Can Cabbage Juice Heal an Ulcer?
An ATH reader asks if cabbage juice can heal a medication-induced ulcer.
Before we get to cabbage, it is important to be under the care of a qualified health professional if you have an active ulcer, and I encourage you to seek care if you have not already done so. And be sure to avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods during your healing process.
With that said, let’s talk about cabbage juice.
Studies conducted from the 1930s through the 1950s demonstrated that the juice of cabbage leaves prevented the development of new ulcers and healed existing ulcers faster than the standard therapy of the time.
The healing effect of cabbage juice was attributed to an unidentified substance in cabbage leaves that, at the time, was dubbed vitamin U. We now know that “vitamin U” is actually s-methylmethionine, a derivative of the amino acid methionine that prevents damage to, and promotes healing of, the lining of the digestive tract.
These studies wouldn’t meet the rigor we expect today, nevertheless they do provide convincing evidence that cabbage juice does indeed speed the healing of gastric ulcers. The main difficulty in the human trials was compliance. Most patients found the cabbage juice unpalatable, even objectionable. The treatment required drinking a liter of juice in divided doses each day and many patients did not complete the trials.
Fortunately, cabbage juice is not the only option to support healing of an ulcer. Here are a few herbs that can help.
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) Due to its anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antacid properties, meadowsweet helps protect and heal the upper GI mucosal lining. Meadowsweet was traditionally used to treat upper GI maladies, including ulcers and gastric reflux and while no human trials exist, contemporary animal studies support traditional use.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) has anti-inflammatory and vulnerary properties; It promotes regeneration of the epithelial tissue that forms the outer layer of our skin and the lining of hollow organs, like the stomach. Numerous contemporary studies confirm this activity.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) also has anti-inflammatory and vulnerary properties. Its antispasmodic and sedative properties soothe tension and anxiety and it is especially helpful when tension affects the digestive tract. Animal studies have demonstrated a protective effect against gastric ulcer formation.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) Gentler than its cousin peppermint, spearmint is gently astringent and relieves nausea, which can sometimes accompany gastric ulcers.
A blend of 2 parts meadowsweet, and 1 part each of the other herbs should do nicely. You can blend a large batch and store it in a glass jar out of direct light. For daily use infuse ½ cup of the herb blend in 1 quart of covered, just boiled water for 20 minutes. Strain and drink in 8-12-ounce portions throughout the day. These herbs can be purchased in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs or Starwest Botanicals.
Deglycyrrhized licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) Licorice has protective and healing action on the upper GI mucosal lining through increasing the levels of compounds that promote mucous secretion and tissue regeneration. Deglycyrrized licorice (DGL) is available in capsules. You might be able to find it at your local health food store and it can easily be ordered online. Take as directed on the bottle.
Safety note: Higher doses and long-term use of licorice can lead to water and sodium retention, loss of potassium and elevated blood pressure. The compounds responsible for these effects have been (mostly) removed from DGL though a small amount remains.
Hope this helps!
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Cheney, G. (1949). RAPID HEALING OF PEPTIC ULCERS IN PATIENTS RECEIVING FRESH CABBAGE JUICE. California Medicine, 70(1), 10–15.
Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. (2013). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/C2009-0-48725-7
Renata is a clinical herbalist with a private practice in Greenbelt, MD. She helps women build a solid foundation of wellness while working together to address their unique health concerns so they can live life with vibrance and vitality. She has a BS in Chemistry from University of Maryland, a MS in Therapeutic Herbalism, and a Post Masters Certificate in Clinical Herbalism from Maryland University of Integrative Health. Find her online at renalynn.com and on Facebook @renatalynnclinicalherbalist