Leukotrienes and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

lnflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term used to describe two distinct clinical entities: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. There is now considerable evidence implicating leukotrienes, especially leukotriene B4 (LTB4) in the amplification of colonic inflammation subsequent to its' initiation (J.L. Wallace, TIPS, 11: 51-53, 1990). This raises the possibility that `inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase, the enzyme which produces leukotrienes from arachidonic acid, may ease the inflammation in IBD. Many of the drugs currently used in IBD, such as corticosteroids and azodisalicylates, may in fact act in this way. LTB4 antagonists and 5-lipoxygenase inhibitors are currently being trialled for IBD.


The gingerols in ginger and nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) in chaparral are potent natural inhibitors of 5-lipoxygenase. In addition NDGA is also an antagonist of LTB4. If the above model is correct, then these herbs should be of value in IBD, although such treatment is symptomatic and attention should also be paid to counteracting causative factors.

An article on chaparral (Larrea tridentata) will be published in Volume 3, Number 1 of the British Journal of Phytotherapy.

The British Journal of Phytotherapy.


By Kerry Bone

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