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Gastrointestinal - The noose tightens on H. pylori and ulcers

by Paul Bergner

Medical Herbalism 10(1-2):38

Within the last decade, researchers discovered that most upper gastrointestinal tract ulcers are accompanied by infection by the organism Helicobacter pylori. Whether the organism causes the ulcers or hitchhikes on ulcers already formed, getting rid of the infection now appears to be essential for ulcer healing. Researchers recently conducted a metaanalysis review of 60 studies on H. pylori eradication involving more than 4300 patients ( Treiber and Lambert). The results showed that healing was dramatically improved by eliminating H. pylori. If the elimination was not complete, other treatments alone did not reach the effectiveness of eradication. In fact, eradication alone produced healing in some instances with no other treatment.

Even if an infectious organism was only recently discovered in ulcers, naturopathic herbal treatments for ulcers have traditionally included antibiotic and immune-stimulating herbs, in addition to demulcent and astringent agents. Tables 1 and 2 show, respectively, Robertís Formula and Bastyrís Formula, as taught in naturopathic medical schools for at least the last twenty years. Note that both formulas contain goldenseal. The plant contains the alkaloid berberine, which has broad spectrum antibiotic action against a wide variety of organisms. At least one clinical trial showed that berberine sulfate was in the same range of effectiveness as the drugs gentamicin; terramycin, and furazolidone for eradicating or reducing H. pylori infection. (Hu). Constituents of echinacea, baptisia, and althea have all been demonstrated to have immunostimulating properties as measured by various parameters, although they have not been tested specifically in ulcers.

Robertís formula for ulcers

Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal)        1 part

Echinacea angustifolia (echinacea)        1 part

Althea officinalis (marshmallow)        1 part

Phytolacca americana (poke root)        1 part

Geranium maculatum    (spotted cranesbill)    1 part (2 parts if hemorrhaging)

If painful, add okra or slippery elm

Sig:     tincture: 10 min qid pc and hs

    powder: 2 00 capsules qid

Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    151


    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies


Bastyrís formula for chronic ulcers

Hydrastis canadensis    1 part

Althea officinalis        1 part

Geranium maculatum    1 part

Zingiber officinalis    1 part

Baptisia tinctoria        1 part

Duodenal substance    1 part

Vitamin b3        1 part

Okra            1 part

Slippery elm        1 part

Sig: 2 00 capsules qid


Another traditional treatment for gastrointestinal infection is garlic. A group of scientists, noting the connection between H. pylori and gastric cancer, and the lower incidence of gastric cancer among people who eat garlic, tested the hypothesis that garlic might kill H. pylori. They made a simple water extract of garlic, and then standardized it for thiosulfinate content. Thiosulfinate content of garlic ó allicin being the most abundant member of the group ó is variable, ranging from 2 to about 9 mg per gram of crushed garlic( Koch and Lawson). Forty micrograms of thiosuflinate per ml of the garlic extract was the minimum dose to inhibit H. pylori in the trial. That translates to 40 mg of thiosulfiantes per liter of water, or 4.5 to 20 grams of garlic, or about 1.5 to 6.5 garlic cloves in a liter of water. Thiosulfinate content is maximized by crushing or blending the cloves fresh, and is greatly reduced in dried products or garlic oils. The authors suggested that such a mixture might make an effective treatment for H. pylori infection.


Bae EA, Han MJ, Kim NJ, Kim DH. Anti-Helicobacter pylori actity of herbal medicines.  Biol Pharm Bull 1998 Sep;21(9):990-2

Cellini L, Di Campli E, Masulli M, Di Bartolomeo S, Allocati N. Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori by garlic extract (Allium sativum).  FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 1196 Apr;13(4):273-7

Gail MH, You WC, Chang YS, Zhang L, Blot WJ, et al. Factorial trial of three interventions to reduce the progression of precancerous gastric lesions in Shandong, China: Design issues and initial data.  Control Clin Trials 1998 Aygl19(4)L352-69
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    152


    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies    

Hu FL. Comparison of acid and Helicobacter pylori in ulcerogenesis of duodenal ulcer disease. [Article in Chinese] Chung Hua I Hsueh Tsa Chih 1993 Apr;73(4):217-9, 253

Koch HP and Lawson LD Garlic: The Science and Therapeutic Application of Allium sativum L. and related species. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1996

Sivam GP, Lampe JW, Ulness B, Swanzy SR, Potter JD. Helicobacter pylorióin vitro susceptibility to garlic (Allium sativum) extract. Nutr Cancer 1997;27(2):118-121

Treiber G, Lambert JR The impact of Helicobacter pylori eradication on peptic ulcer healing. Am J Gastroenterol 1998;93(7):1080-1084
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    153