Natural remedies for acid reflux: Does licorice work?

Natural remedies for acid reflux licorice
Dr. Chandrasoma's picture
by Dr. Chandrasoma February 6, 2013

Are you interested in learning about natural remedies for acid reflux? If so, you’re not alone. Many people seek alternatives to conventional medicine when they’re looking for a solution to a long-term health issue like reflux disease. We’ve had a few questions recently about one remedy, in particular, so I thought I’d address it here: licorice

What is licorice?

First, the roots from the licorice plant have been used for a variety of things for centuries: as a flavoring in food and candies, as a breath freshener, as a flavoring in tobacco products, and as a medicine.

When people refer to taking licorice for heartburn relief, they’re usually talking about an herbal supplement and not the candy. In fact, most of the licorice candies you find in the grocery store aisle don’t contain any licorice extract at all (and if they do, it’s usually clearly marked on the label).

Can licorice bring heartburn relief?



So, does it work? Licorice is marketed as a remedy for a variety of gastrointestinal issues, including ulcers, heartburn, and gastritis. Like most herbal remedies, there hasn’t been much clinical research into the effectiveness of licorice. According to the National Medicines Comprehensive Database, licorice has been rated as “possibly effective” for heartburn relief based on the study of a supplement that included licorice and a variety of other herbs.

Like anything for which there is no scientific study, it is possible that taking licorice or other herbs may have a positive effect on heartburn that has little to do with what you are taking. For example, if you chew on licorice and swallow it and your heartburn gets better, it may be the saliva that you are swallowing with the licorice that works. Actually, when I get heartburn (rarely), I swallow saliva a few times and it usually works. If you take the licorice as an herbal tablet, it may be the water that you take with it that stops the heartburn. In fact, my second line of defense when I get heartburn is to drink some water, or better, sip some milk.

Is licorice safe?

When licorice was first brought up, a flag went up immediately for me because I thought I remembered a study from my medical school days that showed serious metabolic complications from even modest licorice consumption. I did a little digging and found that that my memory hadn’t failed me. Sure enough, the excessive consumption of licorice can be toxic. Licorice contains a substance called glycyrrhizic acid, which has been linked to headaches, swelling, sodium retention, loss of potassium, and high blood pressure. MedlinePlus includes a complete list of safety concerns related to the use of licorice:

Because of the documented side effects of glycyrrhizic acid, an herbal product known as DGL Licorice (de-glycyrrhizinated licorice) was developed for the treatment for gastrointestinal problems. Unfortunately, there’s not much research into the effectiveness of DGL for heartburn relief.

Check with your doctor before trying licorice or other natural remedies for acid reflux

Sometimes people think that just because something is natural that it is harmless. This is a great example of an herbal remedy that is unsafe when used excessively or in conjunction with other medications. Always talk to your doctor before trying an herbal remedy to make sure what you’re trying is safe for you.




More Articles About: 
Total votes: 350

Do You Have a Question?

We can help! Every week we select one or two reader-submitted questions and post our answers, so readers with similar concerns can benefit. Ask your question and then be sure to check back here for the answer: Reader questions  You will remain anonymous if we answer your question.

If you’re interested in a direct response to your question, click here.

We need your email address to confirm receipt of your question and your zip code allows us to see where we are having success in reaching people like you.  We will not share or retain your email or zip code.

Clicking submit authorizes us to use your question on RefluxMD’s website anonymously.