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Open Access Research article

A nebulized complex traditional Chinese medicine inhibits Histamine and IL-4 production by ovalbumin in guinea pigs and can stabilize mast cells in vitro

Hung-Chou Chang13, Cheng-Chung Gong12, Chi-Lim Chan1 and Oi-Tong Mak14*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Life Sciences, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC

2 Department of Medical Technology, Chung Hwa University of Medicine Technology, Jen-Te, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC

3 Office of Academic Affairs, Tainan Tzu-Chi Senior High School, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC

4 Department of Healthcare Management, University of Kang Ning, 188, Sec. 5, An Chung Rd. A Nan District, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:174  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-174

Published: 13 July 2013



Traditional Chinese medicines have been used for anti-asthma treatment for several centuries in many Asian countries, and have been shown to effectively relieve symptoms. Our previous study demonstrated that a complex traditional Chinese medicine (CTCM) administered in nebulized form through the intratracheal route is effective against early-phase air-flow obstruction and can inhibit IL-5 production in ovalbumin (OVA)-sensitized guinea pigs. However, the antiasthmatic mechanisms of CTCMs are still unclear.


In this study, we examined the underlying mechanism of a CTCM that we used in our previous study in order to ascertain its function in the early-phase response to OVA challenge.

In each group, 10–12 unsensitized or OVA-sensitized guinea pigs were treated with nebulized CTCM before OVA challenge, and the airway responses of the animals to OVA were recorded. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) samples were collected 5 min after OVA challenge, and the histamine and IL-4 contents in the BALF were measured. P815 cells (a mouse mast cell line) were untreated or pretreated with CTCM or cromolyn sodium (a mast cell stabilizer), and incubated with Compound 48/80 (mast cell activator) for 9 hr. The levels of histamine and IL-4 released from the cells were quantified.


We found that the inhibition of bronchoconstriction by the CTCM was attenuated by pretreatment with propranolol, suggesting that the CTCM has a bronchodilator effect that is associated with beta-adrenergic receptor. Our results also showed that the CTCM inhibited histamine and IL-4 secretion in the OVA-induced airway hypersensitivity in guinea pigs at 5 min post-OVA challenge, and in vitro study revealed that the CTCM is able to stabilize mast cells.


In conclusion, our results suggested that the CTCM is a kind of bronchodilator and also a mast cell stabilizer. Our findings provide useful information regarding the possible mechanism of the CTCM, and show its potential for application in the treatment of allergenic airway disease.

Asthma; Nebulization; Drug delivery; Chinese medicine; Ovalbumin