In Vivo Study of the Efficacy of the Essential Oil of <i>Zanthoxylum bungeanum</i> Pericarp in Dextran Sulfate Sodium-Induced Murine Experimental Colitis

The purpose of this study was to investigate the protective effects and mechanisms of the essential oil of <i>Zanthoxylum bungeanum</i> pericarp (ZBEO) on dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced experimental colitis in mice. ZBEO decreased DSS-induced body weight loss, the disease activity index, colon length shortening, colonic pathological damage, and myeloperoxidase activities. The production of pro-inflammatory mediators was significantly alleviated by ZBEO. Further mechanistic analysis showed that ZBEO inhibited inflammation by regulating NF-κB and PPARγ pathways. ZBEO also inhibited NLRP3 activation in colitis in mice. Furthermore, ZBEO contributed to the maintenance of tight junction architecture by regulating the expression of zonula occludens-1 during colitis. Surprisingly, treatment with ZBEO increased levels of the commensal bacteria containing <i>Lactobacillus</i> and <i>Bifidobacteria</i> but reduced <i>Escherichia coli</i> levels in the feces of mice. These results suggested that supplementation with ZBEO might provide a new dietary strategy for the prevention of ulcerative colitis.