Patients with active ulcerative colitis may be able to reduce symptoms and achieve remission by taking a plant-based treatment combining the herbal compounds curcumin and qingdai, preliminary results from a new study suggest.

Curcumin is the main compound in the spice turmeric, and has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Qingdai, also called Indigo naturalis, can be extracted from several different plants and also has a long history of medicinal use. While some previous research suggests these substances may be beneficial for ulcerative colitis patients, results have been mixed, some safety issues have been raised, and most of the studies have been too small and too brief to draw broad conclusions.

The new study explored the safety and effectiveness of these compounds with three separate tests. In the first part of the study, 10 ulcerative colitis patients took a combination of curcumin and qingdai for four weeks. Seven people had a clinical response — meaning their symptoms became less frequent or severe — and three people achieved remission, according to preliminary study findings presented at the Crohn’s and Colitis Congress 2023 in Denver.

For the second part of the trial, 42 ulcerative colitis patients were randomly assigned to take either a placebo or a combination of curcumin and qingdai for eight weeks. Eighty-six percent of patients on the herbal treatments had a clinical response, compared with 31 percent on placebo.

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