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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Mar 14;(3):CD004877. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004877.pub3.

Chinese medicinal herbs for sore throat.

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West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China.



Chinese herbal medicines are commonly used to treat sore throat in China and are used worldwide by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Their efficacy in treating sore throat has not previously been systematically reviewed.


To assess the efficacy and safety of Chinese herbal medicines for patients with sore throat.


We searched CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2011) which contains the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group's Specialised Register; MEDLINE (1966 to week 3, November 2011); EMBASE (1980 to December 2011); AMED (1985 to December 2011); the Chinese Biomedical Database (CBM) (1975 to December 2011); and China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) (1994 to December 2011).


We included randomised controlled trial (RCTs) assessing Chinese herbal medicines for the treatment of sore throat, with the outcomes of recovery, inefficacy, and adverse events.


The three review authors extracted and analysed the data. One review author contacted the study authors of potential RCTs.


We included 12 studies involving 1954 participants. We identified ten studies as being of methodologically poor quality and two studies as being of medium quality. We did not perform a meta-analysis but reported the results separately. Six formulations were shown to be superior to the control in improving recovery: Ertong Qingyan Jiere Koufuye was more effective than Fufang Shuanghua Koufuye for acute pharyngitis (odds ratio (OR) 2.52; 95% confidence interval (Cl) 1.11 to 5.74); Yanhouling mixture was more effective than gentamicin atomised inhalation for acute pharyngitis (OR 5.39; 95% CI 2.69 to 10.81); Qinganlan Liyan Hanpian was more effective than Fufang Caoshanhu Hanpian for acute pharyngitis (OR 2.25; 95% CI 1.08 to 4.67); sore throat capsules were more effective than antibiotics (intravenous cefalexin) for acute pharyngitis or acute tonsillitis (OR 2.36; 95% CI 1.01 to 5.51); compound dandelion soup was more effective than sodium penicillin for acute purulent tonsillitis (OR 5.06; 95% CI 1.70 to 15.05); and eliminating heat by nourishing yin and relieving sore-throat methods combined with Dikuiluqan Hanpian was more effective than Dikuiluqan Hanpian alone for children with chronic pharyngitis (OR 2.63; 95% CI 1.02 to 6.79). Another six formulations were shown to be equally efficacious as the control.


Based on the existing evidence in this review, some Chinese herbal medicines for treating sore throat appeared efficacious. However, due to the lack of high quality clinical trials, the efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine for treating sore throat is controversial and questionable. Therefore we cannot recommend any kind of Chinese medical herbal formulation as an effective remedy for sore throat.

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