A study which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association lends strong scientific support to the use of traditional Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome also called Spastic Colon.

The researchers who conducted the Australian study believe theirs is the first clinical trial to rigorously document the effectiveness of using Chinese herbal medicine as an IBS remedy - and the first to incorporate traditional Chinese diagnosis and treatment methods for IBS into a strictly controlled, conventional study model.

The randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study was conducted on 116 people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Recruited from private gastroenterology practices and hospitals in Sydney, Australia, the patients were diagnosed for IBS first by gastroenterologists using standard western diagnostic methods, and then by Chinese herbalists according to the principles of traditional Chinese herbal medicine.

Subjects were randomized, 43 receiving a standard Chinese herbal medicine formula "considered to regulate and strengthen bowel function", 38 were given individualized herbal medicine formulas prescribed by Chinese herbalists, and 35 received a placebo indistinguishable from the other doses.

Results were evaluated by gastroenterologists after eight weeks and again at the end of the sixteen week trial period.


home remedy

According to the physician's assessments in the trial, 78 percent of patients taking the standard Chinese herbal medicine formula and 50 percent of those receiving individualized formulas improved significantly during treatment, compared with a slight improvement in 30 percent of those taking the placebo.

Patients receiving the standard herbal formula had significantly better scores in four out of five key outcome measures. According to the physician's assessments those taking the standard herbal formula improved by 59 percent, those receiving individualized treatments with medicinal herbs improved by 40 percent, compared to 19 percent improvement in subjects taking the placebo.

The standard Chinese formula proved to be very effective in the treatment of IBS, while individualized formulas showed a lesser but still substantial degree of effectiveness.


[Bensoussan A, Talley NJ, Hing M, Menzies R, Guo A, Ngu M. Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Chinese herbal medicine. JAMA 1998; 280(18): 1585-1589.]


It has been estimated that 10 to 20 percent of Americans and Australians suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic gastrointestinal disorder. The symptoms of IBS, previously known as Spastic Colon, include abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, and disturbances in bowel function alternating from constipation to diarrhea.

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