Traditional Chinese medicinal herbs for chronic fatigue

Treatment options for idiopathic chronic fatigue are limited. This review attempted to examine the use of traditional Chinese herbal remedies for this condition. Although some studies investigating traditional Chinese herbs for were found for chronic fatigue syndrome, no studies met the inclusion criteria. Choice of inclusion criteria was intended to narrow inclusion to methodologically rigourous and meaningful studies. Methodological limitations in the studies identified, such as type of control used and study design, limited the usefulness of the data

Authors' conclusions: 

Although studies examining the use of TCM herbal products for chronic fatigue were located, methodologic limitations resulted in the exclusion of all studies. Of note, many of the studies labelled as RCTs and conducted in China did not utilize rigorous randomization procedures. Improvements in methodology in future studies is required for meaningful synthesis of data.

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Chronic fatigue is increasingly common. Conventional medical care is limited in treating chronic fatigue, leading some patients to use traditional Chinese medicine therapies, including herbal medicine.


To assess the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine herbal products in treating idiopathic chronic fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Search strategy: 

The following databases were searched for terms related to traditional Chinese medicine, chronic fatigue, and clinical trials: CCDAN Controlled Trials Register (July 2009), MEDLINE (1966-2008), EMBASE (1980-2008), AMED (1985-2008), CINAHL (1982-2008), PSYCHINFO (1985-2008), CENTRAL (Issue 2 2008), the Chalmers Research Group PedCAM Database (2004), VIP Information (1989-2008), CNKI (1976-2008), OCLC Proceedings First (1992-2008), Conference Papers Index (1982-2008), and Dissertation Abstracts (1980-2008). Reference lists of included studies and review articles were examined and experts in the field were contacted for knowledge of additional studies.

Selection criteria: 

Selection criteria included published or unpublished randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of participants diagnosed with idiopathic chronic fatigue or chronic fatigue syndrome comparing traditional Chinese medicinal herbs with placebo, conventional standard of care (SOC), or no treatment/wait lists. The outcome of interest was fatigue.

Data collection and analysis: 

13 databases were searched for RCTs investigating TCM herbal products for the treatment of chronic fatigue. Over 2400 references were located. Studies were screened and assessed for inclusion criteria by two authors.

Main results: 

No studies that met all inclusion criteria were identified.