HOUSTON, TEXAS. Over 90 per cent of people suffering from stomach ulcers are infected with Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Eradication of the infection is 90 per cent successful in curing the stomach ulcer and is also thought to be important in preventing stomach cancer. Effective therapies using pharmaceutical drugs exist and will usually eliminate the infection in as little as one week. Laboratory tests have suggested that natural products such as garlic, jalapeno peppers, and honey have strong antibacterial properties and may be useful in treating Helicobacter pylori infections. Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine now report that while garlic and peppers may be effective in a test dish (in vitro), they have no effect on a Helicobacter pylori infection when tested in the body (in vivo). Their experiment involved 12 subjects aged 27 to 51 years. The subjects were fed three daily meals (morning, noon, and evening) consisting of 225 grams of beef, flour tortillas, and a mixed green salad. During each meal the participants also received one of the following: garlic (10 freshly sliced cloves), capsaicin (6 freshly sliced large jalapeno peppers, two tablets of Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) or no added ingredients. A total of 10 participants ate the garlic meal, 6 the jalapeno meal, and 11 the bismuth meal. At least two days elapsed between the consumption of the different test meals. The activity of the Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the stomach was measured using the urea breath test before breakfast, before the evening meal, and the following morning. Neither the garlic nor the peppers were found to have any inhibiting effects whereas bismuth subsalicylate reduced the median urease activity (measure of the number of active bacteria) from 55.8 to 14.3. The researchers conclude that natural remedies which look promising in vitro (test tube results) must be evaluated in vivo before judgment is passed on their effectiveness. NOTE: This study was partially funded by Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals.
Graham, David Y., et al. Garlic or jalapeno peppers for treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection. American Journal of Gastroenterology, Vol. 94, May 1999, pp. 1200- 02