To the Editor: The study by Mr Bensoussan et
al1 demonstrated the effectiveness of Chinese
herbal medicine (CHM) in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); however,
it did not explain the possible pharmacological actions of the herbs involved.
A multitarget theory proposed by Zhou2
explains the actions of Chinese herbal formulas. Each formula, composed of
multiple herbs, inherently contains multiple chemical components. Each active
component, if used alone, usually enters the body at a level below that seen
in therapeutic dosing. Combined, these components selectively and repeatedly
interact with multiple sites and targets of a disease to achieve synergistic
therapeutic responses. The multitarget theory may explain the effectiveness
of treating heterogeneous disorders like IBS with CHM. Since IBS has been
linked to factors such as psychological stress, abnormal colonic motor activity,
dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, and biliary dyspepsia, using
an herbal combination to treat various aspects of the disease seems logical.