The Application of TCM Treatment for Peptic Ulcers
by Dr. Jin-Cheng Lin
Retired Chinese Practitioner, Currently Dedicated in the Compiling of TCM Literature
A peptic ulcer indicates benign damage that penetrates deep into the tissues of the digestive tract wall due the erosion of the mucosa of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum by gastric acid. It is typically a deep erosion occurring at the area of the lesser curvature and duodenal bulb close to pylorus. Therefore, peptic ulcers include both gastric and duodenal ulcers. The depth, size, and period vary from person to person.
It is well known that drugs such as NSAIDs are risk factors that cause peptic ulcers, especially gastric ulcers. High doses of the drugs, along with alcohol consumption, increase the potential for stomach bleeding. Other important causative factors of peptic ulcers are an improper diet, fatigue, and long-term emotional stress. Helicobacter pylori infection may also lead to peptic ulcers.
The main reasons that western medications fail to treat peptic ulcers are that patients do not take the medication on time, or that the H. pylori become drug resistant. In this case patients need to undergo another treatment session. Anti-H. pylori drugs sometimes have side effects such as dizziness, diarrhea, thickening of the tongue coating, hindered sense of taste, and allergies. Some patients seek help from Chinese Medicine when they are unable to endure those side effects.
Comparison of Modern Medicine Treatments and Chinese Medicine Treatments
In terms of Chinese Medicine’s theory of physiology, the stomach receives food and drink and holds it until they are completely digested. The spleen governs digestion, transforms nutrients, and transports these nutrients to supply the whole body. If the stomach’s functions of descending and emptying are weakened, and spleen’s abilities of digestion and transporting nutrients are decreased, the result is liver stagnation, an unhappy state of mind, spleen deficiency, and poor digestion.
After years where the whole body has a physiological Yin-Yang dysfunction, the mucosa that protects the stomach suffers severe damage and easily erupts into serious symptoms such as stomach bleeding, hematemesis, black stool, gastric perforation, and pyloric obstruction.
Peptic ulcers belong to the Chinese Medicine categories of “gastric cavity pain, acid swallowing, and epigastric upset“.
No matter if we are treating peptic ulcers with herbal granules or modern medicine, we should differentiate their current stage: active, healing or remission stage. We should clear heat, remove dampness, harmonize the stomach, and relieve pain during active stage. The formula in this stage is Pinellia Combination (Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang) plus Notoginseng Root (San Qi), Bletilla (Bai Ji), and Dandelion (Pu Gong Ying). We should emphasize strengthening the spleen and harmonizing the stomach during the remission stage in order to prescribe the formulas according to the patterns.
When experiencing acute peptic ulcer pain, eating some soda crackers or taking Wu Bei San with Fritillaria (Zhe Bei Mu) and Cuttlefish Bone (Hai Piao Xiao), an anti-acid, antispasmodic and gastric acid inhibiting Chinese medicinal formula, can help alleviate the pain. Placing a hot pack on Ren 12 (10 cm above navel) and massaging PC6 on both hands and ST36 3 cun below the knees can usually get immediate results.
In short, the feature of using granulated Chinese herbs is the ability to prescribe according to the patients’ individual patterns. We should refer to the four examinations, the clinical manifestations of each pattern, and the patients’ needs when prescribing herbs or acupuncture points. Diet, exercise, health preservation, relaxation, and physical and mental balance are things we should also pay attention to in our daily lives.
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