Chinese medicinal herbs for measles

Measles (rubeola) is an infectious disease caused by multiplication of a single-strand ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus of the genus Morbillivirus in the upper respiratory tract and conjunctiva. It can lead to serious complications and death. Chinese herbal medicines are believed to be effective in alleviating symptoms and shortening the duration of measles, and are widely used as the main or adjunctive therapy to treat measles in China and other countries.

The review authors found a large number of clinical studies providing evidence of Chinese herbal medicines in the treatment of measles. Some of these reports claimed to be randomised controlled trials. However, after telephone interviewing 32 trial authors, we found that none of them used acceptable randomisation procedures to allocate participants and 34 studies included participants with measles complicated with other diseases, for example, pneumonia. Ten trials were non-randomised controlled studies and four trials require further classification. In this update, we were unable to include any randomised controlled trial for assessment. Although no trials were included, the authors reviewed the articles and found no reports of adverse events in the use of Chinese herbal medicines for treating measles. High-quality and large trials are needed.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is no RCT evidence for or against Chinese medicinal herbs as a treatment for measles. We hope high-quality, robust RCTs in this field will be conducted in the future.

Read the full abstract...

Measles is an infectious disease caused by the Morbillivirus. Chinese physicians believe that medicinal herbs are effective in alleviating symptoms and preventing complications. Chinese herbal medicines are dispensed according to the particular symptoms. This is the second update of a Cochrane Review first published in 2006.


To assess the effectiveness and possible adverse effects of Chinese medicinal herbs for measles.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Clinical Trials (CENTRAL Issue 1, 2011) which contains the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group's Specialised Register, MEDLINE (1966 to March week 5, 2011), EMBASE (1980 to April 2011), Web of Science (2005 to 30 April 2011), AMED (1985 to 30 April 2011), Chinese Biomedical Database (1976 to 30 June 2011), VIP Information (1989 to 30 June 2011), China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) (1976 to 30 June 2011), Chinese Journals full-article database (1994 to 30 June 2011) and the metaRegister of Controlled Trials for ongoing trials.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of Chinese medicinal herbs in patients with measles (without complications).

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors (SC, TW) independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. We telephone interviewed the trial authors for missing information regarding participant allocation. Some trials allocated participants according to the sequence they were admitted to the trials, that is to say, by using a pseudo-random allocation method. None of the trials concealed the allocation or used blinding methods.

Main results: 

We did not identify any suitable trials for inclusion. In this updated review we identified 80 trials which claimed to use random allocation. We contacted 32 trial authors by telephone and learned that the allocation methods used were not randomised. We excluded 34 studies because the participants experienced complications such as pneumonia. We excluded 10 trials because of non-random allocation and complications experienced by the participants. We were unable to contact the remaining four trials' authors, so they require further assessment and have been allocated to the 'Studies awaiting classification' section.