Review article: herbal treatment in gastrointestinal and liver disease—benefits and dangers

Authors

  • L. Langmead,

    1. Academic Department of Adult & Paediatric Gastroenterology, St Bartholomew’s & the Royal London School of Medicine & Dentistry, London, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • D. S. Rampton

    1. Academic Department of Adult & Paediatric Gastroenterology, St Bartholomew’s & the Royal London School of Medicine & Dentistry, London, UK
    Search for more papers by this author

Correspondence to: Dr Rampton Endoscopy Unit, Royal London Hospital, London E1 1BB, UK. E-mail: drampton@mds.qmw.ac.uk

Abstract

Herbal medicines are now used by up to 50% of the Western population, in a substantial minority of instances for the treatment or prevention of digestive disorders. Although most indications for the use of such remedies are anecdotally or traditionally derived, controlled trials suggest some benefits for ginger in nausea and vomiting, liquorice extracts in peptic ulceration, Chinese herbal medicine in irritable bowel syndrome, opium derivatives in diarrhoea and senna, ispaghula and sterculia in constipation. Herbal preparations contain many bioactive compounds with potentially deleterious as well as beneficial effects.

There is clearly a need for greater education of patients and doctors about herbal therapy, for legislation to control the quality of herbal preparations, and in particular for further randomized controlled trials to establish the value and safety of such preparations in digestive and other disorders.

Ancillary