In a new study, researchers found that four ancient herbs—turmeric, ginger, long pepper, and black pepper— could change the gut microbiome and regulate metabolism.
The new finding may help uncover new treatments for colon cancer, autoimmune conditions, and additional serious diseases.
The research was conducted by a team from Sanford Burnham Prebys and UC San Diego.
Digestive disorders, including Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), are increasingly prevalent in Western populations.
More than 60 million people are affected in the United States alone. But treatments for the disorders are limited.
The four herbs in the study have been used for more than 5,000 years to aid digestion in Ayurvedic healing, India’s traditional system of medicine.
Scientists have long known that these four herbs facilitate digestion and increase the bioabsorption of dietary nutrients. However, the effects on the gut microbiome had not been studied.
In the study, the team collected stool samples from 12 healthy men and women between the ages of 30 and 60 who ate a vegetarian or vegan diet.
The samples were grown in medium (food for bacteria) supplemented with turmeric, ginger, black pepper or long pepper.
Genomic sequencing was then used to identify how the abundance of species within the community was altered by the herbal supplement.
The researchers found that these herbs promoted strong shifts in the gut bacteria that are known to regulate metabolism.
All of the herb-supplemented samples had unique proportions of bacterial families compared to control cultures—indicating the herbs altered the gut microbiome.
The study demonstrates for the first time that these herbs indeed alter the microbiome and produce distinct shifts in the gut microbiome.
The team says it may help to decipher how the microbiota may change the gut biochemistry to promote and protect our health.
Next, the researchers plan to test the herbs’ therapeutic potential in a controlled human clinical study and examine how components in these herbs influence the gut microbiome and promote digestive health.
One author of the study is Scott Peterson, Ph.D., a professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys.
The study is published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
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