Peppermint has long been a highly controversial herbal treatment for acid reflux. You’ll find that some naturopaths highly recommend careful and controlled dosage of peppermint to cure a mild case of heartburn. An equal number of health enthusiasts don’t recommend peppermint for GERD as it further relaxes the LES (lower esophageal sphincter), which could allow stomach acid slosh back up the esophagus. Knowing how to use peppermint for acid reflux is crucial to it’s success.
How Peppermint Helps The Gut
Peppermint has been used in traditional folk medicine to cure indigestion, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and IBS for ages. This is because peppermint has a soothing, cooling and relaxing action that helps the gut relax. Additionally, it is mildly antibacterial and antifungal, further keeping stomach infections at bay.
The various benefits of peppermint for digestion include:
- Peppermint is a wonderful all-natural cure for non-ulcer and functional dyspepsia or indigestion.
- Chronic heartburn leads to ulceration and inflammation of the gut mucosal layer, causing pain. The analgesic compounds contained in peppermint soothe the gut walls and bring relief from the pain.
- Peppermint oil has been shown to be an effective antispasmodic natural drug, reducing spasms in lower gastro intestinal tract.
- For those who feel very full after a meal and suffer from excessive bloating, peppermint can bring relief. A cup of peppermint tea reduces the feeling of fullness post meal and aids digestion.
- Peppermint also increases the rates of gastric emptying, which reduces the incidence of gastro intestinal distress, including heartburn.
- The soothing and cooling effect of peppermint can bring relief from the burning sensation that accompanies reflux.
Peppermint For Heartburn: When It Can Harm
Despite the fact that peppermint has a soothing effect on the gut, it can be a tricky herbal treatment for those with acid reflux. Since peppermint ‘relaxes’ the gut, it can harm at higher doses – especially those who suffer from GERD. High doses of peppermint can relax the lower esophageal sphincter or LES, which is a muscular flap between the esophagus and stomach. A relaxed LES allows acid and other stomach contents to flow back up the esophagus and into the mouth, triggering acid reflux. In fact, this mechanical fault is one of the key contributors in most people with chronic acid reflux.
Also, if you are on antacids that reduce production of stomach acids, peppermint gets dissolved in the stomach too quickly, causing heartburn. However, when your stomach produces an adequate quantity of acid, the soothing effects of peppermint are more noticeable. So if you are on antacids long term, you may want to work with your doctor to wean yourself off those as you begin to use peppermint.
Peppermint for Acid Reflux: When It Helps
For the above reasons, peppermint may work best as a preventive for acid reflux, rather than as an SoS measure after the heartburn starts.
You could have a cup of peppermint tea an hour before the meal or make your own refreshing beverage in the morning . Take a glass of warm water, add a drop of peppermint oil, ½ teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of Manuka honey and stir it up. Sip this slowly at the start of the day to give your digestive system a boost.
If you are in the throes of an acid reflux attack, don’t ingest peppermint, as it may further relax the LES. Instead, try rubbing a drop of peppermint oil on your belly. Many mothers swear by it for instant relief from bloating, burning and pain of reflux.
How To Use Peppermint?
There are several ways in which you can have the peppermint.
- A cup of peppermint tea is a good way to boost digestion. Drink your cup half an hour before mealtime. You can also have the peppermint-honey-ACV drink in the morning if you prefer.
- If you prefer pure essential oils, place a drop (and no more) on your tongue after or during a meal to aid in digestion. Remember: If the heartburn has started, you may be better of rubbing the oil on your tummy, rather than putting it on your tongue.
- Enteric-coated capsules containing peppermint oil are also a good option as they dissolve slowly in the acidic environment of the stomach, giving the full effect without a large dose of peppermint in one go. These capsules bypass the stomach to be released in the small intestines, which doesn’t adversely affect the LES. Try 2 capsules of enteric-coated peppermint oil twice a day for at least four weeks under supervision by a naturopathic doctor for best results.
So use peppermint wisely, at the right time and at the right dose, to reap its soothing effects on your acid reflux.