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Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of allergic diseases

Author
Xiu-Min Li, MD
Section Editor
Scott H Sicherer, MD, FAAAAI
Deputy Editor
Elizabeth TePas, MD, MS

INTRODUCTION

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) includes herbal therapy, acupuncture, massage, and dietary therapy. These practices originated in China and have been used in East Asia for centuries as a part of mainstream medical care. TCM is beginning to play a role in Western healthcare as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

This topic will discuss Chinese herbal therapy for asthma, atopic dermatitis (AD), and food allergy. These therapies are considered experimental from the standpoint of conventional medicine. Overviews of herbal medicine and use of CAM in pediatrics are presented separately. Acupuncture for the treatment of asthma and allergic rhinitis is also discussed separately. (See "Overview of herbal medicine and dietary supplements" and "Overview of complementary and alternative medicine in pediatrics" and "Pharmacotherapy of allergic rhinitis", section on 'Adjunctive and other therapies' and "Complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies for asthma", section on 'Acupuncture'.)

OVERVIEW

The prevalence of allergic disorders such as asthma, atopic dermatitis (AD), and food allergy has increased dramatically in industrialized countries over the past several decades. Atopic diseases are a serious public health problem, particularly in children. Conventional therapies, such as glucocorticoids, are widely used in controlling asthma and AD. However, these therapies are not completely effective in all patients, and there are concerns about side effects, especially in children. In addition, there is no curative treatment for food allergy, just rescue treatment of reactions. These and other issues have led patients and their families to seek complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a long history of use in China and other Asian countries, such as Japan and Korea. TCM has several features that differ significantly from Western medicine:

TCM practice does not focus only on the disease or a single organ. Rather, it also focuses on establishing and maintaining the balance of yin-yang (two opposite, but complementary forces), the homeostasis of organ systems in the body, and interactions with the environment [1]. The concepts and terminology of TCM cannot be easily translated to Western medicine.

                     

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Literature review current through: Nov 2016. | This topic last updated: Mon Nov 30 00:00:00 GMT+00:00 2015.
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