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Gastrointestinal - Garlic and helicobacter pylori revisited

by Paul Bergner

Medical Herbalism 11(2):11

We reported in Volume 10, Number 1-2 on research indicating that garlic preparations may effectively treat Helicobacter pylori infection, which often accompanies peptic ulcers and gastritis (Bergner). A recent trial has found one garlic preparation ineffective for this (Ernst), but don’t throw away your bulbs yet.

In the trial, twenty individuals who tested positive for H. pylori using a breath test received 300 mg tablets of dried garlic powder (a product from Lichtwer Pharma in Germany) three times a day for eight weeks. After an eight week follow up, only one of the patients was free from the infection, as demonstrated by the breath test. The researchers then did single case follow ups comparing the crushed tablets with fresh garlic. They do not report the result of this, or details of the duration of the treatment, the method of preparation, and so on, reporting only that a whole bulb of garlic caused acute nausea and vomiting in a patient.

Its not surprising that garlic powder tablets had little or no effect on the infection. The potent antimicrobial substance in garlic is allicin, which has a half life of about 18 hours. Allicin degrades into other sulfur-containing constituents, many of which have medicinal effects, but none with the equivalent topical antibiotic effect of allicin. It is released after crushing fresh garlic, and is for practical purposes gone within 3-5 days. Commercial garlic power products are made with minimal cutting of the bulb in order to preserve the allicin content. Although in-vitro research shows that many powdered garlic products retain their aliin content (the precursor to allicin), invivo comparisons of powders and fresh garlic are lacking. Actual clinical reports indicate that freshly or recently crushed cloves are much more effective for antibiotic purposes. Dr. Subhuti Dharmananda of the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Portland, Oregon uses garlic to help control intestinal infections in AIDS patients. He reports that powdered products were ineffective for this purpose, even in doses of 27 tablets per day, but that of freshly blended garlic in doses of three cloves 1-3 times a day effectively treated some opportunistic intestinal infections of AIDS. What he reports for these infections may be true of H. pylori as well. In-vitro-research indicates that concentrations of allicin such as would be found in 2-6 cloves of garlic blended in a quart of water are effective against H. pylori (Sivam et al), a dose is in the same range that Dharmananda reports effective clinically.

Another weakness of the Ernst trial is the method used for testing H. pylori. The breath test detects infection but cannot quantify it. The infections could have been reduced in all the patients without this fact being detected by the test.


Bergner, P. The herbal noose tightens on H. pylori and ulcers. Medical Herbalism 1998;10(1-2):19-20
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    149


    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies

Dharmananda S. Garlic as the central therapy in the treatment of AIDS. Portland, Oregon: Institute for Traditional Medicine, 1992

Ernst, E. Is Garlic an Effective Treatment for Helicobacter pylori Infection? Arch Int Med 1999; 159 (Nov 8):2484-2485

Sivam GP, Lampe JW, Ulness B, Swanzy SR, Potter JD. Helicobacter pylori—in vitro susceptibility to garlic (Allium sativum) extract. Nutr Cancer 1997;27(2):118-121
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    150