Is chamomile tea good for heartburn?

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Chamomile tea is known to have a soothing effect on heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms. It has been used for centuries to treat digestive issues and other health problems.

What is chamomile tea?

Chamomile tea is tea made by infusing dried flowers of the chamomile plant in hot water.

The two popular species of the daisy-like plant used for chamomile tea are:

  • Matricaria recutita (also known as German chamomile)
  • Chamaemelum nobile (also known as Roman chamomile)

It is believed to have originated in Europe, though much of the commercially marketed chamomile originates from Egypt, where since ancient times, has been considered a gift from the God of the Sun, and as such treated sacredly.

Chamomile tea has been used in folk medicine for centuries, dating to 500 BCE, the time of Hippocrates, the father of medicine.

Health benefits of chamomile tea

7 Amazing Health Benefits of Chamomile Tea – Dr.Berg
A really short video about some of the health benefits of chamomile tea. Duration: 0:52.

Chamomile tea is loaded with polyphenolic compounds such as apigenin, luteolin, patuletin, and quercetin. These are responsible for its multiple health benefits, some of which are as follows:

Reduces insomnia and improves sleep quality

The polyphenol apigenin binds to the benzodiazepine receptors present in the brain inducing sleep and reducing insomnia.

Chamomile tea has been used traditionally for years as a tranquilizer and sleep inducer to treat insomnia.

Some clinical studies have reported an immediate deep inducing effect for up to 90 minutes upon consumption of chamomile tea by cardiac patients.

Controls blood sugar levels

Chamomile tea polyphenols are potent antioxidants that protect pancreatic beta cells by reducing oxidative stress related to hyperglycemia.

Research studies have reported that chamomile improves hyperglycemia by curbing blood glucose levels, increasing glycogen storage in the liver, and inhibiting sorbitol in the erythrocytes.

Protects against cancer

Apigenin present in chamomile is a very potent antioxidant that has been demonstrated to show anti-cancer activities.

It significantly reduces the viability of cells in several cancer cell lines in humans. It also inhibits the growth of cancer cells by inducing apoptosis in many preclinical models of breast, skin, prostate, and ovarian cancer.

Treats common cold

Drinking chamomile tea is an ancient remedy for common cold. Many studies have reported that inhaling the steam from chamomile extract is effective in relieving the symptoms of common cold.

Common cold – which is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (the nose and throat) -, is generally common and not life-threatening. However, if not treated, it can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia.

Is chamomile tea good for GERD?

Chamomile Benefits for Anxiety and Digestion
A bit longer video about how chamomile tea helps digestive problems. Duration: 7:21.

Chamomile tea is a time-tested remedy for gastrointestinal issues, and research studies are increasingly demonstrating its soothing efficacy for people suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Chamomile tea helps to relieve heartburn for several reasons:

Anti-inflammatory activities

Chamomile polyphenols have anti-inflammatory activities, and inflammation is associated with GERD.

Chamomile tea increases the release of anti-inflammatory hormones like prostaglandin E2 and decreases the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and leukotrienes.

Reduces muscle contractions

Chamomile reduces spasmodic contractions of the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract which trigger esophageal reflux.

Reducing spasmodic contractions improves the movement of food through the intestines.

Soothes bloating

Chamomile tea also helps to dispel gas, which soothes the stomach as bloating aggravates acid reflux.

This is because bloating increases pressure in the abdomen, which can push stomach contents upward into the esophagus worsening heartburn in people suffering from GERD.

Reduces gastric acid production

Chamomile tea lowers gastric acidity preventing the stomach from producing too much acid, an activity that fosters acid reflux.

Research studies have reported that chamomile extracts were effective in decreasing stomach acidity as effectively as commercially sold antacids and were also more efficient in hindering secondary hyperacidity.

Calms the nervous system

Further research shows that it calms and eases the nervous system, a property that makes it helpful in treating acid reflux.

Increases mucin secretion

Furthermore, chamomile promotes mucin secretion which lubricates the gut and eases swallowing and food movement through the gut.

It results in a soothing effect for acid reflux and heartburn symptoms in sensitive people.

Promotes a healthy gut microbiome

Chamomile tea boosts gut immunity by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers. Stomach ulcers aggravate heartburn symptoms in sensitive persons.

How to make chamomile tea for heartburn

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is quite easy to prepare, and some typical preparation methods include the following:

  • Infuse chamomile tea bag into hot water and allow to steep for about 5 minutes. Add honey and drink.
  • Infuse chamomile tea bag into hot water, add ginger powder and allow to steep for about 5 minutes. Add honey and drink.
  • Alternatively, if you have a fresh ginger, slice, or grate the fresh ginger, put it into a pot, add water, and allow it to boil for about 10 minutes. Sieve the contents into a cup or mug and add a bag of chamomile into the cup and allow to steep for about five minutes. Add honey and drink.

Ginger strengthens the muscles of the lower esophageal sphincter, preventing it from relaxing and allowing the backflow of food into the esophagus, provoking heartburn. Ginger also enhances gastric emptying, which also helps prevent reflux as it lessens the time food spends in the stomach.

In the place of ginger, or in addition to ginger, turmeric can also be used in chamomile tea.

Curcumin present in turmeric prevents damage to the epithelial cells of the esophageal mucosa caused by reflux esophageal inflammation. Its antioxidant nature also protects the body against oxidative stress which plays a vital role in combating esophageal mucosa damage caused by stomach acid.

Side effects of chamomile tea

Chamomile tea like any other beverage may produce some side effects in sensitive people:

  • Chamomile tea may be contaminated with pollens and as such can cause allergic reactions in people that are allergic to pollen.
  • Chamomile tea may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause botulism, a severe disease that can lead to paralysis of the face and limbs and respiratory failure in more severe cases. As such infants and very young children should not consume chamomile tea, as adults can deal with possible botulism but not them.
  • Some people can be allergic to daisy-like plants generally (like chamomile itself and ragweed), as such chamomile tea may provoke allergic reactions in such people.
  • Chamomile tea may also interact with certain drugs such as pain killers (like ibuprofen), supplements (like ginkgo biloba), and sedatives (like aspirin).
  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are generally not encouraged to consume chamomile tea.

Final thoughts

Chamomile tea is one of the best teas for GERD and it is reputed for soothing heartburn.

Adding honey, ginger, and/or turmeric to it further improves its soothing potential in sensitive people.

However, care should be taken when consuming as allergic reactions and interactions with certain medications can occur. As such the general advice is to start consumption in little quantities (1 cup a day) and gradually increase consumption if no undesirable effect is observed.

This article has been written by:

Meggy Jones

Expert Nutritionist and Food Scientist,
M.Sc. – Nutrition, ugent, Belgium