Green tea is a good candidate for treating stomach ulcers. (Photo by toughkidcst)
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are generally used for treating pain and reducing fever. The most common NSAIDs are aspirin and ibuprofen. While effective, these drugs have some pretty nasty side effects. For example, up to one in four regular users develop a chronic gastric ulcer at some point.
In addition to causing gastric, peptic and duodenal ulcers, NSAIDs also delay ulcer healing. In the United States, upper gastrointestinal problems from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use result in 16,500 deaths every year. What's worse, almost half of the prescriptions for NSAIDs are estimated to be unnecessary. Anti-ulcer drugs, on the other hand, are expensive and do not prevent the ulcers from recurring.
In a recent Indian study, the effectiveness of the anti-ulcer drug omeprazole and one of green tea's polyphenols, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), was compared in mice (link). The mice were first given enough of a NSAID called indomethacin to cause stomach ulceration. After that they were split into three groups: the first group was given a standard effective dose of omeprazole (3 mg/kg), while the second group was given EGCG in various doses (0.5–5 mg/kg). The third group acted as the control group and was given no treatment.
After three days, the ulcers of the mice in the control group had not healed at all. The omeprazole-treated mice had healed ~75% of their stomach ulcers. The effectiveness of the green tea polyphenol was dose-dependent: with 3 mg/kg, the ulcers healed as effectively as with omeprazole, while the largest dose (5 mg/kg) resulted in ~82% healing.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs cause gastric ulcers through a variety of mechanisms. They increase the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), increase lipid peroxidation and cause an imbalance in cytokines which regulate the immune system. In this study, EGCG improved all three factors even more effectively than omeprazole.
Although both omeprazole and epigallocatechin gallate have antioxidant properties, the mechanisms through which they work differ from each other. The main reason omeprazole works is because it reduces the production of gastric acid, whereas green tea is said to increase gastric acid release. While more studies are probably needed, the authors of the paper consider EGCG a promising candidate for treating stomach ulcers because it has not been shown to have negative side effects even with large doses (although there are potential problems with high-dose green tea extracts).
For more information on green tea, see these posts:
Green Tea Protects from the Psychological Effects of Stress in Rats
Tea, Coffee and Cocoa: All Good for Your Teeth
Green Tea and Capsaicin Reduce Hunger and Calorie Intake
Green Tea Extract Increases Insulin Sensitivity & Fat Burning during Exercise