Heartburn relief comes in many forms. Whether you're committed to a low-fat diet, to staying upright after a meal, or to popping a few TUMS to combat a burning chest, there are multiple ways to halt the pain. And if those don't work, head into cyberspace, where you'll find dozens of blogs and message boards proclaiming to have found the magical heartburn relief.

One of the most popular remedies? Peppermint. For years this is been a favorite of practitioners of alternative medicine. One website sells peppermint oil capsules to combat Irritable bowel syndrome, while another boasts of having grandmother whose holistic cures recommended peppermint for heartburn. But is any of this actually true?

Because of its calming and numbing effect, peppermint has been used to treat common maladies, like headaches, skin irritations, anxiety associated with depression, nausea, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, flatulence, and even colds and the flu. Some of these are digestive-related problems, and on that issue, peppermint can be beneficial. For instance, by calming the stomach muscles and improving the flow of bile, food can pass through the stomach more quickly, and indigestion can be reduced.

However, when it comes to heartburn and GERD, the same effects do not apply. If you have GERD, warns the University of Maryland Medical Center, you should not drink peppermint tea or take peppermint in any form.[1] This is because peppermint can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, thus allowing stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. When the sphincter relaxes, symptoms of heartburn and indigestion may actually worsen. Far from providing heartburn relief, peppermint can aggravate those with heartburn and GERD.

If this is true, then why do so many people recommend using peppermint as heartburn relief? What they are talking about is how peppermint oil can help GERD, but only when it is taken in enteric-coated capsules. By mixing the oils from peppermint with oregano and caraway seed oil in an enteric-coated capsule, the peppermint will bypass the acidic juices in the stomach (thereby not causing acid reflux) and instead go straight to the intestines. Taken in this form, say advocates of alternative medicine, peppermint can provide heartburn relief.

So when seeking heartburn relief, one finds oneself faced with the decision of whether to listen to traditional medical studies, or to jump on the advice of those preaching the alternatives.


[1] http://www.umm.edu