Anti-Inflammatory Herbs for Abdominal Pain
Individual suffering from a stomach ache
In 2016, The Institute of Digestive Diseases in China along with two schools of Chinese medicine published a review on Chinese herbal medicine for functional abdominal pain syndrome. The review analyzed the effectiveness of Chinese herbs to help relieve the continuous abdominal pain. However, more high-quality human clinical studies are necessary to further show how Chinese herbal medicine can help abdominal pain.
Researchers in 2011 found that the extract of Pluchea sagittalis (Lam. Cabrera) is pain relieving and gastroprotective. The herb reduces abdominal constrictions and releases chemicals related to pain.
In rats, the extract was found to protect gastric lesions normally produced by ethanol intake. Pluchea sagittalis increased the mucous levels in the rat’s stomachs to protect it from the ethanol.
Piper tuberculatum and Neurolaena lobata are two other herbs that help relieve pain through their anti-inflammatory actions.
Researchers in 2009 found that the oral administration of Piper tobaculum relieved pain by inhibiting the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals such as TNF-alpha, IL-1-beta, and IL-8.
Additionally, researchers in 1998 found Neurolaena lobata to relieve abdominal pain through a similar mechanism produced by morphine.
The Power of Si Ni San
Si Ni San is a formula in traditional Chinese medicine consisting of four herbs: Bupleuri radix (Chaihu), Paeoniae radix alba (Shaoyao), Aurantii fructus immaturus (Zhishi), and Glycyrrhizae radix et Rhisoma (Gancao). These herbs target disturbances in GI reflux and irritation.
A systematic review and meta-analysis in 2015 explored Si Ni San as an intervention for patients with upper GI disorders, lower GI disorders, and functional dyspepsia. Upper GI disorders included gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcer while lower GI disorders include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis.
The review analyzed 83 studies with a total of 7,762 participants. The research reported outcomes based on symptoms relief, GI endoscopy, radiology, and pathology. The study suggested that Si Ni San significantly improved all three disorders, especially lower GI disorders.
Because Si Ni San can target GI issues along the entire GI tract, This formula is incredibly helpful for a large range of GI pathologies!
A Look at Functional Dyspepsia Pain
Individual suffering from a stomach ache
In functional dyspepsia, indigestion occurs without an obvious cause. An individual may feel pain or burning in the stomach after eating. Physicians may recommend a prokinetic or a proton pump inhibitor for functional dyspepsia. Prokinetics strive to increase motility in the stomach to support digestion. However these pharmaceuticals have limited effectiveness for functional dyspepsia.
A systematic review of systematic reviews in 2018 collected research from 14 systematic reviews analyzing Chinese herbal medicine as a stand-alone therapy or adjunct therapy with pharmaceuticals for functional dyspepsia. The research focused on three Chinese herbal formulas: Si Ni San, Xiao Yao San, and Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi.
The review found Chinese herbal medicine to be an effective alternative for functional dyspepsia symptoms. Notably, the herbal formulas were found to be more effective than prokinetic drugs for the alleviation of dyspeptic symptoms.
An analysis of randomized controlled trials in 2012 looked at Liu Jun Zi Tang (LJZT) and Xiang Shau Liu Jun Zi Tang (XSLJZT) in comparison to prokinetic pharmaceuticals for functional dyspepsia. Similarly to the previous study, this analysis found evidence that both herbal formulas improved dyspepsia symptoms more so than the prokinetic drugs.
The researchers’ findings supported the effective use of LJZT and XSLJZT as therapies of functional dyspepsia. The study did not find side effects for these herbal formulas. Controversially, prokinetic drugs cause side effects such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and even an upset stomach. Aren’t those the symptoms you are trying to relieve in the first place?
IBS Related Stomach Pain
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) manifests as abdominal pain and a change in bowel habits. The syndrome can be quite disruptive to an individual’s day because not only is it painful, but an individual may find themselves needing to excuse themselves to go to the bathroom often and/or sit in pain because they cannot find relief.
A recent meta-analysis published in 2021 found Chinese herbal medicine to be an effective therapy for abdominal pain in individuals with IBS. The analysis included 57 randomized controlled trials.
The researchers concluded that Chinese herbal medicine can relieve not only IBS-related abdominal pain, but also improve overall IBS symptoms.
A similar meta-analysis in 2021 attempted to identify the most effective Chinese herbal medicines to relieve IBS symptoms. The researchers found Jianpi-Chushi to produce the most significant improvement in overall symptom relief and Shugan-Jianpi to be the most effective in relieving abdominal pain and abdominal distension.
Chinese herbal medicine
Abdominal pain and stomach aches may be due to spasms in the stomach. Antispasmodics are drugs that help calm smooth muscle contractions in the GI tract.
A review in 2021 identified natural herbal remedies that can reduce spasmodic pain without toxicity and side effects. The researchers identified 13 natural antispasmodics and explained their related mechanisms of action.
One example is Glycyrrhiza uralensis, commonly known as Chinese liquorice. Glycycoumarin, an isolate from the herb, inhibits the spasmodic activity of carbamylcholine, a chemical that normally induces contractions in the middle of the small intestine.
This study showed significant efficacy for these herbs to manage spasmodic disorders and related stomach pain.
Abdominal pain is caused by a variety of insults, from food poisoning to chronic irritable bowel syndrome. Chinese herbal medicine offers a plethora of effective formulas for abdominal pain relief. The above studies show how these formulas not only offer significant pain relief but also may be even more effective than some pharmaceutical alternatives.