About this Journal Submit a Manuscript Table of Contents
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 739716, 14 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/739716
Review Article

Chinese Herbal Medicine and Depression: The Research Evidence

1Department of Complementary Medicine, School of Life Sciences, University of Westminster, London W1W 6UW, UK
2Department of Human and Health Sciences, School of Life Sciences, University of Westminster, 115 New Cavendish Street, London W1W 6UW, UK

Received 14 August 2012; Revised 5 November 2012; Accepted 11 December 2012

Academic Editor: Cynthia R. Long

Copyright © 2013 Lee Butler and Karen Pilkington. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

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.