When the stomach lining beomes corroded by acidic digestive juices, this is known as a gas-tric (stomach) ulcer. Most cases are associated with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium, so antibiotics are the treatment of choice. However, these drugs often upset the gut flora, which leads to its own problems. In addition, the ulcer may still persist.
Happily, there are many other, effective ways to deal with stomach ulcers.
The following seven phytotherapeutic remedies are readily obtainable and have been proven to work in published controlled studies:
- Gastric ulcers were inhibited by a commercially available hydro-alcoholic extract of Matricaria recutita (German chamomile) (Planta Med, 1979; 35: 218-29).
- Oil of OEnothera biennis (evening primrose oil) significantly inhib-ited gastric ulcer formation, experimentally induced by aspirin and phenylbutazone, as well as intraluminal bleeding (Food Chem Toxicol, 1997; 35: 769-75).
- Allium sativum (garlic) has proven to have potent activity against H. pylori (J Antimicrob Chemother, 1999; 43: 837-9; Appl Environ Microbiol, 2000; 66: 2269-73). Also, crushed garlic was found to be more potent than a number of other commercially available garlic tablets, and had a concentration-dependent, syner-gistic effect against H. pylori when given with omeprazole (Prilosec). Also, undiluted garlic oil was a more potent inhibitor of H. pylori than was garlic powder. Garlic's active ingredient is allicin.
- A water extract of Zingiber officinale (ginger), delivered via an indwelling oesophageal catheter (the 'Heidelberg test'), brought about changes in gastric secre-tions according to extract con-centrations. After three hours, ginger extract (at dosages used in traditional Chinese medicine) caused significant decreases in gastric acid volume, acid output and pepsin output compared with controls (Chem Pharm Bull, 1989; 37: 215-7).
- Extract of Vitis viniferae seminae (grape seed extract, GSE) with a low flavonol content (40.9 per cent) had an ulcer-inhibiting activity of 82 per cent vs 50 per cent with pine bark extract (PBE), but GSE with a high flavonol content (81.3 per cent) inhibited ulcers by 98 per cent (J Agric Food Chem, 1998; 46: 1460-4).
- Isoliquiritigen, a derivative of Glycyrrhiza glabra (liquorice root) significantly prevented drug-induced ulcers (specifically using aspirin and phenylbutazone) by up to 77 per cent compared with controls (Planta Med, 1992; 58: 389- 91).
- Pretreatment with Silybum marianum (milk thistle) resulted in significantly fewer and less severe gastric ulcerations-by as much as almost 90 per cent (Planta Med, 1995; 61: 116-9).
One recently proven homeopathic remedy is Nepenthe Distillatoria (Julian OA. Archives Hom'eopathiques de Normandie, 1961; 24). I have found this to be a reliable remedy for gastric and duodenal ulcers using the 3DH potency.
A popular needling formula for gastric ulcers is S-21 (Liangmen), Co-12 (Zhongwan), S-36 (Zusanli) and LI-10 (Shousanli), which has also proved beneficial over a long period of time (Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine. Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press, 1984: 180).
Zinc increases mucin (the principal ingredient of mucus) production and has a protective effect against ulcers in humans (Med J Austral, 1975; 2: 793).
Raw cabbage juice has well-documented success against gastric ulcers (Cal Med, 1949; 70: 10-4; J Am Diet Assoc, 1950; 26: 668-72). One litre/day of the fresh juice in divided doses resulted in total ulcer healing in only 10 days on average (Tex J Med, 1957; 53: 840-3). Although the mech-anism of how it works is not certain, it may be due to glutamine, which can indirectly stimulate mucin synthesis which, in turn, is of major benefit to gastric ulcer patients.
An old, traditional naturopathic remedy-Roberts' formula-has a long history of use for gastric ulcers. It is named after Captain Frank Roberts who, after a life at sea, became a distinguished UK West Country naturopathic practitioner with a special interest in ulcers and gallstones. In The Encyclopaedia of Digestive Disorders (Thorsons, 1957), the entire Roberts' formula is listed as including: marsh mallow root, wild indigo, Echinacea angustifolia (purple coneflower), Geranium maculatum (American cranesbill), Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal), Phytolacca americana (pokeroot) and Ulmus fulva (slip-pery elm).
To these seven ingredients, the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle, WA, has added cabbage powder, pancreatin, niacinamide and duodenal sub-stance (an organotherapeutic remedy) (Murray M, Pizzorno J. Encyclo-pedia of Natural Medicine. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1991: 249-50).
Occasionally, Hibiscus esculentus (okra) is added as it gently promotes bowel motion and is believed to stimulate pyloric action (Murray M, Pizzorno J. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1991: 524).
Harald Gaier, a registered naturopath, osteopath, homeopath and herbalist, practises at The Allergy and Nutrition Clinic, 22 Harley Street, London, and the Irish Centre of Integrated Medicine, Co. Kildare (www.drgaier.com).