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Conditions such as heartburn and acid reflux can be minor annoyances or a major hindrance to enjoying life. Chances are, if you suffer from chronic heartburn, then you know the dietary advice: avoid trigger foods, eat small meals, avoid drinking liquids while you eat, take a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to aid digestion, and don’t exercise or go to bed right after eating.
However, the herb world has its remedies as well (of course!). Not only can herbs help soothe the burning of acid reflux, some can actually help heal any damage done to the digestive system by excessive acid production.
Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis):
Marshmallow contains a mucilage (read: slimy and soothing) quality which helps to coat the esophagus and stomach lining, creating a protective barrier against stomach acid.
Marshmallow can be taken in capsule form or as a cold infusion (steep a tablespoon of marshmallow root overnight in two cups of cold water—you’ll end up with a thick, soothing, slightly bitter, and sweet-tasting concoction which will instantly soothe pain). Bonus: Marshmallow helps heal damage done by excessive acid production.
Note: while marshmallow is totally safe and non-toxic, because of its mucilaginous qualities, it may interfere with the absorption of other medications, so take it on its own.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa):
In my experience, turmeric relieves pain on contact. I like to use it as a gargle for sore throats, heartburn, and sores in the mouth. For gargling: mix two teaspoons of turmeric, warm water, and a pinch of salt. Swish that (admittedly not-so-appetizing) mixture around for thirty seconds, gargle, and spit it out. Try, if you can, not to chase it with water; instead, let it sit in the mouth and swallow a bit of it to help soothe and heal the digestive system. You can also take turmeric in capsule form.
Note: “As is the case with so many herbs, turmeric should be used in moderation. Too much turmeric used for extended periods of time may cause stomach distress. Since turmeric is included in Ayurvedic formulas for birth control, women trying to become pregnant should limit their consumption of the herb, and it should be avoided entirely while pregnant. Excessive use of turmeric should also be avoided in people with congestive heart failure. The curcumin in turmeric activates a gene called p53. This gene deactivates damaged cells in the heart.” (Source: Mountain Rose Herbs)
Chewable Licorice (DGL—deglycyrrhizinated licorice):
DGL is a chewable form of licorice that has had the glycyrrhizin removed. What the heck does that mean? Well, basically, glycyrrhizin is the component in licorice which makes it a not-so-safe herb for those with high blood pressure or who are prone to bloating and water retention. Removing it makes the herb safe for consumption by everyone.
Chewing (and chewing is important—digestion starts in the mouth with saliva) a couple of DGL tablets when you’re feeling heartburn come on helps to decrease inflammation in the stomach, protect the stomach lining, and soothe ulcer conditions. It also helps boost enzyme production, allowing for easier and quicker digestion as well as better absorption of nutrients.
It goes without saying that chronic acid reflux is a condition that should be looked at by your physician. But whether you suffer from chronic or occasional heartburn, any of these herbs can not only provide relief, but also a platform for healing damaged tissue.