Turmeric for Ulcers

Fresh Turmeric Root
Fresh turmeric root on a wooden cutting board. (Image: cheche22/iStock/Getty Images)

Researchers are currently looking at curcuma longa, or turmeric, the main ingredient in many Indian curries, to help treat a number of different maladies from indigestion to cancer. Because of its use to treat indigestion, you may consider using for other types of gastrointestinal distress such as a peptic ulcer, a lesion on the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach or upper small intestine. However, using turmeric for this purpose may not help and may potentially make the condition worse. Always discuss the use of herbal supplements with your physician before use.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a flowering perennial and a relative of ginger, that grows in Southeast Asia and India. The spice gives Indian curries its mustard yellow color and strong bitter taste. Herbalists have used turmeric for over four centuries to treat infections, stomach troubles and many other ailments. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that researchers are exploring the use of turmeric to treat ulcerative colitis, osteoarthritis, uveitis, diabetes, atherosclerosis and stomach ulcers. Researchers believe that curcumin, a powerful antioxidant on par with Vitamin C, may help decrease inflammation, kill viruses, bacteria and potentially even cancer cells.

Peptic Ulcers

A peptic ulcer is like an open sore that develops along the digestive tract. Many people believe that spicy foods and stress cause ulcers, but actually a bacterial infection called Helicobacter pylori or medication is the cause of most peptic ulcers. The most common symptom of gastric ulcers is a burning pain and it can be felt anywhere from the navel to the breastbone. The pain may be worse at night and may feel better when eating certain foods. In some cases, you may vomit red or black blood or note dark blood in your stool. You may also experience nausea and vomiting as well as unexplained weight loss and changes in appetite. Treatment most often includes antibiotics to kill the H. pylori bacteria, medications that block or reduce acid and promote healing as well as antacids to neutralize stomach acids.

The Science

As of 2011, scientific studies show that turmeric does not actually help peptic ulcers, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. In fact, turmeric may increase the amount of stomach acid, making ulcers worse. Turmeric may also decrease the effectiveness of medications that do reduce stomach acid such as cimetidine, ranitidine, esomeprazole, omeprazole, lansoprazole and famotidine, again making ulcers worse.

Warnings

Drugs.com explains that no side effects have been reported in people using turmeric in foods, but there is a lack of evidence when looking at the side effects of turmeric when used medicinally. In addition to interfering with medications that reduce stomach acid, turmeric may also interfere with antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs such as aspirin and warfarin, increasing the risk of bleeding of the ulcer and throughout the body.

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