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Table of Contents > Articles > Nutritional and Herbal Support for ...
Nutritional and Herbal Support for Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammation of the small or large intestine, or both. Most cases involve the lowest portion of the small intestine. This inflammation leads to abdominal pain and swelling, diarrhea, and (consequently) weight loss and malnutrition. Fever and fatigue may also accompany this disease. Crohn's disease tends to run in families; up to a quarter of people with the disease have a family member with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. It is more common in people who are 15 to 25 and 55 to 65 years old; it also occurs more often in those who are female or smoke. While its cause is unknown, many in the medical community subscribe to the theory that Crohn's disease is related to the immune system overreacting to exposure to a virus or bacteria.

Treating Crohn's disease requires a comprehensive plan, and will likely include everything from surgery and drug therapies to social support groups. The following nutrition recommendations and herbal therapies may be a helpful part of this plan. Dietary supplements and herbs can go a long ways toward strengthening and healing the intestines.


  • Eliminate all known food allergens in addition to wheat, corn, and dairy products, which are highly allergenic foods associated with Crohn's disease. Common food allergens include milk, eggs, fish, peanuts, food colorings, and additives.Talk to your doctor about determining food sensitivities through an elimination diet or a food allergy test.
  • Avoid foods that may contribute to inflammation, such as saturated fats (meats, especially poultry, and dairy), caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. Also avoid refined and processed foods.
  • Certain essential fatty acids help to reduce inflammation. Try taking omega-3 oils (found in flaxseed, borage, and evening primrose oil).
  • Increase intake of fiber.
  • Consider taking the following dietary supplements to make sure your body is adequately supplied with these important vitamins and minerals:
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus (1 capsule with meals)
  • Vitamin A (50,000 IU a day)
  • Vitamin E (400 to 600 IU a day)
  • Vitamin B12 (1,200 mcg a day)
  • Folate (800 mcg a day; 1,200 mcg if taken along with the medication sulfasalazine)
  • Vitamin C (1,000 mg three times a day)
  • Calcium (1,000 mg a day)
  • Magnesium (400 mg a day)
  • Zinc (30 to 40 mg a day)
  • Selenium (200 mcg a day)


Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures. Tinctures are preparations made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.

  • Robert's Formula is a traditional herbal blend that may reduce inflammation and promote healing of intestinal tissues. It contains, in part, the following herbs: marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis), wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), geranium (Geranium maculatum), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), poke root (Phytolacca americana), comfrey (Symphytum officinale), slippery elm (Ulmus fulva). The recommended dose is two capsules three to four times a day.
  • Flavonoids, natural compounds found in dark berries and some plants, can help to reduce inflammation and minimize reactions to food sensitivities. Quercetin is one of the most powerful flavonoids; consider taking 500 mg before meals.
  • Marshmallow tea (1 quart daily) is soothing. Soak 1 heaping tablespoon of marshmallow root in 1 quart of cold water overnight. Drink throughout the day.

Be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist to best determine which herbal or nutritional supplements are for you. Some supplements should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications.


Chronic: refers to an illness or disease that develops slowly and is persistent (often lifelong)


Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Review Date: October 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

Crohn's Disease
Evening Primrose
Slippery Elm
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
Lactobacillus Acidophilus
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin E
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