Some herbal remedies have been used for reflux, for soothing the associated inflammation and esophagitis, for hundreds – even thousands – of years. This is a brief list of a few of these herbal remedies for reflux.
Natural herbal remedies are becoming more popular as some people become frustrated with the cost and adverse side effects of pharmaceutical remedies. On the up-side, some herbal remedies have been time-tested over thousands of years. On the down-side, their strength and dosing can vary more than synthetic pharmaceuticals. Herbal preparations can vary in strength between manufacturers, and between lots (batches).
Just as importantly – and often not considered by proponents of herbal remedies – some herbal supplements have been shown to interact with medications. Some have been found to increase the effect of medications; some have been found to decrease the effect of medications. Due to this possibility of herb-drug interaction, it is important to discuss all “natural” remedies and supplements you are considering taking with your doc before trying them.
CAUTION: You should consult a trusted herbalist, or a Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) to find your proper herbal remedy and dosing. There are a variety of clinicians who have training and experience with herbal remedies: see my article on the various types of healthcare practitioners for guidance.
Also see my article, “On Being Natural” for my thoughts on the notion that ALL natural products are beneficial and safe. They aren’t. As with all things in life, use caution and common sense. The following list is simply a starting point for your own research – online, at the library, and with your trusted healthcare provider. As with all information on this site, it is meant as a reference resource, not medical advice.
The following are a few “Natural” Remedies for Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). The majority of these herbal remedies are not specific to GERD. Instead, they are beneficial as anti-inflammatory agents. Some of the active ingredients are well-characterized and have demonstrated clear benefits through clinical trials. Some of the benefits are time-tested over millennia, but the active ingredients have not yet been isolated or purified. Also see my short article on Reflux in Children: Causes and Treatments.
As with all of the chronic airway/digestive inflammatory disorders (CAID), reflux is a key factor in inflammation of the Unified Airway.
If you struggle with ANY of the CAID disorders (rhinitis, otitis, sinusitis, etc.), getting control of your reflux can CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
9 Herbal Remedies for Reflux
Yes, this is the same Aloe vera that many people grow at home. Aloe vera joice has long been used to treat mild burns and many skin conditions. It is known to have anti-inflammatory benefits, thought to help reduce reflux esophagitis.
Cautions: do not use directly from plants grown at home – only use commercial preparations made for ingestion. Even then, some aloe ingredients can interact with the following medications: digoxin, diuretics, steroids, drugs for irregular heartbeat, drugs that cause potassium loss, drugs for managing blood sugar.
This is one of those “time-tested” remedies for reflux, having been cultivated and consumed for more than 8,000 years. Barley grass contains strong anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants. Usually consumed as a tea.
Chamomile, Fennel Seed Tea
Usually consumed as a tea, these contain various bioflavanoids, oils, and mucilages, that are anti-imflammatory and soothing for reflux esophagitis.
Caution: don’t’ use if allergic to ragweed.
Cilantro, Coriander Seeds
Similar to Fennel see tea, these contain flavanoids, phenolic acids, and mucilage, thought to aide in digestion and reduce the inflammation associated with reflux. Used in the medicinal repertoire of Hippocrates, so I guess you could say these are “time-tested”.
Another strong anti-inflammatory, taken as raw ginger with meal, or as a ginger tea.
Licorice Root, DGL
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice – DGL – is derived from licorice root, and contains strong anti-inflammatory agents.
The herb marshmallow (Althaea officinalis, NOT the puffy white sugar treats) contains a thick “mucilage” ingredient that provides a soothing coating on the lining of the esophagus.
Caution: Consult your physician before taking marshmallow herb if you have diabetes. It can cause blood sugar to dip too low, especially if combined with diabetes medications. It can also slow absorption of some other medications. Marshmallow herb should NOT be taken by pregnant or nursing women.
Herbs Known to Worsen Reflux
Peppermint / Spearmint: These are known to loosen the muscle at the lower end of the esophagus, where it enters the stomach. As you can imagine, if that loosens up, stomach contents – including acid – can more easily move back up into the esophagus. The result? Mints increase reflux. Avoid them if you have reflux. Avoid the after-dinner mint. Avoid mint tea. Avoid mint gum.
Finally, if you are PREGNANT, take a look at this site, Herbal Remedies During Pregnancy, for guidance.
Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.
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