What the research tells us

The fact Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) has such a long-established tradition means we have hundreds of years of empirical evidence (based on observation) that it is effective. It's natural, though, that with biomedicine now the dominant system of healthcare in most parts of the world, CHM has increasingly been subject to investigation using modern, evidence-based research. And yet many of these studies have produced robust scientific evidence of what centuries of use in China (as well as decades of use in the West) have indicated to practitioners: that CHM is an effective healthcare choice in the treatment of a wide range of conditions.

As the UK's only organisation with a particular focus on Chinese Herbal Medicine, the RCHM leads on making research on the effectiveness of this form of Chinese Medicine accessible to an English-speaking audience. As part of this commitment, we work with the Centre for Evidence-Based Chinese Medicine in Beijing (based at the city's University of Chinese Medicine) and the Southampton Complementary Medicine Trust, firstly to identify high-quality trials conducted in China, and then to translate their findings into English for review.

Leading studies include those on IBS and Dermatitis, as well as Chinese herbal medicine used during Chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Research into COVID-19, SARS and Seasonal Influenza

The RCHM is keenly monitoring the research and reports of the use of Traditional Herbal Medicine in the fight against the current COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst many of these reports are encouraging, please be aware that resources regarding the treatment of Covid-19 are for informational purposes only. The RCHM does not recommend that practitioners claim to be treating or preventing Covid-19 at this stage.

Diagnosis and Treatment Protocol for Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia - National Health Commission & State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine on March 3, 2020 - Open PDF

Clinical characteristics and therapeutic procedure for four caseswith 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia receiving combined Chinese and Western medicine treatment - Link to study

Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Treatment of Patients Infected with 2019-New Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2): A Review and Perspective. Yang, Y, et al. nt J Biol Sci 2020; 16(10):1708-1717. doi - Link to study

Can Chinese Medicine Be Used for Prevention of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)? - A Review of Historical Classics, Research Evidence and Current Prevention Programs - Link to study

Antiviral Action of Tryptanthrin Isolated from Strobilanthes cusia Leaf against Human Coronavirus NL63 - Link to study

Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Treatment of Patients Infected with 2019 - New Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2): A Review and Perspective - Link to study

Traditional Chinese medicine for COVID-19 treatment - Link to study

Research studies into specific uses for Chinese Herbal Medicine


Safety and Tolerability of an Antiasthma Herbal Formula (ASHMI) in Adult Subjects with Asthma: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled, Dose-Escalation Phase I Study

Complementary and alternative medicines are increasingly used for the treatment of asthma in Western countries. A novel three-herb antiasthma herbal medicine intervention (ASHMI; Sino-Lion Pharmaceutical Company; Shan Dong China) was demonstrated to be effective and safe in a murine model of asthma and in a preliminary clinical study in China.

Link to the study

Urinary Tract Infections

Acute urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common bacterial infection that affects 40% to 50% of women. Between 20% and 30% of women who have had a UTI will experience a recurrence, and around 25% will develop ongoing recurrent episodes with implications for individual well-being and healthcare costs. Prophylactic antibiotics can prevent recurrent UTIs but there are growing concerns about microbial resistance and side effects from treatment. This review assesses Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of recurrent UTIs both as a stand-alone therapy and in conjunction with other pharmaceutical interventions.

Link to the review

Antimicrobial Resistance

A paper from the European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (EHTPA) for the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology’s antimicrobial resistance (AMR) inquiry.

In light of growing concerns relating to microbial resistance to antibiotics increasing attention is being given to the role that herbal medicines may play as autonomous antibacterial agents or as adjuvant treatments used to potentiate conventional drugs. This paper selectively reviews the evidence for herbal medicine as a valuable resource to combat bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Download the paper

Research on herbal medicine in general

Herbal medicines are frequently used in the treatment of long-term conditions which are inadequately managed by conventional biomedicine. These have been termed ‘effectiveness gaps’ and include many of the chronic degenerative diseases that are now making the most pressing demands on healthcare systems in the developed world. Herbal medicine may be used autonomously in these contexts or to support biomedical treatment and counteract the side-effects of conventional drug therapy.

The link below is a selective review of evidence for the effectiveness of herbal medicine generally (so not just that practised within the Chinese tradition) conducted in 2014 on behalf of the European Herbal and Medicine Practitioners Association (EHTPA) here.

Download the review

Research on acupuncture

There has been considerable debate over the results of research conducted on the effectiveness of acupuncture. The mechanisms and effects of this form of treatment are complex and still relatively poorly understood, and researchers have found it difficult to study acupuncture using standard evidence-based research methods. Despite this, some positive evidence is beginning to emerge from the thousands of studies that have been made of acupuncture's use in treating different conditions. The RCHM wholeheartedly supports the work of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) and Evidence Based Acupuncture in collating and promoting the research base as it emerges.

Link to the BAcC's Research Fact Sheets