Herbs that may be helpful
Licorice root has a long history of use for
soothing inflamed and injured mucous membranes in the digestive tract. Licorice may protect
the stomach and duodenum by increasing production of mucin, a substance that protects the
lining of these organs against stomach acid and other harmful substances.35
According to laboratory research, flavonoids
in licorice may also inhibit growth of H. pylori.36
For people with peptic ulcer, many doctors who use herbal medicine use the
deglycyrrhizinated form of licorice (DGL). In making DGL, the portion of licorice root that
can increase blood pressure and cause water retention is almost completely removed, while the
mucous-membrane-healing part of the root is retained. In some reports, DGL has compared
favorably to the popular drug cimetidine
(Tagamet®) for treatment of peptic ulcer,37 while in other trials cimetidine
has appeared initially more effective.38 After DGL and cimetidine were
discontinued, though, one study reported fewer recurrences in the DGL group than in the
Though not every trial has reported efficacy,40 most studies find DGL to
facilitate healing of peptic ulcer. A review of the DGL research shows that the studies not
reporting efficacy used capsules, and the trials finding DGL to be helpful used chewable
tablets.41 Doctors typically suggest taking one to two chewable tablets of DGL (250
to 500 mg) 15 minutes before meals and one to two hours before bedtime.
The gummy extract of Pistachia lentiscus, also known as mastic or gum mastic, has
been shown in one preliminary study and one double-blind study to heal peptic
ulcers.42 43 This may be related to its ability to kill H.
pylori in test tubes.44
Ayurvedic doctors in India have
traditionally used dried banana powder (Musa paradisiaca) to treat ulcers. In animal
studies, banana powder protects the lining of the stomach from acid.45 A human
trial has also found dried banana helpful in those with peptic ulcer. In that report, two
capsules of dried raw banana powder taken four times per day for eight weeks led to
significant improvement.46 Bananas and unsweetened banana chips may be good
substitutes, although ideal intake remains unknown.
Administration of 30 to 60 mg of freeze-dried
neem bark extract twice per day led to a significant reduction in stomach acid levels and
near complete healing of all people with duodenal ulcers over ten weeks time in a preliminary
Chamomile has a soothing effect on inflamed
and irritated mucous membranes. It is also high in the flavonoid apigenin—another flavonoid that has
inhibited growth of H. pylori in test tubes.48 Many doctors recommend
drinking two to three cups of strong chamomile tea each day. The tea can be made by combining
3 to 5 ml of chamomile tincture with hot water or by steeping 2 to 3 tsp of chamomile flowers
in the water, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Chamomile is also available in capsules; two may
be taken three times per day.
Calendula is another plant with
anti-inflammatory and healing activities that can be used as part of a traditional medicine
approach to peptic ulcers. The same amount as chamomile can be used.
Marshmallow is high in mucilage.
High-mucilage-containing herbs have a long history of use for irritated or inflamed mucous
membranes in the digestive system, though no clinical research has yet investigated effects in
people with peptic ulcer.
Garlic has been reported to have
anti-Helicobacter activity in test-tube studies.49 50 In a preliminary
trial, garlic supplementation (300 mg in tablets three times daily for eight weeks) failed to
eradicate H. pylori in participants with active infections.51 In another
preliminary trial, participants with active H. pylori infections added 10 sliced
cloves of garlic to a meal.52 The addition of garlic failed to inhibit the growth
of the organism. Further trials using garlic extracts are needed to validate the
anti-Helicobacter activity of garlic observed in test tubes. Until then, evidence to support
the use of garlic for H. pylori-related peptic ulcers remains weak.
Extracts of the herb corydalis are not only
helpful as pain-relief agents but also may be useful in the treatment of stomach ulcers. In a
study of people with stomach and intestinal ulcers or chronic inflammation of the stomach
lining, 90 to 120 mg of corydalis extract per day (equal to 5 to 10 grams of the crude herb)
was found to be effective in 76% of the participants.53
Comfrey has a long tradition of use as a
topical agent for improving healing of wounds
and skin ulcers.54 55 It
is also used for people with gastrointestinal problems, including stomach ulcers, though these
traditional uses have yet to be tested in scientific studies. People should only use comfrey
preparations made from the leaves and avoid those made from the root.
Because of the anti-inflammatory and healing effects of plantain, it may be beneficial in some people with
peptic ulcer. Clinical trials have not been done to confirm this possibility.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.
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