Cochrane Summaries

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Chinese herbal medicine for schizophrenia

Rathbone J, Zhang L, Zhang M, Xia J, Liu X, Yang Y
Published Online: 
28 February 2013

Antipsychotic medication is the mainstay of treatment for people with schizophrenia, and although effective, still leaves some people with distressing symptoms and/or disabling adverse effects. Safer and more effective health care interventions are needed.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been used to treat mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, for more than 2000 years. Chinese herbs may also have antipsychotic properties when used in a Western biomedical context. In this review we sought and found trials relevant to the effects of both approaches for schizophrenia. Traditional Chinese medicine methodology has been evaluated for schizophrenia, but the one included study was too limited in terms of sample size and study length to guide good practice. However, this pioneering study does show that TCM can be evaluated for its efficacy for people with schizophrenia , and should encourage trialists to undertake further, more comprehensive trials in this area.

The use of Chinese herbs in a Western medicine context, without incorporating TCM methodology, has been evaluated in six trials, although again these are limited by their sample size and study length. The results of these six trials suggest that using Chinese herbs alone for psychotic symptoms may not be indicated, but if used in conjunction with Western antipsychotic drugs, they may be beneficial in terms of mental state, global functioning and decrease of adverse effects. However, further trials are needed before the effects of TCM for people with schizophrenia can be evaluated with any real confidence.

This record should be cited as: 
Rathbone J, Zhang L, Zhang M, Xia J, Liu X, Yang Y. Chinese herbal medicine for schizophrenia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003444. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003444.pub2
Assessed as up to date: 
3 August 2005