Presently, medical treatment for UC, a lifelong chronic inflammatory colon disorder, consists mainly of traditional drugs such as aminosalicylates, corticosteroids and immunosuppressants.
However, they have been reported to be ineffective in inhibiting disease progression, as well as responsible for a range of side effects.
Certain TCM formulas, on the other hand, are believed to have beneficial effects on UC patients.
As such, researchers from China's Jinzhou Medical University and Peking University conducted a study on how a new CIF — comprised of seven Chinese medicinal herbs: Radix Astragali Mongolici, Indigowoad root, Indigowoad leaf, Endoconcha Sepiae, Bletilla striata, Cirsium japonicum, and common Cephalanoplos herb — influenced the effects of the aminosalicylate anti-inflammatory drug mesalazine on UC.
They recruited 60 UC patients and treated them with either oral mesalazine alone, or in conjunction with a CIF enema.
They then reported that the combination of mesalazine and CIF "greatly and significantly improved the clinical symptoms and colon mucosal condition, and improved the Mayo Clinic Disease Activity Index and health-related quality of life, when compared to mesalazine alone".
One of the most significant differences between the two treatments was the decreased serum levels of TNFα (tumour necrosis factor alpha) and hypersensitivity C-reactive protein, and increased IL-4 (interleukin-4) in the patients treated with both mesalazine and CIF.
The researchers hypothesised that the combination had helped to regulate inflammation in the patients.
They added that since the release of pro-inflammatory cell infiltration and cytokines — such as TNFα — are deemed important events in UC, CIF's inhibition of TNFα could be considered a vital action mechanism in treating UC.
Another possibly crucial mechanism they noted was CIF's increase of IL-4, an anti-inflammatory factor.
They also noted that whenever the exacerbation of colitic symptoms occurred, hypersensitivity C-reactive protein in patients would rise significantly.
Treatment with CIF, however, would cause a marked reduction in the serum level of hypersensitivity C-reactive protein.
The researchers wrote: "Consistent with the previous reports, our results showed that CIF further decreased the serum level of hypersensitivity C-reactive protein compared to mesalazine alone, indicating a good treatment effect of CIF on UC."
They then concluded that "the present results demonstrate that CIF exerted a beneficial effect on UC patients in combination with classical mesalazine".
"The suppression of TNFα and hypersensitivity C-reactive protein and increase of IL-4 may underlie the action mechanism of CIF."
Source: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
"A New Chinese Medicine Intestine Formula Greatly Improves the Effect of Aminosalicylate on Ulcerative Colitis"
Authors: Baohai Liu, et al.