Despite the increased morbidity of ulcerative colitis (UC) in recent years, available treatments remain unsatisfactory. Pogostemon cablin has been widely applied to treat a variety of gastrointestinal disorders in clinic for centuries, in which patchouli alcohol (PA, C15H26O) has been identified as the major active component. This study attempted to determine the bioactivity of PA on dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced mice colitis and clarify the mechanism of action. Acute colitis was induced in mice by 3% DSS for 7 days. The mice were then given PA (10, 20 and 40 mg/kg) or sulfasalazine (SASP, 200 mg/kg) as positive control via oral administration for 7 days. At the end of study, animals were sacrificed and samples were collected for pathological and other analysis. In addition, a metabolite profiling and a targeted metabolite analysis, based on the Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (UPLC–MS) approach, were performed to characterize the metabolic changes in plasma. The results revealed that PA significantly reduced the disease activity index (DAI) and ameliorated the colonic injury of DSS mice. The levels of colonic MPO and cytokines involving TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-4 and IL-10 also declined. Furthermore, PA improved the intestinal epithelial barrier by enhancing the level of colonic expression of the tight junction (TJ) proteins, for instance ZO-1, ZO-2, claudin-1 and occludin, and by elevating the levels of mucin-1 and mucin-2 mRNA. The study also demonstrated that PA inhibited the DSS-induced cell death signaling by modulating the apoptosis related Bax and Bcl-2 proteins and down-regulating the necroptosis related RIP3 and MLKL proteins. By comparison, up-regulation of IDO-1 and TPH-1 protein expression in DSS group was suppressed by PA, which was in line with the declined levels of kynurenine (Kyn) and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) in plasma. The therapeutic effect of PA was evidently reduced when Kyn was given to mice. In summary, the study successfully demonstrated that PA ameliorated DSS-induced mice acute colitis by suppressing inflammation, maintaining the integrity of intestinal epithelial barrier, inhibiting cell death signaling, and suppressing tryptophan catabolism. The results provided valuable information and guidance for using PA in treatment of UC.