Herbal Remedies for Reflux (GERD)

Herbal Remedies

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 

Aloe vera

herbal remedies for reflux

Aloe vera

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.

Barley Grass

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

herbal remedies for reflux

Chamomile (image from late 1800’s text)

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”.

Ginger

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.

herbal remedies for reflux

Marsh-mallow (Althaea officinalis)

Marshmallow

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.

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Resources:

Complementary and alternative medicine use for children

A few words about being “natural”

Reflux in children: causes and remedies

Definitions of different labels for health practitioners

The Unified Airway: Sinusitis, asthma, rhinitis, tonsillitis, bronchitis … 

_______________________________________

Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.

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Comments

  1. Shabir Mia says:

    Hi, I’m an ENT surgeon in Saskatchewan, Canada with a strong interest in Integrative Care. Ijhave started including Complementary therapies along with my Allopathic principles in the last 2-3 years and have been searching for other ENT surgeons with the same viewpoint on health care. Thank you for your blog. I will visit it often, and will likely add a blog of my own for adult ENT issues as well.

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Dr. Mia,
      How wonderful that you recognize the value of effective remedies, regardless of their origins – “alternative” or “conventional” (Western) medicine. If you are not already familiar with his work, please take a look at the writing of Dr. Rob Ivker (his book, Sinus Survival, is pioneering). Thank you for visiting. Please let me know what your website url is.
      RF

  2. I find it interesting that mint increases reflux yet that’s the flavoring ‘they’ use in infant/toddler zantac prescriptions :/ Both of my kids had GERD. My son didn’t need medication after I removed dairy from my diet (I was breastfeeding). My daughter has many more food sensitivities/allergies. Her reflux got very bad when on medication and I had to fight the doctor to get a prescription compounded without added flavors, sweeteners, etc, but eventually we figured out all her trigger foods and stopped the medication.

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Carrie,
      Agreed: and most of the nighttime teas that are caffeine-free (that’s a good thing for refluxers) that include chamomile also include mint, and therefore increase reflux. Odd.
      So glad to hear that you sleuthed-out the triggers for your daughter. That’s a challenge that many people simply give up on. It took us over a year to figure out our son’s triggers, poor little guy.
      Love your FB page.
      Thanks for visiting, and for sharing! Please share the site with friends.
      Health and peace …

  3. Hi Dr!
    I’m a mom with a 6 month old with respiratory issues. I think it’s GER-related- he’s on Albuterol nebulizers, Proair inhaler (as an alternate to the neb), Flovent inhaler, and Pepcid. He was 9 days in the NICU for respiratory distress, born at 37 weeks, I had preexisting diabetes so his lungs weren’t as well developed as a 37 weeker should be. I’ve been giving him gripe water since he was 2 weeks old, but now I’m wondering if it’s too much ginger after reading your page. I don’t know how well the pepcid is working- he’s still so congested and and so sick in the mornings. I’m keeping him upright for 30 minutes after every feeding, and have taken him to a pediatric pulmonologist who is managing him. Can you recommend some natural treatments? We’ve only been on the pepcid for a week, so we’re giving it some more time, but nothing has changed since being on it.
    Thanks for this great website!
    Gigi

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Gigi,

      Thanks so much for visiting, and for sharing. I’m hoping that some other readers here may have suggestions for you.
      In addition, here are a couple links to articles on this blog:
      A list of articles.
      Reflux in Children.
      I was always bewildered by the number of children who were sent to me to treat “chronic cough,” who were already being aggressively treated for asthma, but who were able to get off all of their asthma meds when I started treating them for reflux (GER). It sounds like you’re doing many of the simple things already. Please give those articles a look to see whether there are any more useful tips for your son. In my own practice, I was fortunate to collaborate with a Pulmonologist who understood the role of reflux as a reactive airway trigger, so my patients were in good hands. You may consider asking your pediatrician about their views on reflux and reactive airway; you may ask their opinion about another pulmonologist. If you are very fortunate, you live in an area where you have access to a naturopathic doctor (doctor of naturopathy, of ND) who specializes in pediatric care.
      I’m hoping that there are other readers who will contribute here.
      Thanks so much for sharing, and for your kind comments.
      Please keep me updated.

  4. Puertas Acorazadas san blas says:

    Hello, just wanted to tell you, I liked this blog post.
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