by bill barber
Herbs have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, and many herbs have proven to be very successful in relieving and healing many health conditions, especially health issues that involve the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, there are a number of herbs that can be helpful to GERD sufferers in providing natural heartburn relief treatments.
The following is information regarding six different herbs that can be used to for acid reflux relief and other related digestive conditions. The information provided will explain how these herbs may help to subdue acid reflux symptoms when taken orally, as well as if there are any warnings you should be aware of before you consider taking any of these natural remedies:
Chamomile (alternative names: Genuine chamomile, Anthemis nobilis, German Chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, Roman Chamomile, Matricaria chamomilla, Goberneradora)
Chamomile has been used for centuries for its sedative and antispasmodic effects. When taken orally, chamomile can induce relaxation and has a calming effect, which has also led some to believe that it has anti-anxiety effects. Nevertheless, despite its possible anti-anxiety effects, chamomile also appears to be antispasmodic which might be linked to one of its chemicals, bisabolol. The antispasmodic properties make it gentle and soothing to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and may be beneficial at relieving minor GI symptoms including: gas, nausea, and stomach cramps
Furthermore, chamomile has also been found to provide soothing relief to irritated tissues in the nose, throat, and mouth, which can be beneficial to those who experience acid reflux in the throat.
Other studies suggest that chamomile may also have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects, all of which could benefit GERD sufferers who have inflammation within their esophagus (esophagitis). However, no study has yet successfully proved this theory.
Side effects- Vomiting can occur if very high doses of chamomile are ingested. Chamomile can also cause allergic reactions in individuals who are allergic to daisies, as chamomile is part of the daisy family.
Drug interactions and other precautions- Chamomile may interfere with the blood’s ability to clot and may cause drowsiness. Therefore there is the possibility that it might interact with the following medications and herbs:
– Anticoagulants and antiplatelets
– Drugs that promote sleepiness
– Sedative herbs (I.E. saw palmetto, ginger, danshen, devil’s claw, garlic, gingko, papain, red clover, etc.)
– Herbs that effect blood clotting (I.E. hops, kava, valerian, catnip, and st. john’s wort, etc.)
You should refrain from taking chamomile if you are pregnant because its antispasmodic effects could cause the uterus to relax, which could potentially lead to miscarriage.
Dandelion root (alternative names: Irish Daisy, Blowball, Leotodon taraxacum, Taraxacum officinale, Canker Wort, Lion’s Tooth, Puffball, Wild Endive)
Dandelion root has been used orally for years to treat various health problems including arthritis, gout, diabetes, cancer, liver problems, and heartburn. Dandelion has also been used to combat indigestion because its bitter flavor encourages the production of saliva which can be beneficial to GERD sufferers, as saliva helps to neutralize acid. In addition, it is believed that dandelion root may have some anti-inflammatory effects.
Side effects – Although unlikely if side effects are felt an upset stomach would be the most likely side effect of dandelion root.
Drug interactions and other precautions- Dandelion may have an effect on blood sugar, work as a diuretic, and increase acid production. Therefore it may interact with the following medications:
– Diabetes medications for lowering blood sugar
– Diuretic drugs
– Acid blocking medications such as antacids, H2 receptors, and proton pump inhibitors.
Individuals who should avoid taking dandelion root are those who are prone to or have gallstones or other problems with their gallbladder. Dandelion can irritate the gallbladder by increasing bile production. People with diabetes should also avoid taking this herb as it may affect their blood sugar levels.
It is important to note that not everyone who suffers from acid reflux and GERD can take dandelion root to treat their symptoms because there is a risk that this herb will increase stomach acid production, which can cause symptoms to become more frequent or worsen. Furthermore, if you have stomach ulcers or gastritis (stomach inflammation) you should not take dandelion root.
Meadowsweet (alternative names: Queen of the Meadow, Bridewort, Filipendula ulmaria, Dropwort, Lady of the Meadow, Spirea ulmaria, Spirea)
Meadowsweet can be used to help treat stomach problems such as diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, hyperacidity, gastritis, and peptic ulcers. However, the effectiveness meadowsweet has on these GI conditions is unknown. Meadowsweet also contains a mild degree of anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial for individuals who suffer from gout or other inflammatory conditions.
Aside from assisting in the relief of stomach issues, meadowsweet has also often been used to provide slight relief from symptoms caused by respiratory conditions such as congestion, fever and pain related to colds and similar ailments.
Side effects – Meadowsweet can cause constriction to occur in the muscles of the small airways of the lungs, known as a bronchospasm. This side effect could worsen asthma or trigger asthma attacks. Another side effect that has been reported by some individuals who take meadowsweet is nausea.
Drug interactions and other precautions – Meadowsweet could increase the risk of side effects in Narcotic analgesics (I.E. morphine), and may affect the blood’s ability to clot and interact with medications and herbal remedies such as:
– Anticoagulants and antiplatelets
– Herbs that effect blood clotting (see chamomile above)
Pregnant women, individuals with asthma, and those who have allergies to aspirin should avoid taking meadowsweet.
Cats claw (alternative names: Uncaria guianensis, Peruvian Cat’s Claw, Uña de Gato, Samento, Saventaro, Uncaria tomentosa)
Cats claw is comprised of many active chemicals and substances that are beneficial to the immune system. Due to its antioxidant, anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties, this makes it extremely beneficial for treating individuals who suffer from various health conditions.
