Altered motility, discomfort and pain are common debilitating symptoms of patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders. However, these conditions represent a significant and unmet need for mainstream medical treatment, particularly after high profile therapeutic drug withdrawals due to safety concerns. As such an increasing number of sufferers are turning to alternative medicines in an effort to seek relief from their symptoms. Alternative medicines have traditionally been looked at by mainstream medicine with cynicism. However, new evidence demonstrates that the active components in natural products have actions on specific ion channels and receptors, many of which are located in sensory systems distributed throughout the body. These findings may not only explain the symptomatic benefit of these alternative medicines but also provide novel therapeutic targets for mainstream drug development. As such natural products represent a wealth of untapped potential which is waiting to be unlocked.