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Traditional Chinese Medicine & the microbiome

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for thousands of years. In that time, TCM has observed the importance of the gut in relation to a person’s overall health, even so far as recognising the relationship between the gut and the mind.

This relationship has become well known in the conventional medical world over the last few years as the gut-brain axis or the mind-gut connection or the gut as the second brain.

As TCM has known the importance of gut health for so long, they have used a number of different tools to help with gut health including acupuncture, herbs, diet and lifestyle changes.

The Research

A number of different studies that look into how TCM can impact the microbiome have come out over the last few years.

A 2009 study found that two empirical formulas that are used as digestive tonics – Si Jun Zi Tang and Shi Quan Da Bu Tang may help to regulate gut bacteria and may help to turn genes on and off. (1)

In 2015, a group of researchers found that an herb used in TCM for thousands of years – the Reishi mushroom – may modulate the makeup of the microbiome and maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier possibly leading to obesity reduction and reduced inflammation. (2)

Acupuncture can also be used to help the microbiome. As study in 2013 found that beneficial gut bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium increased and some bacteria that could be harmful including Bacteroides and Clostridium perfringens decreased in patients who had an acupuncture treatment, when compared to the control group that didn’t have acupuncture. (3)


 1. Li, H. K., Zhou, M. M., Zhao, A. H. & Jia, W. (2009). Traditional Chinese Medicine: Balancing the Gut Ecosystem. Phytotherapy Research, Vol. 23, pp. 1332-1335. Available at:

2. Chang, C.-J., et al. (2015). Ganoderma lucidum reduces obesity in mice by modulating the composition of the gut microbiota. Nat Commun 6, no. 749. Available at:

3. Xu, Z. T., Li, R. F.., Zhu, C. L. & Li, M. Y. (2013). Effect of acupuncture treatment for weight loss on gut flora in patients with simple obesity. Acupuncture in Medicine, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 116-117.

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