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CurQD, a combination of curcumin and QingDai, may help treat ulcerative colitis, according to some researchers. Image credit: Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images.
  • Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition that affects the colon, causing inflammation, ulcers, and related symptoms like bloody stool.
  • Management of ulcerative colitis may involve taking medications, undergoing surgeries, and modifying diet to avoid triggering symptoms.
  • Data from two studies shared at the Crohn’s and Colitis Congress 2023 found that a herbal combination of curcumin and QingDai was effective in reducing ulcerative colitis severity and inducing remission.
  • Further research can determine if this herbal combination or others may be effective in the treatment of other disorders of the digestive tract.

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition that damages the lower digestive tract and can cause many unpleasant symptoms.

People with ulcerative colitis can work with doctors and specialists to manage the disease and maintain remission. Researchers are still working to determine the best treatment options and what medications may help control the disorder.

Two recent studies have explored the use of an herbal combination of curcumin and QingDai to help induce remission in people with ulcerative colitis. Researchers shared the results at the Crohn’s and Colitis Congress 2023.

Ulcerative colitis affects the colon, causing damage and inflammation to the intestinal wall. People with ulcerative colitis can experience symptoms of varying severity, including the following:

  • bloody stool, with or without mucus
  • abdominal pain
  • fever and malaise
  • weight loss.

These symptoms can come and go, and people can experience times with no symptoms and when symptoms flare up.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Jesse Feder, who was not involved in this research, noted to Medical News Today:

“Ulcerative colitis can be very difficult to live with. It is a condition where your entire colon becomes inflamed. This can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, anemia, stomach cramps, diarrhea, weight loss, rectal pain and bleeding, loss of appetite, and nausea. This inflammation may also make it difficult for your body to absorb certain nutrients leading to malnutrition. Treatment usually starts off with anti-inflammatory medications for those dealing with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis.”

People with ulcerative colitis may further experience complications like anemia or colon cancer. Treatment for ulcerative colitis can include medicines like aminosalicylates, steroids, or immunosuppressant medication.

Some people may undergo surgical interventions to help their condition. In addition, dietary interventions can sometimes help people avoid flare-ups.

Researchers are still working to understand the most effective medicines to use to treat ulcerative colitis. One area of interest is how the use of herbal medicines may help people with ulcerative colitis.

Researchers Prof. Shomron Ben-Horin with the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, and Nir Salomon, co-founder and head of R&D at Evinature, a startup focusing on integrative therapies for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), shared the results of two studies they were involved in at the Crohn’s and Colitis Congress 2023.

These studies examined using an herbal combination called CurQD to treat ulcerative colitis to help people achieve remission and reduction of ulcerative colitis severity.

CurQD is made out of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, and QingDai, a traditional Chinese medicine extracted from plants such as Indigofera tinctoria, or true indigo.

Feder noted to MNT:

“Natural or herbal remedies have long been used as homeopathic means of treating certain diseases and health conditions. In the study, they used a plant compound called QingDai and curcumin which is found in turmeric. QingDai is a popular natural plant compound that has been used to help treat inflammatory conditions, including ulcerative colitis. Curcumin is also very popular as being an anti-inflammatory compound used to treat inflammatory conditions as well.”

One study was a clinical trial broken into two parts. In the first part, researchers treated participants with active ulcerative colitis with CurQD. This was an open-label trial.

In this research portion, seven out of 10 participants had a positive clinical response. A clinical response meant a reduction in the scores used to measure ulcerative colitis severity. Three out of 10 participants achieved clinical remission.

Part two was a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, where researchers compared the use of CurQD with a placebo in 42 participants over 8 weeks.

Researchers observed a clinical response in 86% of participants who received CurQD. By comparison, just 31% of participants on the placebo achieved a clinical response.

The second study was a retrospective multi-center Israeli cohort study with 88 participants. This study also examined the use of CurQD in treating active ulcerative colitis.

After receiving CurQD, 70% of participants experienced a clinical response, and 51% experienced clinical remission.

Both studies indicate that CurQD may help some people manage ulcerative colitis. Study authors Prof. Ben-Horin and Nir Salomon explained to MNT that “[t]he CurQD protocol was used in patients with moderate-severe activity, of whom nearly 50% were previously unresponsive to treatment with biologics and/or immunomodulators which indicates an even more severe condition.”

“Despite this, CurQD was found to be significantly effective in inducing both clinical and endoscopic response compared to [a] placebo. Also, our data shows that the treatment works extremely fast, showing clinical effect within days in the majority of responders,” they noted.

Both studies did have limitations that indicate the need for further research. Both studies included a relatively small sample size, indicating the need for more diverse, larger studies in the future. Studies with longer-term follow-up may be warranted as well.

Should further results confirm the findings from these studies, it could lead to more people using CurQD to treat ulcerative colitis and help people achieve remission.

Prof. Ben-Horin and Salomon noted to MNT: “CurQD is used as an add-on adjunct treatment both in our clinical trials and in our clinical practice for over 6 years. This means that it can be used together with other IBD medications when these medications don’t achieve the goal of obtaining remission.”

T​hey also noted plans for further collaboration and research: “We have started forming a network of leading IBD experts in the U.S. who are interested in offering this botanical option to their patients. This will further increase our knowledge about additional patients who can benefit from CurQD, such as pouchitis patients.”

“On a broader scope, our vision is to explore and promote natural plant remedies but to do it in the conventional scientific way, as we did with CurQD,” they said.