2019 Volume 13 Issue 2 Pages 117-129
Acute upper respiratory tract infections (AURTIs) are common and self-limited in people with normal immunity but sometimes lead to poor clinical outcomes under specific conditions such as pregnancy if not treated appropriately. Chinese herbal medicines (CHM), which are widely used to treat AURTIs, have proven to be effective in preclinical and clinical studies. This review focuses on the bioactivities of typical CHM and the adverse reactions they cause, and especially issues with reproductive safety when treating AURTIs. The main mechanisms for clinical efficacy may include anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and immunomodulatory action as indicated by preclinical evidence. Most clinical trials indicate that CHM shortens the natural course of AURTIs and that it relieves related symptoms such as a fever, headaches, coughing, myalgia, a cold, sore throat, and a nasal obstruction. However, some CHM have a range of adverse effects and potentially affect reproduction from endocrinal secretion to embryo development while others do not. Therefore, clinical adverse reactions and preclinical studies on the toxicity of CHM are discussed. More reliable evidence is required to conclude that CHM are efficacious and safe for pregnant women with AURTIs. This review should help to promote advances in the research on and development of CHM as alternative treatments for AURTIs and offer insight into strategies to manage the safety of CHM during clinical use.