Tongxie Formula Reduces Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

      Background & Aims

      Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common chronic gastrointestinal disorder, yet few drugs are effective in reducing symptoms. Approximately 50% of patients with IBS attempt herbal therapy at least once. We performed a randomized controlled trial to compare the efficacy of the herb formulation tongxie vs placebo or pinaverium (an antispasmodic agent) in reducing symptoms of IBS.


      We performed a trial of 1044 adult patients with IBS (based on Rome III criteria) at 5 hospitals in China, from August 2012 through January 2015. Subjects were randomly assigned (1:1:1) to groups given tongxie (a combination of A macrocephalae, P lactiflora, C reticulata, S divaricata, C pilosula, C wenyujin, C medica, and P cocos, along with other herbs, based on patient features), placebo, or pinaverium (50 mg tablets) 3 times daily for 4 weeks. Primary end points were significantly greater reductions in abdominal pain and Bristol stool score (before vs after the 4-week study period) in patients given tongxie compared with patients given placebo or pinaverium. Secondary end points were reductions in pain and stool frequencies and abdominal discomfort and its frequency.


      Subjects given tongxie had significant reductions, before vs after the study period, in all 6 symptoms assessed, compared to patients given placebo (P < .001). A significantly higher proportion of patients given tongxie had increased stool consistency (75.6%) than patients given pinaverium (50.6%), and a significantly higher proportion of patients given tongxie had fewer daily stools (72.7%) than subjects given pinaverium (58.3%) (P < .001 for both). However, significantly higher proportions of patients given pinaverium had reduced pain (63.5%) and pain frequency (69.5%) than patients given tongxie (51.4% and 58.6%, respectively; P < .005 for both).


      In a randomized controlled trial of patients with IBS in China, we found 4 weeks of tongxie to produce significantly greater reduction in symptoms than placebo, and greater increases in stool consistency and reductions in stool frequency, than patients given pinaverium. Tongxie can therefore be considered an effective alternative therapy for patients with IBS who do not respond well to conventional therapies. no: NCT01641224.


      Abbreviations used in this paper:

      IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), MOA (mechanism of action), TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), TEAE (treatment-emergent adverse effect)
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