Certain foods, herbs, and supplements may help your body fight the bacteria often responsible for causing stomach ulcers.
Ulcers are sores that can develop in different parts of the body.
Gastric ulcers, or stomach ulcers, develop in the stomach lining. They are very common, affecting between 2.4–6.1% of the population.
Various factors that disrupt the balance of your stomach’s environment can cause them. The most common is an infection caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
Other common causes include stress, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and the overuse of anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Conventional anti-ulcer treatment typically relies on medications that can cause negative side effects like headaches and diarrhea.
For this reason, interest in alternative remedies has steadily risen and has been fueled by medical professionals and individuals with ulcers.
This article lists nine scientifically backed natural ulcer remedies.
1. Cabbage juice
Cabbage is a popular natural ulcer remedy. Doctors reportedly used it decades before antibiotics were available to help heal stomach ulcers.
It’s rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant shown to help prevent and treat H. pylori infections. These infections are the most common cause of stomach ulcers.
Several animal studies show that cabbage juice effectively treats and prevents a wide range of digestive ulcers, including those affecting the stomach.
In humans, early studies observed that daily consumption of fresh cabbage juice appeared to help heal stomach ulcers more effectively than the conventional treatment used at the time.
In one study, 13 participants suffering from stomach and upper digestive tract ulcers were given around one quart (946 ml) of fresh cabbage juice throughout the day.
On average, these participants’ ulcers healed after 7–10 days of treatment. This is 3.5 to 6 times faster than the average healing time reported in previous studies in those who followed a conventional treatment.
In another study, the same quantity of fresh cabbage juice was given to 100 participants with stomach ulcers, most of whom had previously received conventional treatment with no success. 81% were symptom-free within a week.
However, researchers have not identified its exact recovery-promoting compounds, and no recent studies could be identified.
Moreover, neither of these early studies had a proper placebo, making it difficult to know that the cabbage juice produced the effect.
Summary: Cabbage juice contains compounds that may help prevent and heal stomach ulcers. Cabbage is also rich in vitamin C, which has similar protective properties.
Licorice is a spice native to Asia and the Mediterranean region.
It comes from the dried root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant and is a popular traditional herbal medicine used to treat many conditions.
Some studies report that licorice root may have ulcer-preventing and ulcer-fighting properties.
For instance, licorice may stimulate the stomach and intestines to produce more mucus, which helps protect the stomach lining. The extra mucus may also help speed up the healing process and help reduce ulcer-related pain.
Researchers further report that certain compounds found in licorice may prevent the growth of H. pylori. However, studies are generally based on using these compounds in supplement form.
Thus, it’s unclear how much dried licorice root someone would need to consume to experience the same beneficial effects.
Dried licorice root should not be confused with licorice-flavored sweets or candy. Licorice candy is unlikely to produce the same effects and is generally very high in sugar.
Suggested read: 10 health benefits of golden milk, and how to make it
Additionally, some studies report no effect, so using licorice as an ulcer remedy may not work in all cases.
Licorice may also interfere with certain medications and cause side effects, such as muscle pain or numbness in the extremities. Consider speaking to your healthcare practitioner before increasing the licorice content of your diet.
Summary: Licorice may prevent and fight ulcers in some individuals.
Honey is an antioxidant-rich food linked to a variety of health benefits. These include improved eye health and a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and even certain types of cancer.
Honey also appears to prevent the formation and promote the healing of many wounds, including ulcers.
Moreover, scientists believe that honey’s antibacterial properties can help fight H. pylori, one of the most common causes of stomach ulcers.
Several animal studies provide support for honey’s ability to reduce the risk of developing ulcers, as well as healing time. However, human studies are needed.
Summary: Regular consumption of honey may help prevent ulcers, especially those caused by H. pylori infections.
Garlic is another food with antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
Animal studies observe that garlic extracts may speed up recovery from ulcers and even reduce the likelihood of them developing in the first place.
