[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Citations 0
September 15, 1999

Chinese Herbal Medicine for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Deputy EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Interim CoeditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1999;282(11):1035-1037. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-282-11-jac90008

To the Editor: The study by Mr Bensoussan et al1 demonstrated the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); however, it did not explain the possible pharmacological actions of the herbs involved.

A multitarget theory proposed by Zhou2 explains the actions of Chinese herbal formulas. Each formula, composed of multiple herbs, inherently contains multiple chemical components. Each active component, if used alone, usually enters the body at a level below that seen in therapeutic dosing. Combined, these components selectively and repeatedly interact with multiple sites and targets of a disease to achieve synergistic therapeutic responses. The multitarget theory may explain the effectiveness of treating heterogeneous disorders like IBS with CHM. Since IBS has been linked to factors such as psychological stress, abnormal colonic motor activity, dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, and biliary dyspepsia, using an herbal combination to treat various aspects of the disease seems logical.