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Pancreatitis is swelling of the pancreas. The pancreas helps the body digest foods and liquids. Pancreatitis causes back and stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.

It is treated with medicine and diet changes. Some people may need surgery. Natural therapies have been used to ease symptoms. It should not be used instead of standard care.

Natural Therapies

Likely Effective

  • Antioxidants have been used to help the body slow damage to cells. They are likely to ease pain from pancreatitis.A3, A5
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are likely to reduce the risk of death, complications, and hospital stay.A12
  • Rhubarb is a plant that is often used in cooking and baking. It is likely to ease symptoms.A6, A8-A10

May Be Effective

Glutamine may reduce complications.A7, A11, A14

Unlikely to Be Effective

These therapies are unlikely to have benefit:

  • Prebiotics are compounds in foods that help healthy microorganisms to grow.A16
  • Probiotics are healthy microorganisms that are in foods.A2, A4
  • Synbiotics are a mix of prebiotics and probiotics.A16

Not Enough Data to Assess

  • Traditional Chinese herbal medicine A1, A13

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution

Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse. For example, toxicities and side effects of Chinese herbs vary depending on the herb and amount used.



Herbs and Supplements

A1. Qiong W, Yiping W, et al. Chinese medicinal herbs for acute pancreatitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005;(1):CD003631.

A2. Sun S, Yang K, et al. Probiotics in patients with severe acute pancreatitis: a meta-analysis. Langenbecks Arch Surg. 2009;394(1):171-177.

A3. Cai GH, Huang J, et al. Antioxidant therapy for pain relief in patients with chronic pancreatitis: systematic review and meta-analysis. Pain Physician. 2013;16(6):521-532.

A4. Gou S, Yang Z, et al. Use of probiotics in the treatment of severe acute pancreatitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Crit Care. 2014;18(2):R57.

A5. Ahmed Ali U, Jens S, et al. Antioxidants for pain in chronic pancreatitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(8):CD008945.

A6. Wan B, Fu H, et al. Efficacy of rhubarb combined with early enteral nutrition for the treatment of severe acute pancreatitis: a randomized controlled trial. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2014;49(11):1375-1384.

A7. Castro-Gutiérrez V, Rada G. Is there a role for glutamine supplementation in the management of acute pancreatitis? Medwave. 2016;16(3):e6512.

A8. Zhou Y, Wang L, et al. Add-on effect of crude rhubarb to somatostatin for acute pancreatitis: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016;194:495-505.

A9. A9. Yang LX, Liu J, et al. [Treating Moderately Severe Acute Pancreatitis with Raw Rhubarbs by Intranasal Jejuna Injection: a Randomized Clinical Analysis]. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2017;37(3):306-309.

A10. Hu J, Li P, et al. Rhubarb combined with trypsin inhibitor for severe acute pancreatitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytother Res. 2018;32(8):1450-1458.

A11. Jeurnink SM, Nijs MM, et al. Antioxidants as a treatment for acute pancreatitis: A meta-analysis. Pancreatology. 2015 May-Jun;15(3):203-208.

A12. Lei QC, Wang XY, et al. The role of omega-3 fatty acids in acute pancreatitis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrients. 2015 Mar 31;7(4):2261-2273.

A13. Lu X, Xiao W, et al. The effect of Chinese herbal medicine on non-biliogenic severe acute pancreatitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Aug 8;155(1):21-29.

A14. Asrani V, Chang WK, et al. Glutamine supplementation in acute pancreatitis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pancreatology. 2013 Sep-Oct;13(5):468-474.

A15. Kocher HM, Kadaba R. Chronic pancreatitis. BMJ Clin Evid. 2011 Dec 21;2011. pii: 0417.

A16. Zhang MM, Cheng JQ, et al. Use of pre-, pro- and synbiotics in patients with acute pancreatitis: a meta-analysis. World J Gastroenterol. 2010 Aug 21;16(31):3970-3978.

Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC