An ulcer is a kind of erosion (open sore) on the surface of an organ or tissue. Ulcers most commonly occur in the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Such types of ulcers are known as peptic ulcers.
A peptic ulcer in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer. A duodenal ulcer is a type of peptic ulcer that develops in the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). An esophageal ulcer develops in the lower part of the esophagus.
An estimated 4 million Americans every year suffer from a peptic ulcer, and it is the most common form of stomach disease (1).
Most ulcers are actually caused by bacterial infections (primarily Helicobacter pylori) and regular use of medications that irritate the sensitive lining of the stomach. Also, drinking too much alcohol, radiation therapy, burns and physical injuries can cause ulcers.
Peptic ulcers can be very painful and progressively worsen over time. The pain is caused by stomach acid interacting with the affected area, which can be felt anywhere between the navel and breastbone.
Other symptoms include unexplained weight loss, changes in appetite, dark blood in stools, nausea and vomiting red or black blood.
People of any age can get stomach ulcers and women are affected as frequently as men. It must be treated immediately. If left untreated, it can result in bleeding or even a hole in the stomach or bowel.
Conventional ulcer treatment typically relies on medications that can cause negative side effects like headaches and diarrhea. However in some cases you just cannot avoid the conventional medications. Make sure to discuss with your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
You can try some simple but effective home remedies also to help relieve the pain and heal the ulcer.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for ulcers.
Cabbage is a great remedy for ulcers in the stomach.
Being a lactic acid food, cabbage helps produce an amino acid that stimulates blood flow to the stomach lining. This aids in the healing process.
Plus, cabbage contains a good amount of vitamin C, which is beneficial for fighting an H. pylori infection.
A 1949 study published in the Western Journal of Medicine found rapid healing of peptic ulcers was observed radiologically and gastroscopically in 13 patients treated with fresh cabbage juice. This indicates that the anti-peptic ulcer dietary factor may play an important role in the genesis of peptic ulcers (3).
A 2014 study published in Medicinal Chemistry Research reports that the aqueous cabbage plant extract increased the pH value of gastric juice, and hence it could be used for healing an acute gastric ulcer (4).
- Cut half of a head of cabbage into chunks and throw it into a blender with a bit of water.
- Blend until it makes a sort of juice.
- Drink the fresh juice before each meal.
- Repeat daily for a few weeks.
Note: Be sure to use fresh juice each time.
Bananas can help heal a stomach ulcer by promoting cellular proliferation in the stomach. There are also certain antibacterial compounds in bananas that inhibit the growth of ulcer-causing H. pylori. Also, bananas help reduce inflammation and strengthen the stomach lining.
A 1986 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests that banana powder treatment not only strengthens mucosal resistance against ulcerogens but also promotes healing by inducing cellular proliferation (5).
A 2001 study published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology suggests that the antioxidant activity of bananas may be involved in its ulcer-protective activity (6).
In a 2013 study published in Pharmacognosy Research, researchers suggest the anti-ulcer effect of bananas may be due to its antisecretory and cytoprotective activity. The healing of the ulcer base might be connected to the basic fibroblast growth factors responsible for epithelial regeneration in the case of acid-induced ulcers (7).
To treat a stomach ulcer, both ripe and unripe bananas are very effective.
- Simply eat at least 3 ripe bananas a day.
- Alternatively, peel 2 or 3 bananas and cut them into thin slices. Put the slices in the sun until they become dry. Grind the dried banana pieces into a fine powder. Mix together 2 tablespoons of this powder and 1 tablespoon of honey. Take this mixture 3 times a day for 1 week.
Another good remedy for ulcers is garlic.
Garlic is rich in sulfur compounds that are responsible for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects. All these properties help keep the level of the ulcer-causing bacteria H. pylori in check.
A 2002 study published in Biotechnology Progress highlights the optimization of garlic extraction for the inhibition of in vitro growth of H. pylori to help fight or prevent peptic ulcers, as well as other pathologies associated with H. pylori infections, such us gastric cancer (8).
A 2016 study published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine reports that raw garlic has antibacterial effects against H. pylori residing in the stomach and may be prescribed along with routine drugs for the treatment of a gastric H. pylori infection (9).
- Eat 2 to 3 crushed garlic cloves followed by a glass of water daily on an empty stomach.
