Heartburn, a painful burning sensation that occurs in the esophagus or just behind the breastbone, occurs when the esophageal muscle fails to close properly when food enters the stomach. This causes the acidic contents of the stomach to back up into the esophagus, causing irritation and the familiar burning sensation.
Individuals suffering from a hiatal hernia, a condition in which the top of the stomach protrudes into the chest cavity, are more likely to experience heartburn. The problem is also worsened by pregnancy and some prescription drugs. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, calcium channel blockers, birth control pills, sea sickness medications, some bronchiodilators used to treat asthma, tricyclic antidepressants and the dopamine given to Parkinson’s disease patients may all increase the likelihood of experiencing heartburn.
Almost everyone experiences an occasional bout of heartburn at one time or another, but frequent or ongoing heartburn may be the sign of a more serious condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Heartburn home remedies may help reduce the pain and discomfort of a normal episode, but if you suspect you are suffering from GERD, please consult a physician immediately for medical treatment. Otherwise, try any of the following natural remedies for fast relief of symptoms:
Perhaps the most simple home remedy for heartburn is a glass of plain water. If you drink water at the very first sign of heartburn, it washes the acid back down your esophagus and into your stomach, neutralizing the pain. However, this remedy only works for mild cases and only if you drink the water early enough. If you’ve already been experiencing pain for a while, you may need a stronger solution.
If you have a fresh papaya in the fridge, consider your heartburn problems solved. Fresh papaya fruit contains an enzyme known as papain that improves digestion on contact. Although the substance doesn’t directly effect heartburn, it promotes a healthy digestive process, which in turn eliminates excess acidic material from infiltrating the esophagus. Most people report nearly instant relief from heartburn symptoms after eating a fresh papaya. Avoid papaya if you have a latex allergy, however, as it may produce similar side effects.
A common home remedy for nausea and motion sickness, ginger root is also known for its ability to quell the pain of heartburn. It relaxes the muscles that line the walls of the esophagus, which prevents stomach acid from being pushed upward. To make a pain-relieving ginger tea, steep 1 tsp. of freshly grated ginger root in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes, strain and drink. If you don’t have fresh ginger root on hand, use ½ tsp. dried or ¼ tsp. ground ginger root powder to 1 cup water. Additionally, you can purchase ginger tea bags at health food stores or from online retailers.
The seeds of anise, caraway and fennel also have a soothing effect on heartburn, likely because of their mucilaginous properties. If you have any of these seeds in your pantry, use them to make a tea to help reduce heartburn pain. Add 2 tsp. seeds to 1 cup boiling water, allow the mixture to steep for about 10 minutes, strain and drink. You can add a little honey to the tea, which also has a soothing effect on the esophagus, if desired.
Marshmallow root is one of the oldest and most well-known natural heartburn remedies. When soaked in water, the root produces a gooey substance known as mucilage that coats and protects the mucous membranes in the esophagus. For the best results, combine approximately 1 tsp. powdered marshmallow root with 1 cup boiling water and drink up to 4 cups a day, as needed. You can also use fresh marshmallow root, if available. Simply soak a ¼- to ½-inch piece in a cup of boiling water until it expels mucilage, and then drink the liquid.
Slippery Elm Bark
Just like marshmallow root, slippery elm bark also produces mucilage that soothes burning mucous membranes caused by heartburn. Make a heartburn-easing drink from the herb by combining 1 tsp. slippery elm bark powder with 1 cup hot water. Drink 2 to 3 cups throughout the day, as needed for relief. If the fresh or dried bark is available to you, simply soak about a tbsp. in a cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes, strain and drink as needed.
Another of the most popular home remedies for heartburn, baking soda is an alkaline substance that helps neutralize stomach acid. Mix ½ tsp. baking soda with a few drops of lemon juice in about a half-cup of warm water. Wait about a minute and then drink. DO NOT drink baking soda by itself or just mixed with water. The lemon juice is required to help dispel some of the gas the substance creates before it hits your stomach. Without lemon juice, baking soda can produce a rapid internal reaction that ruptures the stomach.
In India, the popular culinary spice turmeric is highly regarded as a superior remedy for heartburn. It breaks down fatty foods and helps reduce acidity in the esophagus. Make a heartburn-relieving turmeric tea by combining ⅛ tsp. turmeric powder with 1 cup warm milk and 1 tsp. honey or sugar to taste. Drink up to three cups daily as needed. You can also take 2 turmeric capsules, available at health food stores, when heartburn occurs.
Another little known and perhaps surprising heartburn home remedy is prepared yellow mustard. Although it’s not clear how or why it works, much anecdotal evidence exists to support its use for treating heartburn. Simply eat ½ tsp. prepared yellow mustard the next time an acid reflux or heartburn attack occurs, sit back and wait for relief. Gray mustard is also believed to work in a similar manner, but yellow mustard is more commonly available.
Taken as a tea, lemon balm leaves act as a carminative (gas reducer) and they help soothe painful heartburn. Steep 2 to 3 tbsp. fresh or 1 to 2 tbsp. dried lemon balm leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain, add a teaspoon of honey and drink up to 3 cups daily, as needed. Not only does lemon balm tea provide heartburn relief, it’s also a refreshing and tasty beverage – especially on a hot summer day.
Aloe Vera Gel
Pure aloe vera gel from the leaves of the plant helps protect and heal the delicate lining of the esophagus and stomach, and reduces heartburn pain. Make sure you’re either harvesting the gel directly from a plant yourself, or that you’re using the type intended for internal use. Many types of aloe vera gel on the market are meant for external use only, so check the label carefully if you’re using a commercially available gel. Simply swallow 1 to 2 tbsp. as needed for relief from heartburn pain.
Heartburn Tea Recipe
In her book Herbal Healing for Women, herbalist Rosemary Gladstar recommends making a home remedy for heartburn using several different soothing herbs in tea form. The following recipe should provide relief very quickly. Feel free to make substitutions based on the ingredients you have on hand, if necessary.
- 2 parts anise seed
- 2 parts fennel seed
- 3 parts dried peppermint leaves
- 1 part ground cinnamon
- ½ part dried lavender or chamomile flowers
- Combine the herbs and place in an air-tight container.
- To make the heartburn tea, steep 4 to 6 tsp. of the herb mixture in 1 qt. water. Add the herbs to the water cold, and slowly bring them to a simmer over low heat, keeping the pot covered as much as possible.
- Remove the pot from the heat once the liquid reaches a simmer and allow it to steep for about 20 minutes.
- Strain the herbs from the liquid and drink small amounts throughout the day until symptoms subside. Sweeten with honey, if desired.
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