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Phytomedicine. 2005 Aug;12(8):549-54.

A randomized double blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of Hochuekkito, a traditional herbal medicine, in the treatment of elderly patients with weakness N of one and responder restricted design.

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lnternal Medicine, Sunshine Tonami Hospital, Toyama, Japan.



To evaluate the effects of Hochuekkito, a traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine, in the treatment of elderly patients with general weakness. To devise a suitable study design for assessing the clinical effectiveness of traditional herbal medicines.


Fifteen elderly patients (mean +/- SD: age 78.4 +/- 7.8; m/f 3/12) participated in this study. A multicenter, prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with N of one and responder restricted design was performed. After the run-in period, the patients were divided into responders and non-responders. Only responders were entered in the study, and were randomized into three groups: an active-placebo group, a placebo-active group and an active-active group. The study consisted of two 6-week terms with a 2-week washout period in between. We assessed the Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36) and Profile of Mood States (POMS) as an endpoint of quality of life (QOL). In addition, we assessed the biodefense status by measuring the natural killer cytolytic activity (NK activity), IL-2 producing activity of peripheral lymphocytes, lymphocyte proliferating activity and lymphocyte cell-surface antigens.


The physical component summary of the SF-36 analysis significantly improved in the Hochuekkito-treated group. Four components (A-H: anger-hostility, F: fatigue, T-A: tension-anxiety, C: confusion) out of six improved in the Hochuekkito-treated group in the POMS analysis. Lymphocyte proliferating activity improved in the Hochuekkito-treated group but not significantly. Concerning the surface antigens of peripheral lymphocytes, the population of CD3 positive cells and CD3CD4 double positive cells increased in the Hochuekkito-treated group.


We revealed that Hochuekkito improved the QOL and immunological status of elderly patients with weakness by randomized controlled trial. Our study design might be useful for assessing the efficacy of traditional herbal medicine in the future.

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