- You can opt to take garlic supplements, but do so only after consulting your doctor.
Fenugreek is another good remedy that you must definitely try if you’re suffering from an ulcer.
Being rich in a mucilaginous compound, fenugreek protects the stomach’s lining by coating it like mucus, thereby helping the healing process.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reports that the aqueous extract and a gel fraction isolated from fenugreek seeds showed significant ulcer-protective effects. The cytoprotective effect of the seeds seemed to be not only due to the antisecretory action but also to the effects on mucosal glycoprotein (10).
- Boil 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in 2 cups of water. Strain it, add a little honey and drink it. Do it twice daily.
- Another option is to mix 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seed powder in milk and drink it twice daily.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar, being a probiotic liquid, is naturally rich in live bacteria and yeast that provide many benefits to your digestive health.
It helps restore the pH of your stomach, which in turn helps treat the ulcer and relieve the pain.
A 2016 study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine highlights the possible use of probiotics in H. pylori eradication, one of the main causes of ulcers (11).
- Mix 2 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar into a glass of warm water.
- Add some honey and mix it well.
- Drink it immediately.
- Do this twice daily.
6. Cayenne Pepper
Capsaicin in cayenne pepper can ease discomfort and treat a stomach ulcer naturally.
Capsaicin soothes the mucosal lining of the stomach and increases the release of alkali, which help ease the discomforts and aid in the treatment of ulcers.
A 1997 study published in FEMS Microbiology Letters found that capsaicin supplementation or consumption inhibited the growth of H. pylori, the most common cause of stomach ulcers (12).
According to a 2006 review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, the compound capsaicin present in cayenne pepper inhibits the secretion of stomach acids, boosts the production of alkali, and stimulates mucus secretions and gastric mucosal blood flow, thereby preventing and healing ulcers (13).
- Mix ⅛ teaspoon of cayenne pepper into a glass of warm water. Drink it twice a day for 3 days. Gradually increase the amount of cayenne pepper up to ¼ teaspoon for the rest of the week.
- Alternatively, take cayenne capsules that you can buy at health food stores. Consult your doctor for the right dosage.
7. Licorice Root
The roots of the licorice plant are used to treat many kinds of ailments, including peptic ulcers.
Its main constituent, glycyrrhizin, turns into glycyrrhetinic acid when metabolized by the body. This acid, which is absorbed into the blood, is very effective against H. pylori infections, especially strains that cause peptic ulcers.
This herb also enhances the secretion of stomach mucus and prevents the formation of ulcers.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reports that deglycyrrhizinated licorice might help ulcers heal by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori (14).
- Add 1 teaspoon of licorice powder to 1 cup of water. Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer for 5 minutes. Strain it, allow the tea to cool a bit and add a little honey. Drink the tea 2 or 3 times daily.
- Alternatively, you can chew and then swallow deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) tablets. Consult your doctor for the correct dosage.
Note: Licorice herb may not be suitable for people with high blood pressure because of its glycyrrhizin content.
Raw honey has potent healing properties that help a lot in the treatment of stomach ulcers. An enzyme called glucose oxidase in honey produces hydrogen peroxide, which in turn kills harmful bacteria that cause ulcers.
Honey also soothes and reduces the inflammation of the stomach lining.
A 2006 in vitro study published in the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal found honey to be effective against H. pylori and inhibit the growth of the bacteria (15).
Again, a 2013 study published in the Iran Journal of Basic Medical Sciences reports that oral administration of honey can treat and protect against gastrointestinal infections, such as gastritis, duodenitis and gastric ulceration caused by bacteria (16).
Another study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity in 2016 highlights the gastroprotective effects of manuka honey against ethanol-induced gastric ulcers in rats (17).
- Consume 2 tablespoons of raw honey daily, early in the morning on an empty stomach.
- Another option is to add 1 tablespoon of honey and a pinch of cinnamon to a glass of warm water. Mix well. Drink it twice daily.
9. Low-Processed, Nutrient-Dense Diet
The diet you follow plays a huge role in how your ulcer is healing. While there are certain foods that can help soothe the inflammation, other foods can aggravate the symptoms.
You must try to avoid a diet that includes lots of packaged and processed foods, which promote inflammation and hinder immune functions.
Also, avoid foods that can aggravate the symptoms like black pepper, chili powder, caffeine, decaffeinated coffee or tea, alcohol, cocoa, chocolate, cola beverages, citrus fruits, fatty and fried foods, tomato products and peppermint.
