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Traditional Chinese Medicine and Intestinal Microbiota

A Complementary and Integrative Health Approach to Ameliorate Obesity-Related Diseases

Liang, Yinji PhD; Lin, Chenli PhD; Huang, Shuxin BSN; Xu, Yun BSN

doi: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000311

The incidence of obesity and obesity-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, is increasing worldwide, which threatens quality of life and human health. “The toxins in the stool enter the body and blood and then cause a variety of diseases”; this quote illustrates that the Chinese ancients recognized the negative effects of harmful intestinal metabolites on the body. As the largest microecosystem in the human body, intestinal microbiota and their metabolites affect the nutrition, metabolism, and immune function of the host, which is an important pathogenic factor in obesity and obesity-related diseases. Herbal-based supplements are used for many years in the treatment of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in China. Traditional herbal medicine contains fiber, polyphenols, and polysaccharides that exert prebiotics-like activities in the prevention and treatment of obesity-related diseases. This article provides a systematic mini-review of the literature concerning traditional Chinese medicine for modulation of the intestinal microbiota to ameliorate obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in China. Initially, the relationship between traditional Chinese medicine and intestinal microbiota was introduced, followed by specific research results on this relationship based on 25 original articles. Therefore, this mini-review will provide a complementary and integrative approach for the treatment of these obesity-related diseases.

School of Nursing (Dr Liang and Mss Huang and Xu) and School of Medicine (Mss Lin and Huang), Jinan University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.

Correspondence: Chenli Lin, PhD, School of Medicine, Jinan University, No. 601 Huangpu Ave West, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510632, China (

This study was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong in China (no. 2016A030313824), the Traditional Chinese Medicine Bureau of Guangdong in China (no. 20161065), the National Health and Family Planning Commission of Guangdong in China (nos. A2016583, A2017228, and A2017140), and the Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training Program of Jinan University in China (nos. CX17042 and 201810559144).

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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