If spicy food is on the menu for dinner tonight, you might want to stock up on some essential oils for heartburn relief. These oils, distilled from plant roots, flowers, bark, and other natural sources, have become an increasingly popular alternative treatment for heartburn and related symptoms — and contain no harsh pharmaceuticals.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years, dating as far back as ancient Egypt. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, people used them as remedies for a variety of ailments. The early 20th century brought along developments in aromatherapy with essential oils, including the techniques that are still popular today.
When it comes to using essential oils to treat heartburn, not just any oil will do. Each essential oil has unique properties that promote certain health goals. You’ll want to look for the varieties, formulas, and blends specifically designed to address gastrointestinal distress and neutralize stomach acid.
Here’s what you need to know about using essential oils for heartburn.
What are the best essential oils for heartburn?
Nothing ruins a great meal quite like heartburn. And when you’ve got that fiery sensation in your chest and sour taste in the back of your mouth, you’ll want to find relief — fast. Rather than recommending a chalky antacid or a strong medicine that might cause side effects, some doctors are encouraging patients to try essential oils for heartburn relief.
“Essential oils can provide significant symptomatic relief,” says Alexander Thermos, DO, medical director of LifeSource Wellness Care in Laguna Hills, California. “They’ve been used for quite a long period of time, and it’s nothing new to this century.”
Thermos admits that the medical community still isn’t quite sure how essential oils benefit the body on the molecular level. Based on his experience treating patients and promising research from Brazil, however, he’s confident that essential oils are a viable way to soothe some of the symptoms of heartburn.
So which essential oils should you use when you’ve got heartburn?
“Ginger is my favorite essential oil for heartburn overall,” Thermos says. “When I was in residency and we had pregnant patients who were vomiting a lot, ginger essential oil wasn’t available, so we used ginger tea, and it turned things around like no one’s business.”
Ginger’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties are well-known to provide relief from gastrointestinal distress — and these properties offer clues to why ginger essential oil might be an effective treatment for heartburn.
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Lemon essential oil is another option that may ease the symptoms of heartburn, Thermos says. “It can really help neutralize acid in the stomach. It gets right to the source and can turn off the negative effects of the acid. It has antibacterial qualities and can kill bad bacteria in the gut,” he says.
Finally, Thermos also suggests using peppermint essential oil for heartburn relief. That being said, peppermint can trigger heartburn in certain people, so it should be used with caution.
What essential oils are good for acid reflux or GERD?
Treating an unpleasant symptom, such as heartburn, with oil or a traditional method can provide momentary relief. But for a permanent solution to chronic discomfort, you need to consider what larger health issues might be the root of these symptoms..
“If you really want long-term relief, you’ve got to address what’s causing the heartburn rather than just whitewashing the symptom itself,” Thermos says.
Acid reflux is often responsible for heartburn. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux, the condition occurs when acid flows backward from the stomach up into the esophagus. If you experience frequent heartburn, you may have a more severe form of acid reflux called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Traditionally, these conditions are treated with a mix of lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, avoiding certain foods, and limiting alcohol intake; along with taking medications like antacids, H2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors. But using essential oils for acid reflux and GERD might provide additional relief.
“I’d definitely go with lemon, which is neutralizing, and turmeric if you want to use essential oils for GERD. There’s a significant amount of inflammation that happens as a result of acid reflux, and turmeric can really help calm some of that,” Thermos says.
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Many people who suffer from acid reflux or GERD find that their symptoms are the worst in the evening, right as they settle in to bed. That’s why Thermos includes lavender on his list of essential oils for treating acid reflux: Research suggests the floral-scented oil may contribute to more restful sleep.
“Lavender works on a variety of things, especially reducing anxiety and promoting sleep. It can help you relax, and it’s a great go-to remedy when you’re not sure what else will do,” he says.
How to Use Essential Oils for Heartburn Relief
From inhaling them through a diffuser and rubbing them on your skin to ingesting them in tea or placing them directly on the tongue, people use essential oils in many ways. But what’s the best way to use essential oils for heartburn relief?
First, make sure you’re starting with high-quality essential oils, Thermos says. “There are some imposters out there. Find out where the product comes from. You want to make sure the oils are coming from organic, natural sources since they’ll be concentrated into the oil."
Online stores have a wide variety of options. Search for “essential oils for heartburn doTERRA” or “essential oils for heartburn Young Living” to start browsing among the most popular brands.
You can begin to use essential oils for heartburn by diluting two to four drops into a cup of water or tea. This method may provide gentle relief from your symptoms, Thermos says.
“With any essential oils, don’t just put them right in your mouth. Some folks tell me they do it that way, but for the majority of people, it’s just too strong. Essential oils are really potent agents,” he explains.
You can also rub a few drops of essential oil directly on your skin. “Take the ginger oil, and rub it on your abdomen. Some people get relief from bloating and pain just by doing that,” Thermos says.
Simply inhaling the aroma of essential oils can work, as well. A few drops can be placed in a diffuser or directly on surfaces located near your body. “You can put a couple of drops of lavender oil on your pillow at night to help you stay asleep,” he says.
Unlike traditional medications, you can use multiple essential oils at the same time without side effects. “A combination of turmeric, lemon, and ginger can be really effective [for heartburn]. You’ll be treating what causes the irritation and neutralizing acid at the same time,” Thermos says.
Thermos recommends trying out a few essential oils for heartburn on their own to figure out what’s most effective, then experimenting with combinations that might relieve more symptoms. “Start inch by inch to see what works best for you. If you just start throwing everything into a glass, you won’t know what worked well or if something like peppermint oil might actually be aggravating your condition,” he says.
Can essential oils cause heartburn?
Essential oils are generally considered safe for healthy adults to use in appropriate doses; however, people who experience heartburn should be careful with peppermint oil. “Peppermint oil has to be used gently and sparingly to treat things,” Thermos says.
A drop or two of peppermint oil diluted into a glass of water or rubbed on the skin may help reduce nausea and ease heartburn for some people. Ingesting too much peppermint oil, however, can irritate the throat and may even cause heartburn. If your symptoms worsen, stop using peppermint oil.
Relying solely on essential oils to manage your chronic conditions may not resolve all of your long-term health issues, however. It’s important to take a holistic look at your condition and lifestyle to evaluate whether traditional medicine should play a role in your health care.
Consult with a board-certified physician who has knowledge of natural remedies before you start using essential oils for heartburn. He or she can help you find high-quality essential oils, develop personalized combinations, and provide other recommendations to help you feel your best.