Chinese medicine alleviates irritable bowel syndrome
CAMPBELLTOWN, AUSTRALIA. It is estimated that 10-20 per cent of the population of the United States and Australia suffers from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This chronic or recurrent condition is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation or diarrhea. Traditional Chinese herbal remedies are routinely used in China to treat the condition, but so far have not been generally accepted by conventional Western medicine. This may now change as medical researchers at the University of Sydney have just released a report showing that Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) is indeed effective in the treatment of IBS. Their year-long, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involved 116 patients with IBS diagnosed by gastroenterologists. The patients were randomized into three groups. The first group of 38 patients received individualized CHM (prescribed by Chinese herbalists), the second group of 43 patients received a standard CHM for IBS (supplied by Mei Yu Imports, Sydney, Australia), and the third group of 35 patients received a placebo. All participants took five capsules three times daily during the 16-week treatment period. At the end of the treatment there was a significant improvement among the patients who had received CHM. According to evaluations carried out by gastroenterologists 59 per cent of the patients in the standard CHM group had markedly improved their condition as compared to 40 per cent in the individualized CHM group and 19 per cent in the placebo group. Patients receiving CHM also reported that the treatment had resulted in the IBS causing less interference in their lives. The patients were re-evaluated 14 weeks after the end of the treatment. At this time, only the patients who had received individualized CHM still showed significant improvement. The researchers conclude that Chinese herbal medicines can be effective in the management of irritable bowel syndrome.