Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux

heartburn and acid reflux
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A number of natural remedies are popular among people with acid reflux, a condition estimated to affect up to 30 million Americans. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD), acid reflux is a condition in which food or liquid moves backward from the stomach and leaks into the esophagus.  Some natural remedies are said to relieve acid reflux symptoms, such as heartburn.

Acid Reflux Causes and Symptoms

Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (a ring of muscle fibers responsible for preventing food and liquid from moving backward into the esophagus) is unable to close properly.

Several factors may contribute to improper functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter, including:

  • alcohol consumption
  • hiatal hernia
  • obesity
  • pregnancy
  • scleroderma
  • smoking
  • use of certain medications, such as beta-blockers, bronchodilators, calcium channel blockers, and progestin

Although heartburn is one of the most common signs of acid reflux, this condition may also cause nausea and/or create the sensation that food is stuck behind the breastbone. In some cases, people with acid reflux may also experience cough, difficulty swallowing, hiccups, and/or sore throat.

Remedies for Acid Reflux

Many lifestyle changes can help you manage acid reflux. These changes include avoiding foods and beverages that tend to trigger acid reflux symptoms, achieving/maintaining a healthy weight, eating smaller meals, and avoiding smoking. Although many people also treat acid reflux with over-the-counter antacids and/or prescription medication, others turn to natural remedies for relief of acid reflux.

These remedies include:

1) Herbs

Because licorice is said to have soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, some patients with acid reflux consume deglycyrrhizinated licorice in tablet or powder form to reduce their symptoms.

While research on licorice's effectiveness in management of acid reflux is limited, a small study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology in 2013 suggests that a combination of glycyrrhetinic acid (a substance found in licorice), alginic acid (a substance found in brown algae), and anthocyanins extracted from bilberry may benefit acid reflux patients.

In an eight-week-long trial involving 63 patients with acid reflux, the study's authors found that those given both the licorice-containing combination treatment and pantoprazole (a drug commonly used for acid reflux) experienced greater improvement in chest pain, heartburn, and abdominal swelling (compared to those given only alginic acid and pantoprazole).

Although research on the use of marshmallow root and slippery elm in treatment of acid reflux is currently lacking, it's thought that these herbs may also help soothe inflamed or irritated tissues in the digestive tract.

2) Melatonin

A combination of melatonin, l-tryptophan, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, methionine (an amino acid), and a compound called betaine shows promise in the treatment of acid reflux, according to a study published in the Journal of Pineal Research in 2006. In tests on 351 people with acid reflux, researchers found that those given the combination treatment for 40 days experienced a greater improvement in acid reflux symptoms than those given the prescription drug omeprazole for the same time period.

3) Acupuncture

Several small studies indicate that acupuncture may be beneficial for people with acid reflux. A report published in the Journal of Gastroenterology, for instance, suggests that acupuncture may help treat acid reflux by inhibiting the secretion of stomach acids and regulating muscle contractions in the digestive tract.

More about acupuncture.

4) Stress Management

Since stress may aggravate acid reflux, practicing stress management techniques may be beneficial to people with this condition.


It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Using Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend alternative remedies for the treatment of acid reflux. It's important to note that letting acid reflux go untreated may lead to further complications for some individuals. These complications include asthma, muscle spasms in the airways, dental problems, and esophageal ulcers. If you're considering using alternative medicine for acid reflux, make sure to talk to your doctor.


Di Pierro F1, Gatti M, Rapacioli G, Ivaldi L. "Outcomes in patients with nonerosive reflux disease treated with a proton pump inhibitor and alginic acid ± glycyrrhetinic acid and anthocyanosides." Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2013;6:27-33.

Èfendieva MT. "Efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease." Eksp Klin Gastroenterol. 2013;(5):49-52.

Patrick L. "Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): a review of conventional and alternative treatments." Altern Med Rev. 2011 Jun;16(2):116-33.

Pereira Rde S. "Regression of gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms using dietary supplementation with melatonin, vitamins and aminoacids: comparison with omeprazole." J Pineal Res. 2006 Oct;41(3):195-200.

Zhang CX1, Guto LK, Guo BR. "Clinical efficacy of electroacupuncture combined with dalitong granule for gastroesophageal reflux disease and its mechanism." Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2012 Jun;32(6):491-8.

Zhang C1, Guo L, Guo X, Guo X, Li G. "Clinical curative effect of electroacupuncture combined with zhizhukuanzhong capsules for treating gastroesophageal reflux disease." J Tradit Chin Med. 2012 Sep;32(3):364-71.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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