Chinese Herbs for GERD

Chinese herbs for GERD–Gastro Esophogeal Reflux Disease, formerly called chronic heartburn, work better and faster than drugs do. That’s because they actually help to change the functioning of the tissues causeing the discomfort, the stomic and esophogus. The do this in part by relaxing the spasms around the tract that increase internal pressures in the digestive canal. They effect the Gut-Brain connection.

Its important to note that the current “biomedical” drug class used for treating GERD, PPI’s,  are widely misused and are associated with reduced absorption of nutrients in the gut. This occurs when the drug is used long term, rather than its intended short term use.

On the other hand, the Chinese herbs used to treat GERD and Gastritis, actually improve out gut absorption, b/c they contain herbs that regulated the Qi, eliminate dampness, but also contain natural digestive enzymes. We are DESIGNED to have gut acid. The problem is when we have it in the wrong place! It belongs in the stomach, not the esophogus. There are many ways to cure this problem naturally.


The Dangers of Protein Pump Inhibitors PPIs–Drug Side Effects and Overuse


Using PPIs Long Term Use to Mask Symptoms and Ignore Cure Is Associate Has These Serious Risks:

  • damage to gut microbiome
  • weight gain
  • reduced absorption of nutrients, vitamins, minerals
  • inhibits effect of other medications
  • increased risk of bone fractures
  • increased risk of Clostridium difficile bacterial infections.
  • increased susceptibility to pneumonia infection


From the health section of the Times:

“As many as four in 10 Americans have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and many depend on P.P.I.’s like Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium to reduce stomach acid.

These are the third highest-selling class of drugs in the United States, with more than $13.9 billion in sales in 2010, in addition to over-the-counter sales.

But in recent years, the FDA has issued numerous warnings about P.P.I.’s, saying long-term use and high doses have been associated with an increased risk of bone fractures and infection with a bacterium called Clostridium difficile. In a recent paper, experts recommended that older adults use the drugs only “for the shortest duration possible.”


Reduced Absorption of Nutrients

Studies have shown long-term P.P.I. use may reduce the absorption of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, calcium and vitamin B12, and might reduce the effectiveness of other medications…Other research has found that people taking P.P.I.’s are at increased risk of developing pneumonia; one study even linked use of the drug to weight gain.


Misuse: Designed To Be Takes for No More than 12 Weeks

But while using the drugs for short periods may not be problematic, they tend to breed dependency, experts say, leading patients to take them for far longer than the recommended 8 to 12 weeks; some stay on them for life!

Many hospitals have been starting patients on P.P.I.’s as a matter of routine, to prevent stress ulcers, then discharging them with instructions to continue the medication at home.

Dr. Charlie Baum, head of U.S. Medical Affairs for Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America Inc., said its P.P.I. Dexilant is safe when used according to the prescribed indication of up to six months for maintenance, though many physicians prescribe it for longer.

“Studies have shown that once you’re on them, it’s hard to stop taking them,” said Dr. Shoshana J. Herzig of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “It’s almost like an addiction.”

Treating Symptoms Ignoring Cure

“When people take P.P.I.’s, they haven’t cured the problem of reflux,” said Dr. Joseph Stubbs, an internist in Albany, Ga., and a former president of the American College of Physicians. “They’ve just controlled the symptoms.”  This is the exact opposite of how Chinese Medicine Works and thinks about disease.

Bad Medicine: Drug Therapy versus Lifestyle and Diet Changes

Worse is that P.P.I.’s provide a way for people to avoid making difficult lifestyle changes, like losing weight or cutting out the foods that cause heartburn, he said. “People have found, ‘I can keep eating what I want to eat, and take this and I’m doing fine,’ ” he said. “We’re starting to see that if you do that, you can run into some risky side effects.”

“Many patients may be on the drugs for no good medical reason, at huge cost to the health care system, ” said Dr. Joel J. Heidelbaugh, a family medicine doctor in Ann Arbor, Mich. When he reviewed medical records of almost 1,000 patients on P.P.I.’s at an outpatient Veterans Affairs clinic in Ann Arbor, he found that only one-third had a diagnosis that justified the drugs. The others seemed to have been given the medications “just in case.”

Damage to Gut Microbiome By Suppressing Normal Acids

“We put people on P.P.I.’s, and we ignore the fact that we were designed to have acid in our stomach,” said Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, a physician who specializes in integrative therapy at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis.

Stomach acid is needed to break down food and absorb nutrients, he said, as well as for proper functioning of the gallbladder and pancreas. Long-term of use of P.P.I.’s may interfere with these processes, he noted. And suppression of stomach acid, which kills bacteria and other microbes, may make people more susceptible to infections, like C. difficile.

