Alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Many people with frequent heartburn use over-the-counter or alternative therapies for symptom relief. Remember that even natural remedies can have risks and side effects, including potentially serious interactions with prescription medications. Always do careful research and talk with your doctor before trying an alternative therapy.

Although no alternative therapies have been found specifically to relieve bile reflux, some may help protect against and relieve esophageal inflammation. If you decide to start any of these therapies, discuss them with your doctor. They include:

  • Chamomile, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Chamomile teas are readily available and have a low risk of side effects.
  • Licorice, which is commonly used to soothe inflammation associated with GERD, gastritis, ulcers and other digestive problems. However, licorice contains a chemical called glycyrrhizin (gly-cyr-RIH-zin) that's associated with serious health risks, such as high blood pressure and tissue swelling, if used long term. Talk with your doctor before trying this therapy. Prescription preparations are available that don't contain glycyrrhizin.
  • Slippery elm, a product of a tree bark and root, may help soothe the digestive tract. Slippery elm can be mixed with water and taken after meals and before bed. But slippery elm may decrease the absorption of prescription medications.
  • Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is an herb — not the puffy white candy — that has been used for GERD symptom relief. Like slippery elm, marshmallow may cause problems with the absorption of medications.
Mar. 14, 2012