Furthermore, lab, animal, and human studies all report that garlic extracts may help prevent H. pylori growth — one of the most common causes of ulcers.
In a recent study, eating two cloves of raw garlic per day for three days helped significantly reduce bacterial activity in the stomach lining of patients suffering from H. Pylori infection.
However, not all studies could reproduce these results; more are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Suggested read: 7 science-based health benefits of Manuka honey
Summary: Garlic has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that may help prevent and heal ulcers quicker. However, more research is needed.
Turmeric is a South Asian spice used in many Indian dishes. It’s easily recognizable by its rich yellow color.
Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, has been attributed to medicinal properties.
These range from improved blood vessel function to reduced inflammation and heart disease risk.
Moreover, curcumin’s anti-ulcer potential has recently been studied in animals.
It appears to have immense therapeutic potential, especially in preventing damage caused by H. pylori infections. It may also help increase mucus secretion, effectively protecting the stomach’s lining against irritants.
Limited studies have been done on humans. One study gave 25 participants 600 mg of turmeric five times per day.
Four weeks later, ulcers had healed in 48% of participants. After twelve weeks, 76% of participants were ulcer-free.
In another, individuals who tested positive for H. pylori were given 500 mg of turmeric four times daily.
After four weeks of treatment, 63% of participants were ulcer-free. After eight weeks, this amount increased to 87%.
That said, neither of these studies used a placebo treatment, making it difficult to know whether the turmeric caused the participants’ ulcers to heal. Thus, more research is needed.
Summary: Curcumin, an active ingredient of turmeric, may protect the stomach lining and help heal ulcers. However, more research is needed, especially in humans.
Mastic is a resin obtained from the Pistacia lentiscus tree, commonly known as the mastic tree.
Other common names for mastic include Arabic gum, Yemen gum, and tears of Chios.
The mastic tree generally grows in the Mediterranean region, and its sap can be dried into pieces of brittle, translucent resin.
When chewed, this resin softens into a white opaque gum with a pine-like flavor.
In ancient medicine, mastic has long been used to treat various gut disorders, including stomach ulcers and Crohn’s disease.
Animal studies have reported that it may act as a potent natural ulcer remedy.
Additionally, research in 38 participants suffering from ulcers reports that daily consumption of 1 gram of mastic led to a 30% greater reduction in ulcer-related symptoms than the placebo.
By the end of the two-week study period, ulcers were healed in 70% of the participants in the mastic group versus only 22% of those in the placebo group.
Suggested read: Turmeric and black pepper: A powerful combination
Mastic appears to have antibacterial activity against H. pylori as well.
In one recent study, an intake of 350 mg of mastic gum three times a day for 14 days eradicated H. pylori infections 7–15% more effectively than the conventional treatment.
Although this finding has not been universally observed in all studies, long-term mastic consumption is generally considered safe. Thus, it might be worth testing it out for yourself.
Mastic can be found at most health food stores as a gum or powdered supplement.
Summary: Mastic is a traditional anti-ulcer remedy that may help reduce symptoms and speed up recovery. It’s considered safe, but its effects can vary from one person to another.
7. Chili peppers
There’s a popular notion among people suffering from ulcers that eating chili peppers too often or in large quantities may cause stomach ulcers.
People suffering from ulcers are often advised to limit their consumption of chili peppers or to avoid them completely.
However, recent research shows that these peppers are unlikely to cause ulcers and may help remove them.
That’s because chili peppers contain capsaicin, an active ingredient that reduces stomach acid production and enhances blood flow to the stomach lining. Both of these factors are thought to help prevent or heal ulcers.
The capsaicin found in chili peppers may also help increase mucus production, which can coat the stomach lining and protect it from injury.
Most, although not all, animal studies show beneficial effects. However, few human studies could be found.
Also, the animal studies above used capsaicin supplements rather than whole chili peppers. In at least one study, such supplements led to more intense gastric pain in certain individuals.
