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Gastrointestinal - Garlic and Ulcers

by Paul Bergner

Medical Herbalism 07-31-95 9(2/3): 20

For decades, conventional doctors have treated gastric and duodenal ulcers with antacids, dietary changes, and stress reduction. In recent years, researchers have discovered that most ulcers are accompanied by an infection by the germ Helicobacter pylori, and treatment with antibiotic agents is now routine for ulcers. One of the drugs used — metronizadole (Flagyl) — is somewhat controversial. Although it will effectively eliminate the helicobacter infection when used in combination with other drugs, it has severe side effects of its own such as neurological damage and possible cancer. Helicobacter is not the cause of some ulcers; it is a common resident of the stomach, and does not necessarily cause disease there. Thus heroic attempts to eradicate it may not be necessary, especially with drugs like Flagyl. I had a patient who had been given more than ten courses of Flagyl within a year to treat an ulcer and vaginal infections, and by the end of the year she had nerve damage and multiple sclerosis. Another patient developed numbness in his fingertips after a single course of Flagyl.

Some medical researchers think that treatment with metronizadole should only be used as a last resort. In one study, ninety patients with duodenal ulcers were treated with medications to reduce the secretion of stomach acid. Twenty-seven of these remained ulcer-free with no further treatment. Forty-seven more had only one or two recurrences of ulcers within a year. Of sixteen that had three or more recurrences, only twelve were infected with helicobacter, and were treated with metronizadole. The researchers concluded that drugs to reduce acid secretion are adequate for most patients.

Although modem medicine has only recently discovered the presence of bacteria in gastritis and ulcers, traditional herbal treatments for these conditions have included antibiotic and immune-stimulating herbs, including garlic, for many centuries. Roberts Formula, a traditional ulcer formula in naturopathic medicine, contains golden-seal and baptisia, both of which are antibiotic, and echinacea, which is immune-stimulating. Meadowsweet, another herb for ulcers in traditional British herbalism, also directly kills bacteria in lab experiments.

This raises possibilities for using high dose garlic in the treatment of ulcers when bacterial presence has been confirmed. Physicians have prescribed it for gastritis and other intestinal infections since the dawn of recorded history, and experimenters have proven its antibiotic properties. It might be prudent to try a course of garlic therapy (9 raw cloves a day, chopped, in a carrier that makes it palatable, such as carrot juice or lemon and honey) before submitting to the more toxic allopathic antibiotics. Commercial dried product, especially ones that are “enteric coated” are unlikely to be of any value for ulcers.

References

Hu P J, and Wargovich MJ. “Protective effect of diallyl sulfide, a natural extract of garlic, on MNNG-induced damage of rat glandular stomach mucosa. Chin J Oncol 1990; 12(6):429-431
 
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    147

 

    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies

Kim NY, Oh HS, Jung MH, et al. “The effect of eradication of Helicobacter pylori upon the duodenal ulcer recurrence — a 24 month follow-up study.’ Korean J Intern Med 1994 Jul;9(2):72-9

Neeman A, Kadish U. “Selection of patients for treatment of duodenal ulcer infected with Helicobacter pylori.” J Clin Gastroenterol 1994 Jul; 19(1): 17-9

Nagai K, et al. “Effect of Kyoleopin on experimental stress ulcer.’ Japan J Clinical Report, 6:1536, 1972

Roberts’ Formula

The traditional Roberts’ Formula for ulcers contains the immune stimulating and antiseptic herbs along with astringents and soothing demulcents. Hydrastis is astringent and antibiotic. Echinacea is immune-stimulating. Althea is demulcent and its polysaccharides may have immune stimulating effects. Phytolacca is alterative, lymphatic and anti-inflammatory. Geranium is highly astringent.

Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal)     1 part

Echinacea angustifolia (Echinacea)     1 part

Althea officinalis (Marshmallow)     1 part

Phytolacca americana (Poke root)     1 part

Geranium maculatum (Spotted cranebill) 1 part (2 parts if hemorrhaging)

If painful add okra or slippery elm.
 
 

Dose: 10 drops four times a day after meals In hot water; or 200 capsules four times a day.
 
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    148