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Int J Dermatol. 1999 May;38(5):387-92.

A controlled trial of traditional Chinese herbal medicine in Chinese patients with recalcitrant atopic dermatitis.

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Department of Health, the Chinese Medicinal Material Research Center, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.



There have been published reports from the United Kingdom of good responses to the use of traditional Chinese herbal medicine (Zemaphyte, Phytopharm Plc, Cambridge, UK) in treating recalcitrant atopic dermatitis. We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study among Chinese patients with recalcitrant atopic dermatitis using this same herbal preparation.


Forty patients were recruited. They were given Zemaphyte and placebo in random order, each for 8 consecutive weeks with a 4-week wash-out period in between. Scores based on the severity and extent of four clinical parameters (erythema, surface damage, lichenification and scaling) were recorded at baseline and at 4-weekly intervals throughout the 20-week trial period.


Thirty-seven patients completed the trial. There was a general trend of clinical improvement with time throughout the trial period in both patient groups, irrespective of whether they received Zemaphyte or placebo first. Zemaphyte, however, offered no statistically significant treatment effect over placebo for all four clinical parameters, except for lichenification at week 4. There were no significant carry-over effects. Blood tests for hematologic, renal and liver functions were all normal throughout the trial.


Zemaphyte did not seem to benefit Chinese patients with recalcitrant atopic dermatitis in our study. Further research is required to evaluate its efficacy.

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