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Analysis of Chinese herbal creams prescribed for dermatological conditions

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 27 February 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:563
  1. F MKeane, specialist registrar in dermatology, (FionaKeane99{at},
  2. S E Munn, senior registrar in dermatology,
  3. A W P du Vivier, consultant dermatologist,
  4. N F Taylor, clinical biochemist,
  5. E M Higgins, senior lecturer in dermatology.
  1. Departments of Dermatology and Clinical Biochemistry, King's College Hospital, London SE5 9RS
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Keane


    Abstract Objective: To determine whether Chinese herbal creams used for the treatment of dermatological conditions contain steroids.

    Design: 11 herbal creams obtained from patients attending general and paediatric dermatology outpatient clinics were analysed with high resolution gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.

    Setting: Departments of dermatology and clinical biochemistry.

    Main outcome measure: Presence of steroid.

    Results: Eight creams contained dexamethasone at a mean concentration of 456μg/g (range 64to 1500μg/g). All were applied to areas of sensitive skin such as face and flexures.

    Conclusion: Greater regulation needs to be imposed on Chinese herbalists to prevent illegal and inappropriate prescribing of potent steroids.

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