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Singapore Med J. 1996 Dec;37(6):645-51.

Traditional Chinese medicine and treatment of neonatal jaundice.

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  • 1Department of Neonatology 1, Kandang Kerbau Hospital, Singapore.



Treatment with herbs may increase the risk of neonatal jaundice (NNJ). It is logical to look into the current practice in some hospitals in China where herbs are being used in the treatment of NNJ. It is also the purpose of this study to find out the chemical constituents and actions of the herbs, and the rationale of the treatment.


Twenty reports, from 1973 to 1989, from different parts of China, come in a published book and the paediatric journals written in the Chinese language. The Zhong Yao Da Zi Dian, an encyclopedia of Chinese materia medica, and other books on the pharmacology and applications of Chinese materia medica were also referred to in the study.


Yin-chen (oriental wormwood or Artemisia) was the most commonly used herbs for NNJ (95%). Others were Da-huang (rhubarb or Rheum officinale), Huang-qin (skullcap root or Scutellaria), Gan-cao (licorice or glycyrrhiza) and Huang-lian (goldthread rhizome or Copts chinesis). Huang-lian, which contains the alkaloid berberine, was used in 4 centers (20%). Berberine can cause severe acute hemolysis in babies with G6PD deficiency. Currently, Yin-chen comes as a decoction Artemisia composita and an intravenous preparation. These preparations have potential central nervous system and cardiovascular toxicities.


Chinese herbs have many pharmacological substances and therefore multiple actions. In recent years, Chinese herbs are used in conjunction with "Western" drugs, rendering the study of the effects of herbs on NNJ extremely difficult. The efficacy and safety of phototherapy for NNJ have been firmly established, thus diminishing the need for drug treatment. What is the present day role, therefore, of herbal medicine for NNJ? Is there a place for further research of these herbal medicines?

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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