Taking P.P.I.’s, Dr. Plotnikoff said, “changes the ecology of the gut and actually allows overgrowth of some things that normally would be kept under control.”

Stomach acid also stimulates coughing, which helps clear the lungs. Some experts think this is why some patients, especially those who are frail and elderly, face an increased risk of pneumonia if they take P.P.I.’s.


Whats sad about all this is that GERD can be treated so effectively with changes in diet and lifestyle, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture treatment.

Chinese Herbs for GERD

My favorite TCM Chinese herbal formula for GERD is Blue Poppy brand’s Gastroquell.

Gastroquell treats the Chinese diseases called un suan (swallowing acid), ai qi (belching), e ni (hiccup), wei wan tong (stomach duct pain), xin tong (heart pain)

Treat the Cause–The “Pattern” of Disharmony

These correspond to the modern western diagnosis of heartburn, GERD, and Gastritis.  More importantly, these Chinese herbs for GERD treats the cause of your GERD and not just your symptoms. In Chinese Medicine we call this the pattern of disharmony (Bian Zheng)

The Pattern of Disharmony that causes GERD is a specific kind of Qi stagnation that affects the middle of the body, the Liver, Spleen, and Stomach, that develops over time into simmering, or “depressive” heat. Most often this is combined with food stagnation. And food stagnation over time will oven cause digestive weakness. Now we have the perfect storm mixed pattern of Excess and Vacuity, Congestion of Qi and Food with underlying Weakness.

What is Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation or Stasis is a nervous system response to stressors both real and imagined. People who are naturally intense, or who have suffered abuse in their lives and have chronicPTSD or PTSD can often response with a stress response that others may not have. The most common stress resonse associated with Qi stagnation is tension and heat, such as we feel when very frustrated or under a lot of pressure. Pressure implies tension and heat even in common language.

The Causes of GERD in Chinese Herbal Medicine

Qi Accumulation versu Qi Deficit

Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture theory describe disease as occuring when there is too much of something in the wrong place (like neck and shoulder tension) or not enough of something in the right place (fatigue, dry mouth, erectile dysfunction). One is Qi stagnating, like the dam overflowing in the rain or more like a stinky bog overflowing with mold. The other is lack Qi, emptyness, vacuity, such as the lack of energy when sick with infectious disease, or when depressed, or just exhausted from overwork.

Qi Stagnation and the Fight or Flight Response to Stress

In the case of GERD the starting point is generally twofold….One is Liver Qi Stagnation. This is unrelated to your physical liver, but is a paradyme or observation about how our nervous systems work. Stress, or our reaction to stress, if in the fight aspect of fight-flight-freeze, has a predictable effect of tension and heat all over the body. But most typically it effect the gut (Gut Brain connection) with symptoms like GERD or IBS-C. We call this Liver Qi Stagnation or Liver Depression Qi stagnation.

What Qi Stagnation Feels Like

Another favorite location is the shoulders, neck, and head. That is because, in order to fight, as an animal, we need to mobile our resource with increased power, or tension, in our faces, jaw, and arms. We need to scare the other by looking dangrerous, or angry. This is the root of most TMJ, Tension Headaches, Neck and Shoudler Pain.

The problem is that in modern living, we carry levels of chronic tension that are unlike nature where once the fight is over, if we survive, we can relax again…And for humans our large cereberal cortex adds dramatically to our ability to carry tension all the time. Compare to your cat or dog.

The Role of Overeating and Too Much Heavy and Sugary Foods

The second reason we get GERD is habitual over eating, and well as overeating foods that damage the gut. This includes overdoing heavy foods number one, and sugary sweet foods, number two. This is because overtime, asking any part of the body to work beyond its design specs leads to stagnation..This is why diet is so important when treating GERD

Overdoing heavy and sugary foods leads to what we call Food Stagnation….Dont believe me? Eat a whole Pizza with 2-3 beers followed by desert. Or just overeat. How does your gut feel. And how does it feel tomorow in the morning. Especially when you are older than about 36…You get away with a lot when you are 18 to 28….But as you age everything but your mind weakens, more or less..The trade off is wisdom and maturity.

