Short-term and long-term outcomes of indigo naturalis treatment for inflammatory bowel disease

J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020 Mar;35(3):412-417. doi: 10.1111/jgh.14823. Epub 2019 Aug 26.


Background and aim: Indigo naturalis (IN) is a traditional Chinese herbal medicine reported to be effective in inducing remission in ulcerative colitis (UC). We conducted a retrospective observational study to investigate the efficacy and safety of IN for induction and maintenance therapy in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

Methods: Data were collected from the electric medical records of patients with inflammatory bowel disease who had started IN treatment between March 2015 and April 2017 at Kyushu University Hospital. Clinical response and remission rates were assessed based on the clinical activity index determined by Rachmilewitz index or Crohn's disease (CD) activity index. Cumulative IN continuation rates were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Overall adverse events (AEs) during follow-up were also analyzed.

Results: Seventeen UC patients and eight CD patients were enrolled. Clinical response and remission rates at week 8 were 94.1% and 88.2% in UC patients and 37.5% and 25.0% in CD patients, respectively. Clinical remission rates, as assessed through non-responders imputation analyses at weeks 52 and 104, were 76.4% and 70.4% in UC patients and 25.0% and 25.0% in CD patients, respectively. Ten patients (40%) experienced AEs during follow-up. Three patients (12%) experienced severe AEs, including acute colitis requiring hospitalization in two patients and acute colitis with intussusception requiring surgery in one patient.

Conclusions: Indigo naturalis showed favorable therapeutic efficacy in UC, whereas its therapeutic efficacy in CD appeared to be modest. The risk of severe AEs should be recognized for IN treatment.

Keywords: Crohn's disease; Qing-Dai; indigo naturalis; inflammatory bowel disease; ulcerative colitis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / adverse effects
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Indigo Carmine / chemistry*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / mortality
  • Maintenance Chemotherapy
  • Male
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Remission Induction
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Indigo Carmine