Chinese Herbs and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

23 April 2008

A team of researchers led by Alan Bensoussan of the University of Western Sydney Macarthur in Australia has confirmed that Chinese herbal medicine can ease the symptoms of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. It is estimated that about 10% to 20% of adults suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. The Australian research placed 116 patients with irritable bowel syndrome on one of three treatment regimens: i. individually tailored Chinese herbal therapy; ii. a standard Chinese herbal formulation; or iii. a placebo. Patients were not informed as to which of the three formulations they were receiving. The authors report that after four months of treatment, standard or individualised herbal therapies were associated with "significant improvement in bowel symptom scores". 76% of patients on standard herbal therapy and 64% of those on individualised therapy reported symptom improvement, compared with just 33% of patients in the placebo group. The researchers found little difference in initial improvement rates between those patients receiving either individualised or standard Chinese herbal therapies. But Bensoussan and colleagues suggest that individual therapies may work better over the long-term. At 14 weeks after the end of treatment "patients in the individualised treatment group ... maintained more substantial improvement" than patients in the other two groups, they report. (The Journal of the American Medical Association 1998;280:1585-1589. 2)
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