Diet and GERD

And chronic overeating will in the end weaken your body’s ability to digest food…We call this Spleen Qi Vacuity. Again, its nothing to do with your physical spleen, its just the names the ancient Chinese came up with do describe the movement of Qi through the body and the gut…The Spleen Qi is your ability to digest foods, liquids, and experience. It is akin to Agni, Ayurvedic medicine. It is a kind fire. Digestive Fire. So when you keep stuffing the pot you are making your soup in with ice, and too many stuff, the soup cannot boil…That ‘s the metaphor

A Diet rich in high fiber carbs, vegetables, healthy proteins and fats is part of the cure….the other is relaxing when you eat…Every time you do something in a hurry, your brain sees that as an emergency situation. Now the brain shuts down the digestive process, OR, speeds it up. You cant cure GERD without eating in relaxed manner, chewing your food well, and eating plenty of vegetables

Chinese Herb Breakdown of Gastroquell

I use Blue Poppy Brand Gastroquel when my patients have some combination of the below symptoms and or signs:

Liver Qi Stagnation with Pathological Heat Accumulated in the Stomach

  • Burning pain in the throat or above the stomach—qi stagnation
  • Acid regurgitation—heat
  • Clamoring stomach–heat
  • distention and pain in the ribs–qi stagnation
  • Burping, belching, or a tendency to hiccup–qi stagnation

especially when combined with

  • A bitter taste in the mouth–heat
  • Irritability and agitation–heat
  • A dry mouth or craving for chilled drinks–heat
  • A large appetite or getting hungry quickly again after meals –heat
  • A red tongue and/or yellow tongue fur–heat
  • A bowstring, rapid pulse–qi stagnation and heat


  • Fatigue, lack of strength
  • Abdominal distention, especially after meals
  • Craving for sweets
  • A fat, distended tongue with teethmarks on its edges



  • Bad breath
  • Thick, slimy tongue fur
  • Nausea and/or distention after eating
  • A slippery pulse

Chinese Herbs used to Treat GERD in Gastroquell:

Gastroquell works in these cases because the herbs in the formula relieve the pattern that causes the GERD.

Herbs for Liver Qi Stagnation

Specifically,  Chai Hu (Radix Bupleuri), Bai Shao (Radix Alba Paeoniae), Zhi Ke (Fructus Immaturus Aurantii), and Xiang Fu (Rhizoma Cyperi) course the liver and resolve depression.


Huang Qin (Radix Scutellariae) and Huang Lian (Rhizoma Coptidis) clear depressive heat from the liver, gallbladder, and stomach.

Correct the flow of Qi downward

Sheng Jiang (uncooked Rhizoma Zingiberis), Ban Xia (Rhizoma Pinelliae), Zhu Ru (Caulis Bambusae In Taeniam), harmonize the stomach and downbear counterflow.

In addition, Zhu Ru clears liverstomach heat, and Ban Xia, Bai Zhu, and Fu Ling (Poria) transform and eliminate dampness.

Yin Chen Hao (Herba Artemisiae Scopariae) clears and eliminates dampness and heat from the livergallbladder at the same time as helping Chai Hu course the liver and rectify the qi, but without plundering yin.

Nourish and Stregnthen the Gut and Eliminate Food Stagnation

Dang Shen (Radix Codonopsis), Bai Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae), Fu Ling, and mixfried Gan Cao (Radix Glycyrrhizae) fortify the spleen and supplement the qi. Shan Zha (Fructus Crataegi) disperses food and abducts stagnation. It also reduces cholesterol and helps reduce blood pressure.

Add Bao He Wan

Chiropractors and Naturopaths are very fond of Digestive Enzymes for many issues. In Chinese Medicine we are a bit more specific. We like to use our Herbal Digestive Enzymes from the plant world that digest Carbs, Protein, and Fat. My favorite formula for that is Preserve Digestive Harmony Pill, or Bao He Wan in Chinese Medicine

Bao He Wan is used for any kind of over eating. But I also give it as a secondary formula for my patients with GERD if their food stasis signs, like thick greasy tongue coat, or foul smelling gas or breath, are predominant.

Quality Control and Independent Testing of Chinese Herb Formulas

I like using the Blue Poppy brand herbs because of their stringent testing for bacteria, heavy metals and other contaminants.  From their website, “Blue Poppy products undergo one of the most comprehensive testing regimes in the industry. We are the only company in the industry to use a third-party certified FDA cGMP manufacturing facility in conjunction with third-party lab testing for every batch of every formula. We test every formula for microbiologic contaminants, heavy metals and pesticide residue.”

Acupuncture in the treatment of GERD

Acupuncture is very valuable in the treatment of digestive disorders because of its effect on the nervous system. Acupuncture takes you out of the stress response and into the relaxation response. Via the Gut-Brain connection, a lot of what underpins GERD is a somatic expression of various kinds of stressors that combine to block the free flow of Qi in the middle and lower  jiao, the part of the body containing all the organs of digestion, the Liver, Gall Bladder, Stomach, Spleen, Pancreas, and Intestines.

Classical Chinese acupuncture, along with Mindfulness Based Stress Management skills, can “reset” the nervous system so that it does not interfere with healthy digestion.


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