Plant-based remedies for acid reflux

Many people are familiar with the symptoms of acid reflux. There is often a general sense of bloating, and stomach discomfort follows by a sense of acid backing up into the throat. One may burp with a sour or bitter taste. There can be discomfort or even burning pain moving up from the stomach to the middle of the chest. Hence, acid reflux is also called heartburn. Medically, if mild acid reflux that occurs at least twice a week, or moderate to severe acid reflux occurs at least once a week, then the condition is considered as Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) [1]. GERD is a very common condition that affects about 2.5% to 6.6% in Eastern Asia up to 13.8% to 25.8% in North America, according to the World Gastroenterology Organisation [2].

Heartburn – Burning pain moving up from the stomach to the middle of the chest.

Acid reflux is caused by the backflowing of stomach acid into the oesophagus, which may be due to the incomplete closure of the ‘valve’ at the entrance to the stomach. There can be many factors that influence the development of GERD including ageing, overweight, smoking, anxiety/depression, lack of physical activity, and eating habits (e.g. skipping meals, overeating) [1].

GERD

GERD is a long-term condition with the standard treatment being the proton-pump inhibitors (PPI) therapy which reduces the production of stomach acid.  However, PPI can only control the symptoms but not eradicate the disease [3]. Furthermore, long term use may cause a rebound in hyperacidity in the stomach and increase risks of pneumonia, infections, and osteoporosis.  Therefore, it is not advisable to depend on PPI for the long term.   

Here are some natural, plant-based remedies that can be helpful to reduce the discomfort of acid reflux.   

Chamomile

Dried chamomile flowers

Chamomile is a traditional herbal remedy for the treatment of acid reflux. Its main actions include anti-inflammatory and carminative [4]. There are two common varieties of chamomile, German Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) and Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Both varieties can be used to treat reflux and reduce the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract associated with excessive stomach acid [5].

Ginger

Ginger tea – a great remedy for any stomach discomfort

Ginger is both a spice and a herb. Ginger may relieve gastrointestinal irritation associated with reflux and reduce inflammation. As a carminative herb, it can also reduce the likelihood of stomach acid overflowing to the oesophagus. It is also particularly useful for nausea relief [6].   

Lemon

Drinking a glass of fresh lemon water 20-30 min before meals can help to prevent acid reflux

Drinking a glass of water mixing with one tablespoon of lemon juice 20 to 30 min before each meal can be a useful way for some people to prevent acid reflux. The d-limonene in the lemon essential oil is also useful for relieving the symptoms of GERD as reporting in a clinical trial [7].   

Slippery elm

The leaves of slippery elm tree

The inner bark of slippery elm has been traditional use to treat many gastrointestinal disorders, including acid reflux. Consume in the form of powder; it is predominantly composed of dietary fibre including celluloses, lignin, mucilage and gums. Slippery elm has anti-inflammatory property [8]. When combined with water, slippery elm powder turns into a gel which can coat and soothe inflamed tissue. The coating also acts as a barrier in the oesophagus to prevent harm from stomach acid.  

Marshmallow

A marshmallow plant

Marshmallow root is another herbal remedy that can be potentially helpful in aiding digestion. Like slippery elm, the root of marshmallow is rich in mucilage and can form a protective coating to prevent the painful symptom of heartburn. The flower of marshmallow can also help to prevent gastric ulcer [9].

Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet – a natural antacid

Meadowsweet is a natural plant-based antacid [4] that is useful to reduce the production of stomach acid. It also has strong anti-inflammatory activity [10]. This herb is traditionally used to treat conditions of the upper gastrointestinal tract associated with flatulence and hyperacidity. The drug aspirin is a derivative of the salicylic acid compound isolated from meadowsweet.  

Conclusion

Acid reflux is a chronic condition that affects many people. While proton-pump inhibitors medication can control the symptoms, long-term use is not recommended. Many plant-based remedies can be used to ease the discomfort of acid reflux and help to improve the condition. Among these remedies include chamomile, ginger, lemon, slippery elm, marshmallow, and meadowsweet. These herbs have been traditionally used to address gastrointestinal conditions such as acid reflux. Trust the ancient wisdom.

References

[1]        D.M. Clarrett, C. Hachem, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Mo. Med. 115 (2018) 214–218. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30228725.

[2]        WGO, WGO Handbook on HEARTBURN : A Global Perspective, in: World Dig. Heal. Day 2015, World Gastroenterology Organisation, Milwaukee, WI, 2015: pp. 1–33.

[3]        D.S. Sandhu, R. Fass, Current Trends in the Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Gut Liver. 12 (2018) 7–16. doi:10.5009/gnl16615.

[4]        K. Bone, The Ultimate Herbal Compendium, Phytotherapy Press, Warwick, QLD, 2007.

[5]        J.K. Srivastava, E. Shankar, S. Gupta, Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future, Mol. Med. Rep. 3 (2010) 895–901. doi:10.3892/mmr.2010.377.

[6]        M. Nikkhah Bodagh, I. Maleki, A. Hekmatdoost, Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of clinical trials, Food Sci. Nutr. 7 (2018) 96–108. doi:10.1002/fsn3.807.

[7]        J. Sun, D-limonene: safety and clinical applications.(Clinical report), Altern. Med. Rev. 12 (2007) 259.

[8]        S.E. Edwards, I. d. C. Rocha, E.M. Williamson, M. Heinrich, Slippery Elm, in: S.E. Edwards, I. d. C. Rocha, E.M. Williamson, M. Heinrich (Eds.), Phytopharmacy, Wiley, 2015: pp. 360–362. doi:doi:10.1002/9781118543436.ch102.

[9]        R. Hage-Sleiman, M. Mroueh, C.F. Daher, Pharmacological evaluation of aqueous extract of Althaea officinalis flower grown in Lebanon, Pharm. Biol. 49 (2011) 327–333. doi:10.3109/13880209.2010.516754.

[10]      J. Katanić, T. Boroja, V. Mihailović, S. Nikles, S.-P. Pan, G. Rosić, D. Selaković, J. Joksimović, S. Mitrović, R. Bauer, In vitro and in vivo assessment of meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) as anti-inflammatory agent, J. Ethnopharmacol. 193 (2016) 627–636. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2016.10.015.

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