Herbs can improve digestion and soothe the stomach. One commonly used herb is ginger. Fresh gingerroot is used to absorb the acid in stomach juices and can calm upset stomachs.
Although it sounds paradoxical, one of the most common causes of heartburn is not enough stomach acid. With less acid to aid in the breakdown process, food stays undigested in the stomach longer, thus increasing the chances of reflux. The group of herbs known as bitters signals the stomach to crank out more digestive juices. The herbs' bitter taste on the tongue is probably responsible for sending these messages to the brain and stomach. Bitters include gentian root, dandelion root, wormwood, and goldenseal root.
Carminatives, another group of herbs, can relieve stomach discomforts as well as gas. They include fennel seeds, lemon balm leaves, and peppermint leaves and stems.
The leaves and stems of meadowsweet can also pamper an irritated digestive tract. Meadowsweet protects and soothes mucous membranes and reduces excess acidity. The tincture form can be more palatable than teas, and for those who find alcohol irritating, the tincture can be put in hot water to evaporate the alcohol.
An herbalist may prescribe drinking a tea of gentian root about half an hour before a meal to prevent heartburn. Prepare the tea by simmering about a teaspoon of the chopped, dried root in a cup of water for 20 minutes. If the taste of the gentian root tea is too bitter, capsules are also effective.