Instead, eat foods rich in flavonoids, as such foods prevent inflammation and soothe the intestinal lining. Foods and drinks rich in flavonoids include soybeans, legumes, red grapes, kale, broccoli, apples, berries and herbal teas, especially green tea.
Also, probiotic foods that are rich in healthy bacteria are good for your gut health, including when you have an ulcer. Some common probiotic foods are yogurt, buttermilk, miso, kimchi and kefir.
10. Manage Stress
To deal with ulcers, it is important to manage your stress level.
Stress is one of the risk factors for ulcers and also can aggravate the symptoms and delay the healing process. Stress weakens the immune system and worsens digestion, making it more likely that you’ll catch the bacteria or microbes that cause ulcers.
A 2015 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology reports that psychological stress increased the incidence of peptic ulcers, in part by influencing health risk behaviors. Stress had similar effects on ulcers associated with H. pylori infection and those unrelated to either H. pylori or use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (18).
A 2016 study published in BMC Gastroenterology reports that the highest level of perceived everyday life stress raised the risk of either receiving triple treatment or being diagnosed with a peptic ulcer during the following 33 months more than twice that of the lowest level of perceived stress (19).
To help better manage stress, try exercising, meditating or deep breathing, getting good sleep and using relaxing essential oils for anxiety.
- Do not skip meals.
- Instead of two or three large meals, have five small meals a day.
- Do not eat spicy foods, which can make the symptoms worse.
- If your ulcer causes nausea and vomiting, prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water.
- Maintain a healthy weight and watch out for nutritional deficiencies.
- Quit excessive alcohol use and stop smoking, which irritates the gut lining.
- Peptic ulcer – Harvard Health. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/digestive-health/peptic-ulcer-overview.
- Systematic review: the global incidence and prevalence of peptic ulcer disease. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19220208. Published May 01, 2009.
- Rapid Healing of Peptic Ulcers in Patients Receiving Fresh Cabbage Juice. Western Journal of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1643665. Published January 1949.
- Effect of garlic and cabbage on healing of gastric ulcer in experimental rats. SpringerLink. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00044-014-1092-z. Published June 27, 2014.
- Anti-ulcerogenic effect of banana powder (Musa sapientum var. paradisiaca) and its effect on mucosal resistance. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0378874186900413. Published November 18, 2002.
- Role of gastric antioxidant and anti-Helicobactor pylori activities in anti ulcerogenic activity of plantain banana (Musa sapientum var. paradisiaca). NOPR. http://nopr.niscair.res.in/handle/123456789/23847. Published July 01, 2001.
- Anti-ulcer and ulcer healing potentials of Musa sapientum peel extract in the laboratory rodents. Pharmacognosy Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3719258. Published 2013.
- Optimization of Allium sativum solvent extraction for the inhibition of in vitro growth of Helicobacter pylori. Biotechnology Progress. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12467456.
- Assessment of antibacterial effect of garlic in patients infected with Helicobacter pylori using urease breath test. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5052411. Published 2016.
- Gastroprotective effect of fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum graecum) on experimental gastric ulcer in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874102001174. Published May 16, 2002.
- Potential role of probiotics in the management of gastric ulcer. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4906699. Published July 2016.
- Capsaicin as an inhibitor of the growth of the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori | FEMS Microbiology Letters | Oxford Academic. OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/femsle/article-abstract/146/2/223/489538. Published January 01, 1997.
- Capsaicin and gastric ulcers. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16621751.
- In vitro anti-Helicobacter pylori activity of a flavonoid rich extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra and its probable mechanisms of action. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23220194. Published January 30, 2013.
- The Antibacterial Activity of Honey on Helicobacter Pylori. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074916. Published December 2006.
- Traditional and Modern Uses of Natural Honey in Human Diseases: A Review. Iran Journal of Basic Medical Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758027. Published June 2013.
- Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, and Antiulcer Potential of Manuka Honey against Gastric Ulcer in Rats. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4685122. Published 2016.
- Psychological stress increases risk for peptic ulcer, regardless of Helicobacter pylori infection or use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25111233. Published March 2015.
- Perceived stress as a risk factor for peptic ulcers: a register-based cohort study. BMC Gastroenterology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5126869.