Ulcers are painful sores that occur in the stomach or, more often, in the upper part of the small intestine, which is called the duodenum. As much as 10 percent of North Americans, and four times more men than women, have intestinal ulcers.
There are two types of ulcers: gastric (or peptic) and duodenal. It is very difficult to determine the location of an ulcer by symptoms alone, but almost all ulcers follow a pattern: Pain occurs as acid burns the open sore; food brings temporary relief by neutralizing the acid; pain returns after food is digested.
Ulcers have been thought to be caused by too much stomach acid; more recent research shows that they may be caused by a bacterium called Heliobacter pylorii. Overuse of NSAIDS (nonsteroid anti-inflammation drugs)—aspirin, ibuprofen, and the like—also causes ulcers. And stress makes them worse. Nature intended for the intestine to quickly neutralize the acid that is dumped into it from the stomach, but this neutralization does not always happen. Pain from ulcers flares up in response to food entering the system, which causes stomach acid to kick into gear. To know for sure whether you have an ulcer, you need to be tested by a doctor.
Licorice, chamomile, cinnamon, marshmallow, slippery elm, calendula and agrimony are a few of the herbs that herbalists use to lower stomach acid levels. Studies conducted in Germany show that chamomile, licorice and cinnamon decrease the chances of an ulcer getting worse or of your getting another one once the first has healed.
If stress is a problem for you, try taking chamomile, wild yam, Saint-John's-wort and even basil to relax your muscles and nerves, and licorice and marshmallow to stimulate your immune system. In a study conducted in Russia in 1993, a group of alcoholics who had stomach ulcers and chronic inflammation of the digestive tract were treated with a combination of psychotherapy and four to five cups ofSaint-John's-wort tea a day. After a couple of months, they had improved and the treatment was pronounced effective.
In the late 1980s, Narendra Singh, M.D., of King George Medical College in India found that a daily tea made of 10 to 20 Indian basil leaves was useful in preventing stress-related disorders such as stomach ulcers and colitis. It is likely that the closely related kitchen spice basil would work equally well and that using it as a spice would be effective.
No matter what your ulcer remedy, there's nothing to stop another ulcer from taking its place unless you make some diet and lifestyle changes. You should also be kind to your ulcer by avoiding irritants such as NSAIDS, alcohol and cigarettes.
Ginger can also be helpful when it comes to ulcers. Japanese researchers who conducted several studies on this spice found that it contains at least six anti-ulcer compounds.
The history of licorice as an ulcer cure is particularly interesting. The ancient Greek physician Dioscorides was using licorice to treat ulcers back in the first century a.d., but over time doctors abandoned the herb. Then, during World War II, the Dutch physician F. E. Revers, M.D., saw a small-town pharmacist prepare a licorice paste for townspeople suffering from stomach ulcers. Dr. Revers could not help trying licorice with a few of his own patients, and he found that it worked just fine. In at least half the patients he tested this paste on, the ulcers were nearly gone within a month. The only real problem that he encountered was that some of his patients developed water retention. In the meantime, doctors have also found that licorice sometimes increases high blood pressure. Researchers have figured out how to remove the compounds that caused these problems, and speciallicorice preparations that do not have these side effects are available for people with ulcers.
Bruce, a man in his late sixties who has the vibrant energy of a man 30 years younger and an active lifestyle to go along with it, has foundlicorice to be effective in treating ulcers. After experiencing recurring stomach pain and internal bleeding, he went to the doctor and was tested for stomach cancer. It turned out, however, that the pain and bleeding were due to a severe stomach ulcer, not cancer. Soon after, he started taking herbs.
Months later, I saw Bruce at the movies and waved. He practically skipped up the aisle to where I was sitting and gave me a big bear hug. "They're gone!" he exclaimed. "Who's gone?" I asked. "The ulcers!" After finding out that he did not have cancer, Bruce started an herbal regimen. He took two capsules of licorice three times a day. With a little experimentation, he found that waking up at 4:00 a.m. to take a dose eliminated the early morning feeling in his stomach that, as Bruce said, "can really bite you." When he went back to the doctor after several months, he was given a clean bill of health. As the lights dimmed in the theater, I asked Bruce if I could include his story in this book. Heading back to his seat, he called over his shoulder, "Yes, yes, you should tell the whole world!"
17085PG98 Meadowsweet, aloe vera, mullein and fenugreek all soothe inflamed and bleeding ulcers. Meadowsweet is a known pain reliever and is good for treating ulcer pain. In a study conducted in Russia, compounds in aloe vera juice healed every participant's ulcers so completely that the researchers responsible for the study compared aloe vera favorably to cimetidine, one of the most popular anti-ulcer drugs. In Bulgaria, doctors successfully treat intestinal ulcers with a pharmaceutical preparation called Verbascan, which is made frommullein.
Classic European remedies whose effectiveness has been verified by medical research include raw cabbage and potato and celery juices. Drinking a cup of cabbage juice four times a day can heal stomach ulcers in only ten days. If juicing cabbage does not fit into your busy schedule, you can purchase dehydrated, raw cabbage powder at natural food stores.
The magic ingredient in cabbage is sometimes called the anti-ulcer U factor. Its technical name is glutamine, and this compound is also available in capsules. Glutamine has proved to be a better ulcer cure than antacids. In one study, the ulcers of half the participants disappeared in only two weeks, and those of almost all the rest were healed in four weeks.
One herbal combination with a long history of curing ulcers is Robert's Formula. Not much is known about Robert. He was probably a physician, but legend has it that he was a sailor who suffered from severe stomach ulcers. Robert tried various herbs to cure his ulcers. Some had minor effect; others didn't work at all. Every time he visited a new port, he added a new plant to his formula. The final concoction healed his ulcer. There have been some revisions to the formula since Robert's time, but it is basically the same. Some of its main ingredients aremarshmallow, slippery elm and dried cabbage powder, with echinacea and baptisia to help enhance immunity and fight infection.
With Robert's Formula in mind, I concocted this tea to combat ulcers. Friends have found it very helpful.
1 teaspoon each licorice root, marshmallow root and chamomile flowers
˝ teaspoon each Oregon grape root, hops strobiles, echinacea root and cinnamon bark
1 quart water
Put herbs and water in an uncovered saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for about 10 minutes. Strain herbs and store the tea in the refrigerator. Drink 2 or more cups a day.
If you have ulcers, there are some natural substances that you should avoid: papaya and pineapple. The digestive enzymes made from papaya, which are used in most commercial meat tenderizers, will corrode the areas in the stomach that have been injured by your ulcer. Pineapple can make your ulcer worse in the same way.
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