Can Essential Oils Relieve the Symptoms of Heartburn?

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on August 3, 2016Written by Kimberly Holland

essential oils for heartburn

Do they work?

Essential oils are experiencing a surge in popularity. Friends are touting the benefits on social media, coworkers are selling essential oils at the office, and neighbors have fragrant diffusers spilling warm scents of ginger or lavender into their homes.

Although many people see essential oils as a simple and easy-to-use form of aromatherapy, they have been used throughout the centuries as an alternative treatment option.

Research is often limited, but evidence suggests that certain oils may be able to relieve symptoms, such as indigestion and nausea. Here’s what you need to know about using essential oils for heartburn relief.

What the research says

Essential oils often have alluring scents. Essential oils are made from plant:

  • roots
  • bark
  • flowers
  • seeds

These botanicals are naturally pressed until they release their essence, or their essential oils.

Despite their quickly growing fan base, essential oils have very little support from the mainstream medical community. The studies that have examined these oils have mostly assessed these oils for their aromatherapy and stress relief qualities. Few medical studies have examined their ability to treat or relieve signs and symptoms of conditions or diseases.

Although more research is necessary, some evidence suggests that using certain oils may relieve heartburn.

Ginger oil

People have used ginger to treat various types of gastrointestinal distress. Ginger essential oils may also benefit people who are experiencing the symptoms of heartburn.

Lavender oil

Many people find the scent of lavender relaxing and calming, making it a staple in aromatherapy. In addition to its sedative properties, lavender may also help reduce the symptoms of upset stomach. Many of the symptoms of upset stomach and heartburn are similar, so trying lavender oil may be beneficial for people dealing with extra stomach acid.

Peppermint oil

If you consume too much peppermint oil, it may lead to heartburn. However, appropriate doses of this essential oil may help ease heartburn, upset stomach, and nausea.

How to use essential oils for heartburn

Essential oils are potent. A drop or two is enough to diffuse scents throughout a room. A drop or two in a carrier oil is all that’s usually recommended when applying essential oils topically. Only a few drops are recommended if you take essential oils orally or inhale the oils from the bottle or a cloth.

The best way to treat heartburn with essential oils is by inhaling the scent directly from the bottle or a diffuser. If you’re using a diffuser, place two or three drops in the machine’s steam pocket. Turn the machine on, and the warm water will diffuse the concentrated oils. If you don’t have time to set up a diffuser, you can breathe deeply while hovering over a few drops of essential oil on a cloth napkin or towel.

Risks and warnings

No scientific studies support the use of essential oils for the treatment of heartburn. All studies that examine the connection instead point at the relief of similar symptoms that occur due to heartburn.

Taking essential oils by mouth is rarely recommended. If you take essential oils orally, and you feel nauseous or get an upset stomach, stop using the oils. Talk with your doctor or your aromatherapist before you use the oils again.

Using quality oil is important for making sure you don’t become sick after using the oils. You should research and seek out a brand you can trust.

Other treatments for heartburn

Although heartburn can often be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, you may find that a prescription-strength medication is the best option for you.

If you experience frequent heartburn, speak with your doctor about your treatment options. They may be able to recommend a medication that can reduce or alleviate your symptoms.

Antacids

OTC antacids are a first-line treatment for heartburn. They help neutralize stomach acid that’s causing symptoms. Antacids are generally fast-acting. If the OTC variety doesn’t work, your doctor may prescribe one that’s prescription-strength.

H2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs)

H2RAs are a good way to prevent symptoms before they happen. These medicines, which are available over the counter and by prescription, reduce the amount of stomach acid you have. These aren’t fast-acting medicines, but they can provide relief for a longer period than antacids do.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

PPIs work to reduce the amount of stomach acid made by the glands in your stomach. OTC and prescription PPIs are available.

What you can do now

Before you try essential oils to treat heartburn or any other condition, be sure to study oils, their side effects, and their risks. These tips can help guide you in your decisions:

Source safe oils

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies essential oils as “generally recognized as safe.” The FDA doesn’t inspect or oversee the production and sale of these products. This means the quality of these products is entirely up to the producers. For this reason, it’s important you seek out a brand you trust and feel confident using. Essential oils are sold at many natural food stores and through online retailers.

Do your research

Before you use essential oils, do your research. Understand which oils may be right for your condition and which aren’t. Consider the known possible side effects and how those might interfere with your daily activity.

Ask for help

Your doctor may not know a lot about essential oils, but they have resources you can use to help your hunt for heartburn treatments. Though your doctor may not prescribe essential oils, it’s important they know you’re using the oils and any alternative treatments. They can help you do so safely by ensuring that the oils you choose won’t affect any medications you’re currently taking.

Consult your doctor

If the use of essential oils or OTC treatments doesn’t ease the signs and symptoms of heartburn, talk with your doctor about a treatment that might be strong enough to ease the discomfort.

Keep reading: Post-meal tips to ease heartburn »

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