Quick Study

Treating irritable bowel syndrome with St. John's wort, psoriasis with biologics

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


St. John's wort may not be a useful alternative.

THE QUESTION Antidepressants are sometimes used to treat irritable bowel syndrome. Might St. John's wort, which is sometimes used as an herbal alternative to antidepressants, relieve symptoms of the intestinal disorder?

THIS STUDY randomly assigned 70 adults, mostly women, with irritable bowel syndrome to take St. John's wort or a placebo daily. After three months, symptoms had improved in both groups, but those taking the placebo reported greater improvement, with less pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea than people taking the herb. About 62 percent of the placebo group reported "adequate relief" of symptoms, compared with 32 percent of those taking St. John's wort.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People with irritable bowel syndrome, which has symptoms that can range from mild to disabling. An estimated one in five people in the United States have irritable bowel symptoms, women more often than men.

CAVEATS Most participants had mild cases of irritable bowel; the authors indicated that the herb might be more effective against moderate to severe cases. Tablets used in the study were prepared by Enzymatic Therapy; other preparations might differ and not yield the same results. The study had too few male participants to determine whether effectiveness varied by sex.

FIND THIS STUDY January issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

LEARN MORE ABOUT irritable bowel syndrome at http://www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov and http://www.gastro.org.

-- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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