Wendan decoction (WDD) is one of the classic Chinese herb formulas widely used in China for psychotic symptoms. It is thought to be safe, accessible, and inexpensive. Now a team of investigators from Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China have undertaken a Cochrane methodology systematic review to investigate the effects of WDD on clinical outcomes in the treatment of people with schizophrenia in 15 randomized controlled trials of 1437 patients comparing WDD with antipsychotics, placebo, or combined interventions. The authors concluded that there is some evidence to suggest that WDD may have some positive short-term antipsychotic global effects compared with placebo or no treatment. However, when WDD was compared with conventional antipsychotics, there was no effect; but when WDD was combined with an antipsychotic, some positive effects were found with the combination, causing fewer adverse effects.
What have we learned from this study? It seems that Chinese herbal formulas are clearly not as good as our regular antipsychotic medications for the treatment of schizophrenia, but when used in combination with regular antipsychotic treatment they have mild benefits in the populations studied, where there may well have been at least a culturally driven placebo phenomenon in some studies or patients. So we should not ignore these therapies, especially in cultural groups that believe in them, but we need to make it clear to our patients that conventional Western-style medications are more effective for illnesses like schizophrenia.
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Cite this: A Traditional Chinese Herbal Treatment Shows Promise - Medscape - Oct 31, 2017.