Ask the Pharmacist: Natural remedies for reflux and esophagitis

Suzy Cohen
Man with heartburn

I finally got reflux and heartburn after all these years. I have newfound respect for those of you who deal with it! I traced my problem to drinking shots of yerba mate. I drank them several times a week for energy. I noticed the heartburn and belching about 20 minutes after drinking one tiny glass bottle of it.

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It happened three times last week and then I made the connection. I did a little research and apparently drinking too much mate, especially hot mate is tied to esophageal cancer. I’ve stopped drinking yerba mate (cold) shots as a result of my pain as well as these concerns.

I didn’t take famotidine (H2 antagonists) or omeprazole (Prilosec, a popular PPI med). I started taking natural remedies and my strategy worked! Just one week later, I have experienced a complete turnaround. I’m 75% better. I have a longer version of this article that I can email to you if you sign up for my newsletter at

Here’s the short story of my strategy. 

Discontinue the offender

For me, the yerba mate was the problem. Sometimes it’s smoking, spicy foods, alcohol, or hot drinks. Whatever it is, discontinue your trigger. 

Discontinue spices and hot foods

I’ve temporarily given up spicy mayo, cayenne and black pepper and even vinegar to give my esophagus a rest. Also, I noticed if I drank hot coffee or tea, it would hurt. According to the article published in International Journal of Cancer, drinking hot tea dramatically increases your chance for developing esophageal cancer. So drink your beverages lukewarm.

Drink marshmallow root water

I put about one tablespoon of dried marshmallow root (per cup of water) in a big glass jar with cold water. In a few hours, you have a water that is somewhat thicker, preserving the mucilaginous properties of the marshmallow, which coats and soothes delicate membranes as you drink it.

Mastic gum

Mastic Gum is a resin that is extracted from a tree. This is sold as a dietary supplement and it’s used as a natural remedy for many intestinal problems including indigestion, acid reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, gastritis and ulcers.

Zinc carnosine

This is a dietary supplement that chemically ties together a zinc molecule to a carnosine molecule. The tissue healing effects come from both compounds which allow for tissue repair and a reduction in intestinal inflammation.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD, causes frequent acid reflux, or heartburn, which occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus.

Symptoms of esophagitis vary and include some of the following: Swallowing food and then experiencing mild pain in the chest or throat, the sensation that something is stuck in the throat or sternum, early satiety, belching, mouth sores, heartburn, reflux and mild nausea. 

Acid blockers do not soothe, coat or directly patch up the mucosal lining. They suppress acid which gives your esophagus a break. It’s indirect, but okay if that’s what you’re doctor recommended. If you’re not significantly better within a week of your home treatment (natural or over-the-counter), please go see a specialist to make sure there is no serious underlying cause for your problems. 

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit