St. John's Wort No Match for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Mayo Clinic researchers have found that St. John's wort is not effective at treating irritable bowel syndrome.

American Journal of Gastroenterology

, have found that St. John’s wort is not effective at treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The study, the first to look at use of the herbal supplement in treating IBS, sought to expand upon the frequent use of antidepressants to treat IBS.

“Several of the chemical neurotransmitters that are in the brain are also in the colon,” said Yuri Saito, MD, MPH, gastroenterologist and lead physician scientist on the study. “Therefore, it's been thought that antidepressants may affect sensation in the colon in a similar way to how they affect sensation in the brain. Our goal was to evaluate the usefulness of St John's wort in treating IBS."

Following 3 months of observing symptoms like stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating in 70 participants with IBS (86% women, median age 42 years) who were randomized to St. John’s wort or placebo, the researchers found that those in the placebo group actually experienced a better response that those in the St. John’s wort group.

“Because people tend to struggle with IBS for several years, patients are really looking for inexpensive, over-the-counter treatments such as St. John's wort," explained Saito. "Unfortunately, our study showed that St. John's wort was not successful in helping IBS patients. The challenge with IBS is that there is no cure, no one treatment tends to be wholly effective and some treatments come with significant side effects. However, well-designed studies of herbal supplements are important so that physicians and patients can make informed decisions about which supplements to recommend or try. Studies of alternative treatments are generally lacking and patients are forced to use a ‘trial and error’ approach to over-the-counter treatments for their IBS."

Learn more about the study at the Mayo Clinic website.

Mayo Clinic researchers, who published their study results in the January issue of the