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Effects of 5 Chinese herbs on intestinal bacteria

Chinese herbs

Chinese herbs

The use of traditional Chinese herbs is increasing due to their effectiveness and limited side effects.  Published literature suggests a correlation with the efficacy of herbs and their impact on probiotic bacteria, especially for digestive and immune conditions.  The most common probiotic bacteria in the gut are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.

The following is a list of common Chinese herbs and their impact on intestinal bacteria.  Schisandra, astragalus, and goji are tonic herbs that are excellent at building the immune system.  Honeysuckle flower and coptis root are cooling herbs that are better suited for active colds or flus.

  1. Schisandra Berry

Schisandra berry has been shown to promote the growth of Bifidobacterium infantis by 50%.   In cirrhotic rats, schisandra significantly increased Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli as well as increasing Escheria coli and Enterococcus.

  1. Astragalus Root

The in vitro effect of astragalus on Bifidobacteria promoted bacterial growth by 12.5%.  This study showed an exponential effect on concentration of astragalus and Bifidobacteria growth.

  1. Goji Berry

In the same study as schisandra, goji berries were shown to promote B. infantis growth by 40.5%.

  1. Honeysuckle Flower

In allergic mice, a water extract of honeysuckle flower extremely significantly increased both Bifidobacteria and Lactobaccilli.  It also extremely significantly reduced E. coli, significantly reduced Staphylococcus, and had no effect on Enterococcus.

  1. Coptis Root

A water decoction of coptis root given to antibiotic interference mice extremely significantly increased growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, as well as E. coli and Enterococcus.  It was observed that at a low dose, coptis root competitively inhibited the growth of pathogenic intestinal bacteria, but at a higher dose for a long period of time coptis root had an antibiotic effect.

This is an exciting intersection of biomedicine with TCM that points to one mechanism of effectiveness of traditional Chinese herbs.


Sources: Chen T, Xiong S, Jiang S, et al.  Effects of traditional Chinese medicine on intestinal bacteria: a review. Indian Journal of Trad Knowledge.  Vol. 11 (3), Jul 2012, pp 401-407.

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