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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2015, Article ID 380678, 12 pages
Review Article

Safety of Chinese Herbal Medicine for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

1Traditional & Complementary Medicine Research Program, School of Health Sciences and Health Innovations Research Institute (HIRi), RMIT University, Bundoora, Melbourne, VIC 3083, Australia
2Guangdong Provincial Hospital of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou 510120, China
3The Second Clinical College, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou 510405, China
4Guangdong Provincial Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Guangzhou 510120, China

Received 7 December 2014; Accepted 10 March 2015

Academic Editor: Chang-Gue Son

Copyright © 2015 Meaghan Coyle et al. 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.


Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) is increasingly used by patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); however, there has been no systematic evaluation of its safety. This review examined the adverse events (AEs) reported in clinical studies of CHM for COPD. Five English databases (PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, AMED, and CENTRAL) and four Chinese databases (CBM, CNKI, CQVIP, and Wanfang Data) were searched from inception to May 2013. Adverse event data, including nature, severity, author-assigned causality, management, and outcome, were extracted from included studies. Descriptive statistics were used for the rate of adverse events. Of the 152 included studies, AEs were reported in 47 studies. The rate of adverse events was slightly lower in the CHM groups compared with controls (84 events in 5,909 participants, 1.4% versus 102 events in 5,676 participants, 1.8%). The most frequently reported adverse event was nausea (28 cases in the CHM groups and 19 cases in the control groups), which was more common in studies where CHM was combined with pharmacotherapy to treat acute exacerbation of COPD. Other frequent adverse events were abdominal discomfort, dry mouth, and dizziness. Detailed information about the adverse events was scant. Overall, CHM appears to be well tolerated in people with COPD.