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Qing Dai (Indigo naturalis) for Ulcerative Colitis

  • Gut Health Herbs & Compounds Science
  • 5 min read
  • Feb 1, 2022 - Tessa Eskin
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Qing Dai

As westernization spreads across the globe, so does IBD. Newly industrialized countries now face a rapid increase in cases of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. As for the West, the numbers have merely stabilized. Even with the best care modern medicine can offer, patients are simply not achieving long-term remission. 

In the absence of a known cause and cure, IBD patients face a perennial loop of relapse, hospitalization, and short-term remission that inevitably gives way to further relapse. Current drug therapies can help induce remission in some patients. However, they suppress the immune system and have possible side effects, which patients may find unacceptable for long-term therapy. The efficacy of these therapies is still far from perfect, with many patients proving unresponsive, or losing response over time.

It’s no wonder physicians and researchers are clambering to find new treatments. In fact, the quest for a cure has many reevaluating the very roots of medicine, leading to a clinical revival of traditional and herbal treatments. And one of the most promising herbal compounds under clinical investigation is Qing Dai (QD), otherwise known as Indigo naturalis. 

What is Qing Dai / Indigo Naturalis?  

Qing Dai (QD) is a unique compound extracted from the pigments of plants such as Indigofera tinctoria, Strobilanbthes cusia, O Kuntze, and Polygnonum tinctoium Lour

Today, Qing Dai is commonly used for medical purposes, but the extract was historically known for its vibrant indigo pigment, highly prized since the time of the Persian Kingdom. Ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans used the dye for luxurious fabrics and glamorous eye make-up. At the time, indigo dye was so valuable it was known as ‘blue gold’. 

Indigo naturalis first reached China via the Silk Road trading route. There, it found new life in the hands of ancient Chinese physicians who began using it as herbal medicine. They’d discovered the mixture could reduce fever, and detoxify and cool the blood. It was thus utilized for heat-clearing, to purify the liver, alleviate pain, and reduce inflammation. Indigo naturalis has been in continual use ever since. 

Now known as Qing Dai (QD), the compound is used in China to treat infectious diseases, skin diseases, tumors, and inflammatory bowel disease. It’s drawn considerable clinical interest, as researchers attempt to understand its pharmacology, mechanisms, and its potential as a treatment for a range of modern diseases. 

So far, QD has been clinically confirmed to contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and immunomodulatory properties. Of note, the compound has shown “good clinical effect” on psoriasis, leukemia, and ulcerative colitis. It should be noted that despite the extremely promising results of QD, an understanding of its correct, effective and safe use is not yet widespread.

How Qing Dai Relieves Chronic Inflammation

The regulation of the NF-κB pathway has recently become a main focus for UC treatment. UC patients commonly have abnormally high NF-κB pathway activity, which leads to an extreme inflammatory response in the body. This can result in “severe abnormalities of the intestinal mucosal epithelium”. 

A recent study found that Indirubin, an acting component of Qing Dai, works to “markedly inhibit”  NF-κB signals, resulting in the mediation of severe inflammation in UC cases. QD also has the unique ability to activate the AhR pathway, further suppressing the production of proinflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-1, and IL-6, to name a few. This is crucial in repressing inflammation in the intestinal mucosa. 

Additionally, Qing Dai lowers myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity, which is involved in oxidative stress in the colon tissue that can lead to chronic inflammation. It does so by increasing superoxide dismutase (SOD) and decreasing malondialdehyde (MDA) levels, which helps regulate and reduce inflammatory responses. 

Research shows that Qing Dai can induce the production of interleukin 22, which promotes the regeneration of the mucosa. This may explain why many patients treated with Qing Dai experienced complete mucosal healing in a short period of time.

Qing Dai for Ulcerative Colitis 

Numerous clinical studies have shown Qing Dai to be a safe and effective short-term treatment for IBD. It is an especially safe treatment for patients who did not respond or have lost response, to standard pharmaceutical medication. These studies attempt not to replace medication, but to include herbal medicine like Qing Dai as part of an integrative treatment strategy.   

One study analyzed the data of patients with IBD who had begun Qing Dai treatment at Kyushu University Hospital. After 8 weeks of treatment, clinical response rates were 94.1%, with remission at 88.2% in UC patients. The results were exceptionally favorable for UC patients, with ‘modest’ efficacy for CD

Another study at Keio University Hospital focused on inducing remission in UC patients. They saw a 72% clinical response after 8 weeks of treatment, with 61% of participants achieving mucosal healing. This was followed by an open-label prospective pilot study, in which 80% of participants with severe endoscopic disease activity achieved mucosal healing.

Finding the Right Qing Dai Dosage for Ulcerative Colitis 

It’s clear that Qing Dai is more than ‘just another supplement’. Clinical and anecdotal evidence clearly shows Qing Dai to be an effective short-term treatment for severe ulcerative colitis, with many patients experiencing rapid remission and mucosal healing. 

Since Qing Dai is suited more for short-term treatment of extreme inflammation, it’s important to take it in strictly recommended doses depending on your specific condition and symptoms. It’s also crucial to have regular follow-ups, as the correct dosage may change within weeks depending on your response. 


Tessa Eskin


Tessa Eskin


This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or healthcare professional regarding any medical or health-related diagnosis or treatment options. The claims made regarding specific products in this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

Tessa Eskin


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