Background There have been published reports from the United Kingdom of good responses to the use of traditional Chinese herbal medicine (Zemaphyte®, Phytopharm Plc, Cambridge, UK) in treating recalcitrant atopic dermatitis. We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study among Chinese patients with recalcitrant atopic dermatitis using this same herbal preparation.
Methods Forty patients were recruited. They were given Zemaphyte® and placebo in random order, each for 8 consecutive weeks with a 4-week wash-out period in between. Scores based on the severity and extent of four clinical parameters (erythema, surface damage, lichenification and scaling) were recorded at baseline and at 4-weekly intervals throughout the 20-week trial period.
Results Thirty-seven patients completed the trial. There was a general trend of clinical improvement with time throughout the trial period in both patient groups, irrespective of whether they received Zemaphyte® or placebo first. Zemaphyte®, however, offered no statistically significant treatment effect over placebo for all four clinical parameters, except for lichenification at week 4. There were no significant carry-over effects. Blood tests for hematologic, renal and liver functions were all normal throughout the trial.
Conclusions Zemaphyte® did not seem to benefit Chinese patients with recalcitrant atopic dermatitis in our study. Further research is required to evaluate its efficacy.