Therefore, it may be best to stick to whole food and adjust your intake based on your tolerance.
Summary: Contrary to popular belief, regular consumption of chili peppers may help protect against ulcers and perhaps even enhance their healing. However, more studies are needed, especially in humans.
8. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is widely used in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food industries. It is widely known for its antibacterial and skin-healing properties.
Interestingly, aloe vera may also be an effective remedy against stomach ulcers.
In one study, aloe vera consumption significantly reduced the amount of stomach acid produced in rats suffering from ulcers.
In another study in rats, aloe vera had ulcer-healing effects comparable to omeprazole, a common anti-ulcer medication.
However, few studies have been done on humans. In one, a concentrated aloe vera drink successfully treated 12 patients with stomach ulcers.
In another study, taking antibiotics with 1.4 mg/pound (3 mg/kg) of aloe vera daily for six weeks was as effective as the conventional treatment at healing ulcers and reducing H. pylori levels.
Aloe vera intake is considered generally safe, and the above studies show some promising results. However, more studies on humans are needed.
Summary: Aloe vera may be an easy, well-tolerated remedy against stomach ulcers. However, more research on humans is needed.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that offer an array of health effects.
Their benefits range from improving your mind’s health to your gut’s health, including its ability to prevent and fight ulcers.
Although the way this works is still being investigated, probiotics seem to stimulate the production of mucus, which protects the stomach lining by coating it.
They may also promote the formation of new blood vessels, which eases the transport of healing compounds to the ulcer site and speeds up the healing process.
Interestingly, probiotics may play a direct role in preventing H. pylori infections.
Moreover, these beneficial bacteria enhance conventional treatment efficiency by around 150%, all while reducing diarrhea and other antibiotic-related side effects by up to 47%.
The dose required for maximum benefits is still being researched. That said, most studies above report benefits after taking 200 million to 2 billion colony-forming units (CFU) for 2–16 weeks.
Probiotic-rich foods provide fewer colony-forming units per portion than supplements, but they are worth adding to your diet.
Suggested read: The 12 best foods for an upset stomach
Good sources include pickled vegetables, tempeh, miso, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
Summary: Probiotics may help prevent and fight ulcers. They may also enhance the efficiency of anti-ulcer medications and reduce their side effects.
Foods to avoid
Just like some foods can help prevent ulcers from forming or help them heal faster, some have the opposite effect.
Those trying to heal their stomach ulcers or avoid developing them should consider minimizing their intake of the following foods:
- Milk: Although once recommended to help reduce stomach acidity and relieve pain, new research shows milk increases stomach acid secretion and should be avoided by those with ulcers.
- Alcohol: Alcohol consumption can cause damage to the stomach and digestive tract, increasing the likelihood of ulcers.
- Coffee and soft drinks: Coffee and soft drinks, even if they’re decaf, can increase stomach acid production, irritating the stomach lining.
- Spicy and fatty foods: Extremely spicy or fatty foods can irritate some people. Chili peppers are an exception, based on personal tolerance.
In addition to avoiding the foods above, consuming small meals at regular times, snacking throughout the day, eating slowly, and chewing your food well can help reduce pain and promote healing.
Moreover, avoiding smoking and reducing stress are two additional useful anti-ulcer strategies.
Summary: Certain foods may increase the likelihood of developing ulcers and delay healing. Their intake should be minimized by individuals prone to or suffering from stomach ulcers.
Stomach ulcers are a relatively common and irritating medical condition.
The natural remedies listed above may help prevent the development of stomach ulcers and facilitate their healing. In some cases, they may even improve the effectiveness of conventional treatment and reduce the severity of its side effects.
It’s important to note that in most cases, it remains unclear whether these natural remedies are as effective as conventional treatment.
Suggested read: Licorice root: Uses, benefits, side effects, dosage, and forms
Thus, those suffering from ulcers should seek advice from their healthcare professional before self-medicating.