Cats claw has also been used to help individuals who suffer from gastrointestinal problems find relief for conditions including gastritis, and gastric ulcers.
Side effects – Some side effects that have been reported include stomach discomfort, nausea, headache, and dizziness. You should not take cats claw if you are allergic to plants in the Rubiaceae or Uncaria family.
Drug interactions and other precautions- Cats claw has the potential to enhance a person’s immune function which could cause it to interact with drugs designed to suppress the immune system.
Cats claw was traditionally used as a form of contraception, and when taken in high doses may prevent pregnancy. Therefore, it should not be taken by women trying to become pregnant, pregnant women, or women who are breast feeding.
Individuals who have had organ transplants should not take cats claw due to the potential effects it can have on the immune system. In addition, it may cause unpredictable results in those who suffer from autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
Licorice (alternative names: Gan Cao, Sweet Root, Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice contains a substance known as glycyrrhizin which reduces the activity of two particular enzymes that contribute to the removal of PGE (prostaglandin E) from the body. Stomach conditions including gastritis, colic, and ulcers are associated with low levels of PGE. Therefore, licorice can actually increase the levels of PGE and allow more PGE to circulate through the body. The increase of PGE can reduce the production of stomach acid and promote the production of stomach mucus. Thus, licorice is often used to treat ulcers and many other stomach problems.
In addition to stomach conditions, licorice has also been found to be beneficial for treating respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, as well as for suppressing coughs, soothing sore throats, and has the potential to boost immune system function.
Note: the Licorice that is being referred to is the herb and not licorice candy. Licorice candy does not typically contain much of the active chemical present in the true herb, and, therefore, is not likely to provide the same positive or negative side effects.
Side effects – There are many side effects associated with licorice, but the severity of these side effects differ depending on how much licorice is ingested. The more common and less severe side effects of licorice when a single recommended dose is taken for longer than six weeks may include: headache, fatigue, muscle spasms, increased blood pressure and swelling.
Large doses of licorice may cause a condition called pseudoaldosteronism, which causes the following symptoms: excessive thirst, increased urination, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, low potassium levels, weight gain.
Drug interactions and other precautions- Licorice can increase the time required in order for blood to clot, can cause possible potassium deficiency, can interfere with medications used to suppress tissue inflammation, and mimic the female hormone estrogen. Therefore, licorice can interact with the following medications and natural remedies:
– Anticoagulants and antiplatelets
– Corticosteroid drugs (drugs that treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, etc.)
– Diuretics (“water pills that can cause potassium loss)
– Estrogen replacement therapy or oral contraceptives
– Testosterone therapy
– Laxatives (can promote loss of potassium)
– Herbs that effect blood clotting (see chamomile)
– Herbs that deplete potassium (I.E. aloe, senna, rhamnus frangula, rhamnus purshiana, rhamnus cathartica)
Pregnant women and women who are breast feeding should not take licorice, as it may increase the risk of premature labor or miscarriage. Other individuals who should avoid taking licorice include:
– Men with prostate cancer
– Women who suffer from uterine fibroids, endometriosis, cancer of the breast, ovaries, or uterus.
– Individuals with congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, liver condition or kidney disease.
Slippery elm (alternative names: Elm, American Elm, Japanese Elm, Indian Elm, Red Elm, Sweet Elm, Moose Elm, Ulmus rubra, Ulmus fulva, Winged Elm)
Slippery elm is recognized for having significant mucilage, a substance that swells and becomes slippery without dissolving in fluids. Mucilage is believed to help people find relief from coughs, and a variety of other symptoms involving the respiratory system. Furthermore, mucilage is also recognized for its positive effects on the GI tact, and it antioxidant effects that have the potential to decrease intestinal inflammation.
Slippery elm provides the mouth, esophagus, and GI tract with a coating. The slick residue it leaves in the GI tract can help alleviate sore throats; pain associated with stomach ulcers or colic; and can also help relieve inflammatory bowel symptoms. Additionally, slippery elm may encourage mucous production in the GI tract, which helps to protect the stomach and intestinal linings.
Side effects – When taken orally, slippery elm has no reported side effects. However, it may cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people when slippery elm products are touched, or pollen from the tree is breathed in.
Drug interactions and other precautions- There are no known interactions between slippery elm and medications or other herbal products. Nevertheless, due to the fact that the mucilage may coat the stomach and intestines, the mucilage could potentially delay or block the absorption of nutrients or drugs. Therefore, it is recommended that slippery elm be taken orally a minimum of 2 hours before eating or ingesting medications.
Pregnant women should not take slippery elm.
What you should know before taking any herbal products: You should not take any herbal remedy to treat your acid reflux or GERD symptoms without first consulting your health care provider. This is especially important if you are pregnant, breast feeding, or have another health condition and are taking medications. Furthermore, you must ensure that you take herbs according to the recommended dosage prescribed by a professional or as noted on the product information label on the herbal packaging.
Remember to speak to your doctor should you have any questions or concerns, and immediately stop taking any herbs should you experience an allergic reaction. Allergic reaction symptoms include:
– Skin: redness, rash, itching, or hives
– Eyes: red watery or itchy
– Nose: blocked, runny or sneezing
– Lungs: tightness in chest, wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing
– Stomach: nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
– Swelling: face, tongue or throat.
Contact your doctor or pharmacist should you experience an allergic reaction or any other side effect to any natural heartburn relief treatment.