Chinese medicine powder, decoction as effective as Prozac

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February 11, 2007  
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CM NEWS – Chinese researchers have been able to demonstrate in a recent study that the combined use of two ancient traditional Chinese medical formulas has a similar effect of Prozac for the treatment of depression-driven somatic disorders.

The objective of the study done at the the Eighth People’s Hospital of Zhengzhou City by HT Yu is to compare the efficacy of Chinese medicine and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), fluoxetine (brand name Prozac), on somatic disorder and to explore the advantage of Chinese medicine. The two Chinese medicinal formulas used are Xiaoyao Powder (???) and Wendan Decoction (???).

Ancient TCM formula Xiaoyao Powder (???) mixes mentha (??, Bohe) with white peony root (??, Baishao ) and bupleurum root (??, Chaihu). It has been established in Chinese medicine that Xiaoyao Powder could regulate the functions of the monoamine neurotransmitters and certain hormones. Xiaoyao Powder is also said to be able to fight free radicals and improve blood circulation.

What is monoamine neurotransmitters? Monoamines in biochemistry include organic compounds with only one amino group. The most important members in this group are the neurotransmitter group catecholamines (including dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) and the indoleamine serotonin. Monoamines seem to contribute to stable moods, and an excess or deficiency of monoamines seems to cause or result from several mood disorders. Monoamines are moved into or out of cells via a class of proteins called monoamine transporters. Antidepressants and psychoactive drugs often affect the monoamine transporters rather than the monoamine itself.

Wendan Decoction is composed of pinellia rhizome (??, banxia), bamboo (??, zhuru) and hoelen (??, fu ling). In one study, the seems to be capable of “inhibiting senility”. Researchers explained that the mechanism was probably related to the inhibitation of free radical reaction and the increase of antioxidase activity.

In some cases, Wendan Decoction was adopted to treat schizophrenia, climacteric syndrome and neurasthenia, phlegm obstruction and brain malnourishment. It has also been used to treat insomnia and said to have an effect on lipid metabolism in hyperlipidemic adult rats.

In Yu’s study, patients with SD screened with Hamilton depression scale (HAMD) were randomly assigned to the fluoxetine group treated with fluoxetine 20 mg once per day administered after breakfast, and the Chinese medicine group with combination of Xiaoyao Powder and Wendan Decoction one dose a day given before supper everyday, the treatment for both groups was lasted for 8 weeks.

Clinical general impression (CGI) and symptom checklist 90 (SCL-90) were applied to evaluate the changes in symptoms before and after treatment, and a self-made rating scale was used to evaluate the adverse reaction.

Results showed that CGI score changed significantly in both groups after treatment, showed the average 2-week reduction rate of more than 30% and the average 8-week reduction rate of more than 70%.

SCL-90 scoring showed the average score of somatic factor was significantly lower in the Chinese medicine group than in the fluoxetine group with few adverse reaction.

The researchers conclude that the Xiaoyao Powder and Wendan Decoction combo indicates “noticeable superiority” in treating somatic disorder. The combo has the effect similar to that of new antidepressants with fewer side effects.

[Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2006 Dec;26(12):1114-6.]