Chinese herbs for flu treatment

For the flu season this year, you might consider Chinese herbs instead of antivirals based on the results of a study from China published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. More than 400 adults age 15-59 years with confirmed H1N1 influenza were randomized to oseltamivir 75 mg twice daily or a combination of 12 Chinese herbal medicines called maxingshigan-yinqiaosan 200 mL four times a day, a combination of oseltamivir plus maxingshigan-yinqiaosan, or placebo for 5 days. The primary outcome was time-to-fever resolution and the secondary outcomes included symptom scores and viral shedding. Both oseltamivir and maxingshigan-yinqiaosan, as well as the combination, resulted in significant reductions in the estimated median time-to-fever resolution compared to the control group (median time-to-fever resolution — no treatment 26 hours; oseltamivir 20 hours; maxingshigan-yinqiaosan 16 hours; combination 15 hours; all statistically significant at P < 0.001). Side effects were similar in all groups. The authors conclude that oseltamivir and maxingshigan-yinqiaosan, alone or in combination with each other, reduce time-to-fever resolution in patients with H1N1 influenza. They go so far as to suggest that maxingshigan-yinqiaosan may be used as an alternative treatment for H1N1 infections (Ann Int Med published online August 26, 2011). It may be difficult to obtain maxingshigan-yinqiaosan since it contains ephedra (which is not available in this country) and the authors could not determine if the benefits of maxingshigan-yinqiaosan were due to an antiviral effect or merely an antipyretic effect.