Nov 9, 2013

Best Herbal Approach to Acid Indigestion and Heartburn

Before running to the pharmacy to deal with your next heartburn attack, head to your local grocery or health food store instead. Mother Nature supplies several herbs to quickly and gently douse the flames in your stomach. With all the possible side effects of drugs, taking a natural, herbal approach to acid indigestion makes good sense, and in the long run is far more beneficial for your digestive system.

Symptoms of heartburn

Acid indigestion, often called "heartburn" is characterized by heaviness, bloating, dull stomach pain or a burning sensation after a meal.

Causes of Acid Indigestion

Indigestion is caused by excess acids in the stomach and the intestines. The excess acid is often the result of poor eating habits. Irregular meal times, eating too fast, eating too much, inadequate chewing, poor food combinations or eating when stressed or anxious can trigger indigestion following a meal.

Often the medical profession will prescribe antacids to neutralize the stomach acid of indigestion. Ironically, this causes the stomach to secrete more acid so digestion can take place.

Prevention of Heartburn

The following suggestions may help prevent acid indigestion:
  • Drink minimal amounts of liquid with meals. Excess water dilutes stomach acids and enzymes, and interferes with normal digestion.
  • Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. Food should be whole, fresh, raw, or cooked lightly, and without additives. These types of foods have higher nutritional value, more energy, and they contain more fiber to help keep the digestive system healthy.
  • By eating whole, fresh, raw or slightly cooked foods, the digestive processes are regularly and appropriately challenged, and they stay in good working order, much like working muscles to keep them strong and toned.
Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Foods

A balanced diet, essential in avoiding acid indigestion, includes primary, secondary and tertiary foods.

Primary foods include whole grains as 20% to 30% of the diet, and proteins (such as animal protein, tofu, tempeh and beans) as 20% to 30% of the diet. Beans should be consumed in small portions. Vegetable sources of protein need to be consumed in a larger volume to equal a corresponding amount of animal protein.

Secondary foods are fresh seasonal vegetables, mostly lightly cooked, as 30% to 40% of the diet.

Tertiary foods include dairy products, eggs, and fruits which make up 5% to 10% of the diet, and fats and oils, such as sesame and olive oils and clari-fied butter (ghee) as 2% of the diet.

Relief From Herbal Antacids

Unlike antacids available in grocery stores, herbal antacids provide more effective relief of acid indigestion. Antacid herbs have the ability to neutralize excess acids in the stomach and intestines. Some of these herbs simultaneously protect the stomach lining. Many herbs not only provide relief from indigestion, but relieve other digestive ailments as well as help maintain healthy digestion. Some of these herbs include:
  • Cinnamon stimulates digestion, soothes the digestive tract, and relieves gas and griping (severe pains in the bowels).
  • Ginger is a versatile herb for the digestive system. It greatly benefits the stomach, intestines and circulation. Ginger may be taken alone or with other herbs to enhance their effectiveness.
  • Aniseed warms the abdomen, prevents and expels gas, aids digestion, and relieves belching, nausea and abdominal pains.
  • Cardamom relieves gas and severe pains in the bowels and stimulates digestion. Cardamom is usually mixed with other spices to treat indigestion and gas. It warms the body and is good for diarrhea, colic and headaches.
Herbal Teas and Beverages

Herbs relieve indigestion most effectively when taken in the form of teas or warm beverages.
  • Cinnamon and Honey Milk – Simmer cinnamon in milk and take with a little honey to relieve indigestion, gas, diarrhea and dysentery.
  • Aniseed and Ginger Tea – Combine a pinch each of powders of aniseed, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and an even smaller pinch of black pepper. Steep the spices in boiled hot water or scalded milk. A cup can be taken after meals or throughout the winter to aid digestion and counteract coldness. This is a good tea not only for indigestion, but also helps with gas, bloating and nausea.
  • Ginger Tea – Grate one ounce of fresh ginger and simmer ten minutes in a pint of water. This helps not only with indigestion, but also for cramps and nausea.
Herbal Heartburn Formula

Marshmallow root – 2 parts (soothing & protecting)
Hawthorn berries – 6 parts
Peppermint – 3 parts (stimulate the digestive tract)
Wild yam root – 6 parts
Fennel seed – 3 parts
Ginger root – 3 parts

Simmer marshmallow root, hawthorn berries and wild yam root (one quart of water for every three ounces of herbs) for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add the peppermint, fennel seed and ginger root. Let steep 10 minutes. Strain and drink one-half cup to one cup after meals or more often as needed.

Something Different – Umeboshi Plum

The Umeboshi Plum, also known as pickled salt plum, is called the “king of the alkalinizers.” It searches for and eliminates or neutralizes toxic acids in the body. This relieves indigestion, fullness and bloating from overeating, headache, hangover, morning sickness, colds, flu, aching pains in the joints and many other symptoms of acidosis. The umeboshi plum is added to many sauces and substances which may cause acid fermentation in the body. By adding a small amount of this plum, the acid fermentation process is prevented from occurring.

What Herbs to Buy to Treat Heartburn

The best herbs are those grown organically – this means there are no pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals tainting the purity of the herbs or spices. You may already know where you can purchase either fresh or packaged organic herbs in your area. If not, doing a little research is worth your while.

If you do not have access to organic herbs, the next best is fresh, conventionally grown herbs. If fresh herbs are not available, then head to the grocery store aisle for either packaged herbs, or look for the tea aisle. You may find boxes of tea bags which feature blends of herbs specifically for digestive issues. Some brand names include Yogi, Traditional Medicinals, and Celestial Seasonings.

Where acid indigestion is concerned, it is wise to plan ahead. Keep a supply of herbs or herbal teas on hand in the event heartburn occurs. If you are prone to periodic indigestion, consider enjoying a cup of herbal tea after your meal in the interest of preventive medicine.

When it comes to your digestive system, the natural approach is always best in the long run. Rather than risk further problems which over-the-counter drugs can cause, relax with herbs that soothe your internal organs, and naturally restore the acid balance in your stomach.

Resources:

Michael Tierra, L.Ac., OMD, The Way of Herbs. New York: Pocket, Rev 1998 ed.
Richard Mabey. The New Age Herbalist. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1988.

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