What are herbal teas?
Herbal teas are beverages made from the decoction or infusion of herbs, spices, and/or other plant parts (bark, roots, stems, and rhizomes) in hot water.
Decoction involves the mashing and boiling of herbs or plant parts to dissolve and extract the chemicals therein. Infusion on the other hand involves suspending/steeping plant material in water over time.
Typical herbal teas include:
- sage tea
Best herbal teas for heartburn
Some herbal teas are loaded with bioactive components which show antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities via different pathways that benefit human health. One of these benefits is the easing of heartburn.
Several herbal teas further contribute to soothing heartburn by improving gastric motility, promoting healthy digestion, or smoothing the muscles.
These are the most popular heartburn-friendly herbal teas:
Ginger tea has been used for digestive issues for centuries. Its effectiveness in preventing and relieving heartburn is backed up by several scientific studies.
Ginger tea is one of the most popular natural heartburn remedies, and for a good reason:
- It contains phenolic compounds such as gingerols and shogaols that relieve irritation of the gastrointestinal walls and reduce gastric contractions.
- These compounds have anti-inflammatory properties as such reducing swelling in the esophagus which is beneficial to patients as inflammation of the esophagus is a crucial trait for acid reflux.
- Ginger improves gastric emptying and motility which reduces the duration of food in the stomach and thus the occurrence of reflux.
- Ginger also enhances the contraction of the smooth muscles of the lower esophageal sphincter preventing the backflow of acids. For this reason, ginger is also effective in treating nausea.
Chamomile tea for heartburn
Chamomile is another tried and tested heartburn remedy. Even though there are only a few scientific studies on the effects of chamomile on heartburn and acid reflux, most of these studies suggest that chamomile is (or probably is) beneficial for soothing heartburn.
Iberogast, a popular remedy for digestive issues also contains chamomile flowers.
Besides gastrointestinal problems, it is widely used for treating inflammation, muscle spasms, rheumatic pain, and severe other conditions.
Chamomile tea contains potent bioactive polyphenolic compounds like flavonoids (e.g. apigenin), chamazulene, and terpenoids that are responsible for its many health benefits:
- Chamomile tea lowers gastric acidity preventing the stomach from producing too much acid, an activity that fosters acid reflux. An extract prepared with chamomile showed reduced acid output and increased mucin secretion.
- The anti-inflammatory property of chamomile reduces inflammation and irritation of the esophageal walls as well as relaxing the muscles.
- It reduces smooth muscle spasms linked to several gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders.
- Chamomile tea can also be used to eliminate stress-related/induced acid reflux and heartburn as stress has been listed as a trigger for symptoms in GERD patients. This is because stress causes excessive secretion of stomach acids which can worsen reflux and heartburn. Research shows that chamomile tea might calm and ease the nervous system, a property that makes it helpful in treating acid reflux and consequently heartburn.
Fennel tea made from the fennel plant (Foeniculum vulgare) is also an excellent choice for heartburn relief.
Fennel has many health benefits:
- reduces irritation and swelling in the digestive tract due to its anti-inflammatory properties
- helps to eliminate excessive gas which can help smoothening the discomfort caused by reflux (or IBS)
- fennel has antibacterial activity, which directly does not affect heartburn, but might help other conditions, like ulcers
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) tea has shown to be effective for relieving heartburn.
These are the most important factors that make licorice an effective heartburn remedy:
- Licorice increases the mucous coating of the lining of the esophagus thus increasing esophageal resistance to irritation from stomach acids.
- Licorice also has a long history of treating inflammation as it inhibits prostaglandins synthesis and lipoxygenase.
- Furthermore, licorice contains glycyrrhizic acid which shows anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting the generation of reactive oxygen species by neutrophils which are the most powerful inflammatory mediators present at the site of inflammation.
Even though licorice can help relieve acid reflux symptoms, its long-term use might cause unwanted side effects.
Mashmallow root tea – an effective heartburn remedy
Marshmallow root (Althaea Officinalis) tea also offers many health benefits that should protect against heartburn:
- It shows anti-inflammatory activities.
- Marshmallow root protects the lower esophageal sphincter from the backflow of stomach acids.
- Additionally, it contains mucilage which becomes spongy and gel-like when it encounters fluids. As such it coats the stomach, throat, and esophagus lining providing a soothing layer to suppresses heartburn.
- Studies have reported rapid wound healing upon the use of marshmallow root extracts in animal studies.
Turmeric and curcumin tea
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) contains the polyphenol curcumin. The following benefits make turmeric/curcumin a great heartburn remedy:
- It shows antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Its antioxidant nature protects against oxidative stress which plays a key role in the strategy to combat the pathogenesis of esophageal mucosa damage caused by acid.
- It prevents the damage of the epithelial cells of the esophageal mucosa caused by reflux esophagitis (esophageal inflammation).
Slippery elm tea
Slippery elm tea is made from the inner bark of the slippery elm tree (Ulmus rubra). It is widely used to treat symptoms of many gastrointestinal problems – like heartburn, IBS, ulcers.
- It protects from heartburn by forming a protective layer that coats the stomach.
- Moreover, it helps the intestines produce mucus which gives an extra protective layer against stomach acids and thus relief from heartburn.
Worst herbal teas for heartburn
Chest pain after drinking tea can be caused by:
- esophageal spasms (usually when drinking too hot or cold beverages)
Heartburn-triggering teas usually have a relaxing effect on the lower esophageal sphincter or might increase acidity.
Even though peppermint tea has many health benefits – e.g. it can relieve IBS symptoms – it has an adverse effect when it comes to acid reflux.
Peppermint has antispasmodic activities on the smooth muscles and causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax causing acid reflux and cause heartburn.
This study examined 513 GERD sufferers and found that frequent consumption of peppermint tea is a heartburn risk factor.
Fruit-infused teas are also a bad choice for people with acid reflux. These include the likes of lemon and orange teas.
These fruits have high acid content which could alter the pH of your entire tea and when consumed worsen heartburn.
People suffering from acid reflux have been advised to stay away from acidic fruits for this very reason.
Black tea has a higher caffeine content than other teas and caffeine is a trigger for acid reflux.
People suffering from heartburn are usually advised to stay away from high caffeine-containing drinks and teas like coffee and black tea.
Herbal teas have served as medicines since medieval times and still do today. Some are good at relieving heartburn whereas others aggravate the disease.
Therefore, people should choose what tea to drink accordingly, and moderation is always advised.
Those who take medications should always consult with their doctors before starting to drink herbal teas, as many herbs might interact with various drugs.
Frequently asked questions
Small amounts of sugar or lemon don’t trigger heartburn or other symptoms (e.g. gas, bloating) for most people. However, if you are experiencing any kind of discomfort, you should steer clear of them.
Sugar also adds some extra calories and might not be suitable if you are on a diet.
Unless the tea is very hot or cold, it usually doesn’t make a difference. Both very hot and cold drinks might trigger esophageal spasms, which cause severe chest pain around the center of the chest, just like heartburn.
There is no definitive answer to this question. Try some of the above-mentioned herbs and see which soothes your heartburn the best.