This study aims to assess the efficacy and safety of Rehmannia glutinosa acteosides used in combination with the angiotensin receptor blocker irbesartan to treat primary chronic glomerulonephritis. A total of 479 patients diagnosed with primary chronic glomerulonephritis were recruited from outpatient clinics and were randomly assigned to the treatment group (Rehmannia glutinosa acteosides, two 200-mg capsules, bid; and irbesartan, one 150-mg tablet, qd) or the control group (irbesartan, one 150-mg tablet, qd). The primary outcome was 24-h urinary protein. Secondary outcome measures included blood pressure, estimated glomerular filtration rate, erythrocyturia, serum alanine aminotransferase, aspartate transaminase and electrolytes. After 8 weeks of treatment, the treatment group showed a mean reduction in 24-h proteinuria of 36.42% compared to baseline, which was significantly higher than the mean reduction from baseline of 27.97% in the control group (P = 0.0278).Adverse drug reactions occurred at a similarly low rate in the treatment group (0.4%) and control group (1.2%, P = 0.3724). In the treatment of chronic glomerulonephritis, the combination of Rehmannia glutinosa acteosides and irbesartan can reduce proteinuria more effectively than irbesartan alone. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.