7 Eastern and Western Herbs for Ulcerative Colitis: New Evidence

Ulcerative Colitis Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

7 Eastern and Western Herbs for Ulcerative Colitis: New Evidence

Dr. Eric Viegas, ND

What is UC?

Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a form of irritable bowel disease that targets the end of the large intestine; most notably the rectum and anus. With significant inflammation of the innermost layer of gut tissue, Ulcerative Colitis causes bloody stools, abdominal pain, weight loss, fever, dehydration, and frequent urges to have a bowel movement.[1]


Some UC bowel movements are “false urges”; this means that although the need to pass stool feels urgent, very little is passed into the toilet bowl. Inflammation is the main culprit in false urges.


There will be periods of time where Ulcerative Colitis sufferers will be in symptom “remission”; their bowel movements will improve along with their quality of life, but the tissue in their colon will still be inflamed. Stress and diet triggers will often cause relapses for people with UC.[1]


Complications of UC include anemia and colorectal cancer. Relapses are frequent, so doctors and patients must work together to reduce inflammation and pain to improve quality of life.


Medications, nutritional supplements, herbs, diet, and surgery are all useful tools for individual cases of UC. Unfortunately, no cure exists, but with the proper diet and lifestyle choices the risk of UC relapse can be reduced.


A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine looked at common western and eastern herbal medicines, their effect on relapse rates, and the rates of symptomatic & endoscopic remission in people with UC.


The researchers sifted through 3050 studies and filtered their search to include only the best evidence. In the end, 29 randomized controlled trials that included over 1800 people with UC were selected.


Five single-herb remedies were effective in reducing the risk of relapse, maintaining symptom remission, in UC:


  1. Curcumin

Ulcerative Colitis Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

The first herbal therapy, is called curcumin. Curcumin is an extract of the spice turmeric (aka curcuma longa), and the recent surge in popularity of “turmeric lattes” may prove beneficial to people with UC.


Curcumin was shown to maintain remission of UC up to six months, and was also beneficial in improving quality of life during active UC.[2]


The traditional use of turmeric is as an anti-inflammatory agent for joint pain and liver dysfunction. It is no surprise then, that curcumin is an effective anti-inflammatory for UC.


  1. Silymarin

Ulcerative Colitis Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

Silymarin, the anti-inflammatory component of the seeds of milk thistle (aka silybum marianum) also demonstrated remission maintenance in people with UC for up to six months.[2]


Traditionally, silymarin has been used to regenerate diseased liver cells and improve liver function.


  1. Aloe Vera Gel

Ulcerative Colitis Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

Aloe vera gel, a commonly used botanical for painful sunburns, was shown to help achieve symptom remission in active UC.[2]


The gel is found inside the long leaves of the aloe vera plant and has been used traditionally as an anti-inflammatory agent for digestive concerns such as ulcers.


Aloe has also demonstrated an ability to stimulate connective tissue formation and wound healing.


  1. Cannabis Oil

Ulcerative Colitis Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

A proprietary extract of cannabinoids from cannabis sativa oil, known as GWP42003, was helpful in achieving symptom remission in UC.[2]


Although still not legal for use as an over the counter remedy, these promising results in UC gives hope for the eventual legalization and greater accessibility of medical marijuana oils in Canada.


Speak with your doctor to find out if this is the right treatment for you.


  1. Andrographis

Ulcerative Colitis Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

Andrographis paniculata, known as the “king of bitters” in India, is a good digestive tonic for certain cases of gastrointestinal disease. Andrographis was also helpful in achieving symptom remission in active UC.[2]


Commonly used to fight against cold and flu symptoms, andrographis has anti-viral properties and is now found in most herbal cold and flu remedies.


  1. EGCG

Ulcerative Colitis Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

Finally, it’s a good idea to grab a cup of green tea. Epigallocatechin-3-galate (EGCG) is an antioxidant found in green tea, and people taking EGCG were more likely to achieve Ulcerative Colitis symptom remission than those taking placebo.[2]


Another useful property of green tea is the anti-anxiety effect of theanine; an amino acid exclusive to green tea that promotes a relaxed state while not compromising alertness.


UC sufferers often experience mood disorders as a consequence of their disease, so a few cups of green tea a day can go a long way to promote a better quality of life.


  1. Traditional Chinese Medicine

In combination with standard drug therapy, the chinese herbal formulas Chan Yu ning syrup/granule, Gu chang zhi xie wan, and Kui jie ling granules, were all shown to improve both symptoms and gut inflammation in active cases of UC.[2]


Licensed acupuncturists and traditional chinese medicine doctors use their knowledge of pathology and organ systems to formulate an herbal preparation that is individualized to your specific needs.


Everyone is different, and their responses to stressors are different; TCM takes this into account with the use of botanicals and acupuncture to improve health and wellbeing.


With a long history of botanical medicines in cultures around the world, it is no surprise that herbal remedies exist to treat some of the most prevalent gastrointestinal diseases we face today.


For more information on Ulcerative Colitis and to find out which remedies are right for you, speak with your naturopathic doctor.




  1. Garud S., Peppercorn MA. Review: ulcerative colitis: current treatment strategies and future prospects. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology 2009; 2(2): 99-108.
  2. Kim Seoyeon, Lee Byung-Hee, Zhang Xiuyu, Park JaeWoo, Lee Sle, Lee Hyangsook. Adjunctive herbal medicine therapy for inflammatory bowel disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.European Journal of Integrative Medicine

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