Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), although actually an ancient form of healing, is an up-and-coming practice in our modern use of alternative medicine. However, not all TCM remedies can stand their ground when tested by researchers. A recent study showed that a herbal mixture used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) might not work.
IBS, which occurs in 10 to 15% of the population, is a disorder affecting the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms of this extremely disruptive syndrome include continuous or reoccurring gas, bloating, cramping, loose stool, diarrhea and/or constipation, and more frequent bowel movements.
In TCM, herbs are a major treatment option for many different diseases. One herbal mixture, which is called “Tong Xie Yao Fang,” is commonly prescribed for the treatment of by TCM practitioners. The medicinal concoction, made up of 11 different herbs, was recently tested in a study conducted at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The researchers looked at 119 IBS sufferers, with diarrhea as the major symptom. The participants were diagnosed by doctors following Western medicine methods and by TCM practitioners. The study participants were split into two groups: 60 people took Tong Xie Yao Fang dissolved in hot water; 59 took a placebo mixture that looked and tasted similar. Both groups took their respective concoctions twice a day for eight weeks.
The researchers followed up with the study participants when their eight-week treatment ended and then once more eight weeks after that. At both points, researchers found no significant difference between the group taking the herb and the group taking the placebo when it came to improved symptoms of IBS or overall quality of life.
While these results are disappointing for TCM proponents, they do not count Tong Xie Yao Fang out entirely. Since the medicine is composed of so many herbs, there could be variants in different batches that may be effective. After all, we’re not talking about something manufactured in a factory here! More testing is required to confirm or refute these negative results.
It’s also important to note that the positive placebo results were higher in this study than in others; meaning that, even though there was no major difference between the results in TCM patients and placebo patients, there still was an IBS symptom improvement noted.