Although heartburn can often be alleviated with antacids and other modern medicines, some patients prefer to pursue relief via herbal remedies. The most commonly cited herbal remedies for heartburn are chamomile, peppermint, and ginger.
Unlike traditional drugs, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate herbal remedies and treatments, and therefore their true effectiveness is often difficult to judge. Moreover, a prepackaged treatment for heartburn often contains many different herbs, some of which are not combating heartburn itself. A variety of sources however, including the American Botanical Council, all advocate the use of chamomile (Matricaria recutita), ginger (Zingiber officinale), and peppermint (Mentha piperita) to treat this condition.
All three fall into a group of herbs which the General Nutrition Center (GNC) terms "carminative," and are thought to relieve indigestion and intestinal irritation. Chamomile, widely recognized for its calming properties, is thought to help relieve esophageal irritation and aid proper digestion. The presumed mechanism of action is through a decrease in stomach acid, due to its high calcium content. Traditionally used for many gastrointestinal problems, ginger assists in proper digestion by promoting spontaneous intestinal movement. Additionally, ginger has anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties. Peppermint is also believed to act against indigestion, and has the additional property of calming the gastrointestinal tract. Moreover, one study of peppermint in combination with caraway fruit was also found to ease the symptoms of heartburn.
In addition to the “carminative” class of heartburn herbs, GNC also suggests that “bitter digestive stimulants” such as blessed thistle may promote digestive enzyme production and thus alleviate heartburn. However, such herbs are not as universally recommended as chamomile, ginger, and peppermint. As with all medications, a doctor should be consulted before using any sort of herbal remedy to ensure it does not conflict with other ongoing treatments.
Last updated: 01-Apr-03