A circumscribed ulceration of the mucous membrane penetrating through the muscularis mucosa and occurring in areas exposed to acid and pepsin. Gastriculceration occurs along the lesser curvature of the stomach, whilstduodenal ulcers are found in the first few centimeters of the duodenum.
Ulcerative conditions of the stomach, duodenum and oesophagus are very common in our society, with non prescription symptomatic relief medicines being major money makers for the pharmaceutical industry. Drug treatment is based primarily upon reducing the corrosive impact of stomach acid on the mucosallining. This is done through ant-acid chemicals or other agents that reduce the production in the first place, either directly or indirectly. A range of plants are available that appear to work in a broader way to facilitate a reversal of the syndrome present.
Peptic ulcers usually have a chronic, recurrent course, with a variable symptom picture. In fact only about half of all ulcer patients present with the characteristic picture. The pain is often described as burning, gnawing or aching, whilst the distress is a soreness, empty feeling or `hunger’. The epigastric pain will be relieved by ant-acids or milk. The typical pain picture in duodenal ulcers is that of hunger pains, whilst that forgastric ulcers may be brought on by eating.
With the skilled use of plants having demulcent, ant-acid, astringent and vulnerary, actions it is well within the bounds of therapeutic possibilities to bring about a rapid and complete healing of any ulceration. Herbs such as Comfrey, Marshmallow root, Meadowsweet, Calendula, Chamomile and Golden Seal are examples of the remedies that may be used.
Perhaps the best known herbal tisane is Chamomile tea. A widely used digestive remedy throughout Europe, its therapeutic use is well documented. Chamomile is uniquely suited for digestive problems, combining as it does carminative, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-septic and gentle bitter actions. Analysis of its constituents reveal a volatile oil that contains, amongst other things, azulene, chamazulene, and a range of sesquiterpenes. Apart from the oil there is a bitter principle, flavones, glycosides, salicylic acid, coumarin derivatives and much more. They act as biologically evolved whole, contributing there specific effects to create a wonderfully rounded digestive remedy. Their is a mild anti-spasmodic effect on smooth muscles that will ease colic, gently sedate on the central nervous system, will ease the impact of stress, and there is an anti-inflammatory effect upon the lining of the gut as well as it being anti-microbial. A local effect is a vaso-dilation increasing blood flow to the digestive system.
This all works together in a way that gives it an invaluable role in holistic treatments of many digestive system diseases, especially where there are associated colic spasms. Of course, there are various other indications for this wonderful herb which will be highlighted elsewhere.
Emergency hospitalization is essential if the ulcer perforates or hemorrhages.
Actions indicated for the processes behind this disease
Demulcents soothe the lining of the stomach, either through a coating or an inherent anti-inflammatory action.
Anti-inflammatories will reduce localized mucosal reaction.
Astringents will lessen local bleeding.
Vulneraries speed up natural wound healing.
Carminatives will ease any subsequent flatulence lower down in the abdomen.
Nervines will help ease background stress involvement.
Bitters aid the healing process in the latter stages of treatment.
Alteratives help the body dealing with any systemic problems that might result from the disease.
Ant-acids have little to offer other than symptomatic relief.
Digestion and subsequent elimination are pivotal as is the nervous system. Of course any focus of distress or malfunction in any system must be helped.
Comfrey root, Marshmallow root, Meadowsweet, Calendula, Chamomile can all be seen as possible specifics. Their validity is very predictable, based upon an understanding of their actions. The anti-inflammatory flavonoid content of the Calendula and Chamomile are thought to be very important. In addition to these herbs, raw cabbage juice is a traditional and effective treatment. Similarly, demulcent foods such as the plantain banana and even the potato can help. Liquorice is an effective remedy now used in allopathic medicine as a treatment for ulceration.
One possible prescription
A successful herbal component in the treatment of peptic ulceration is a two stage process.
1) Reduce inflammation and initiate healing using demulcents &vulneraries.
- Comfrey root – 1 part
- Marshmallow root – 1 part
- Chamomile – 1 part combined as tincture 5ml three times a day.
- Marshmallow root – 1 part
2) Tone and complete healing.
- Golden Seal 1 part
- Comfrey root 2 parts
- Chamomile 2 parts combined as tincture 5ml 3 times a day
- Comfrey root 2 parts
Caution: if symptoms have not subsided within a week, seek skilled diagnosis.
- demulcents (Comfrey root, Marshmallow root)
- anti-inflammatories (Chamomile, Golden Seal)
- astringents (Comfrey root, Golden Seal)
- vulneraries (Comfrey root, Golden Seal, Chamomile)
- nervines (Chamomile)
- bitters(Golden Seal)
Broader Context of Treatment
There are some commonly found consequences of the non-herbal treatment of peptic ulceration and should be looked for in ulcer patients:
- Excessive use of antacids can lead to the impaired absorption of certain nutrients from the diet.
- Excessive drinking of milk or consumption of ant-acids can lead to elevated levels of calcium in body tissues and urine, which might lead to kidney stones.
- Eating a bland and milky diet might lead to obesity.
- Milk might aggravate problems associated with a sensitivity to dairy products.
- A poor appetite associated with ulceration might lead to nutritional deficit.
Dietary factors are fundamentally involved in both the causation and treatment of peptic ulceration. In some case the ulceration might be due to a specific food allergy, but will always be aggravated by sensitivity to irritants. As in the other digestive system conditions discussed so far, all such irritant foods must be avoided. Alcohol and tobacco are especially implicated. Pepper, coffee and anything that the patient experiences as a problem should be removed from the diet. Avoidance of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories is essential. Small meals often are better than large meals. Increasing the proportion of fibre in the diet has been shown to reduce the rate of recurrence of peptic ulceration, however there should be a bland diet in the early stages of treatment to avoid physical irritation. Rest and re-evaluation of a life-style that may be causing stress is important. The creation of a stress management program that is uniquely suited for the patient should be a priority.