BACKGROUND/AIMS: Chinese herbal therapy has been shown to be effective in atopic eczema, although the herbal infusion is quite unpalatable. This study was designed to investigate the efficacy and palatability of a new formulation utilizing a granular freeze-dried decoction coated in lacquer, which is more acceptable to patients. The study also monitered the effect of the treatment on activated circulating lymphocytes in order to elucidate possible mechanisms of action of the therapy. METHODS: A total of 32 patients were entered into the open, parallel group, comparative study. The eczema was assessed using a standard scoring system at the start and end of the 8-week trial. Circulating activated lymphocytes were measured prior to treatment and at 8 weeks using a double-labelled fluorescent antibody technique for flow cytometer analysis. RESULTS: Only 26 patients completed the trial. There was a statistically significant reduction in erythema and surface damage scores with both treatments at 8 weeks. The percentage of CD4 and CD8 T-lymphocytes expressing the activation markers CD25 and HLA-DR were reduced after treatment in those who clinically responded but were not in those who lacked a clinical response. This did not reach statistical significance however. CONCLUSION: The study has shown that the new freeze-dried preparation of Chinese herbal therapy is as effective as the herbal infusion in atopic eczema, The activation marker studies show a trend in reduction as the eczema improves, as is seen with conventional therapy for atopic eczema
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