in methodology and reporting were revealed.

Conclusions: Despite promising results, particularly for Xiao Yao San and its modifications, the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine in depression could not be fully substantiated based on current evidence. Further well-designed, well-reported trials that reflect practice may be worth pursuing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number739716
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages15
JournalEvidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

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