Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that develops in people suffering from severe acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, where the lining of the esophagus becomes inflamed producing cellular changes that occur causing a pre-cancerous state. Along with dietary and lifestyle changes, certain herbs can help heal the esophagus and prevent the return of future symptoms.
Causes Of Barrett’s Esophagus
Barrett’s esophagus may occur after a long period of acid reflux or GERD has taken its toll on the lining of the esophagus, says the Mayo Clinic. When cells of the esophageal lining are exposed to repeated bouts of digestive acids their cellular makeup my alter and become more like the cells lining the intestines. This process is called intestinal metaplasia and can lead to a rare form of cancer. Eating foods that cause acid reflux is one of the primary reasons for the acid imbalance in the stomach. In addition, there is another condition called hypochlorhydria, which is the absence or imbalance of stomach acids. This condition can also contribute to problems with cellular changes in the esophagus leading to Barrett’s esophagus.
Treatment With Chinese Herbs
Both Chinese and Western herbs may offer relief from acid reflux and Barrett’s esophagus. Chinese herbs have been use for thousands of years and although there may not be a great deal of scientific research available, anecdotal evidence points to their efficacy and safety. Many herbs used by the Chinese overlap those used in Western medicine and are readily available in herb shops and health food stores. It may be necessary to obtain more obscure Chinese herbs from apothecaries specializing in Asian products or from a doctor of Oriental medicine. Never take Chinese herbs without first consulting a natural health practitioner or herbalist familiar with their use.
Using Chinese Herbs for Tea
Often times, Chinese herbalists and doctors of Oriental medicine who prescribe herbs, recommend taking the herbs in teas. They suggest using both dried and fresh herbal products and when using dried herbs, buying those that are freshest and have not been sitting on the shelf for extended periods. If you keep herbs in your home, be sure to get rid of products that have been on shelves for lengthy periods to avoid using products that may have lost their potency.
To make herbal teas, add the prescribed amount of herbs to hot water and boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and allow the herbal mixture to simmer for another 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the instructions from your practitioner. Strain the mixture and discard the used herbs. Cool the tea and drink as prescribed. Store leftover tea in the refrigerator for drinking later.
Chinese Herbs for Barrett’s Esophagus
Licorice root has been used in China for centuries to soothe and coat the throat and esophagus with mucilage, a thin mucus film created when the herbal tea comes in contact with your digestive tract lining. Mucus production occurs as the licorice-derived compounds raise the prostaglandin levels creating additional mucus, which contributes to cellular healing, reports Life Extension.
Green Tea contains polyphenols, natural antioxidants that are reported to protect against cancer of the esophagus, according to Life Extension. Green tea is also used to help stimulate the lower esophageal sphincter, to prevent stomach acids from refluxing back into the esophagus.
Oldenlandia diffusae is used by the Chinese to treat cancer of the esophagus, ridding the body of toxins and removing heat emanating from the body, says the Helio Acupuncture Book, Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Chinese rhubarb and rhizome are also used in a similar way.
Herba selaginellae doederleinii inhibits the growth of cancerous tumors in the esophagus. In addition, this herb may be included in an herbal regimen during chemotherapy and radiation to accelerate remission of cancerous tumors.
Life Extension: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
“The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook: Your Everyday Reference to the Best Herbs for Healing“; James Duke; 2002
“Helio Acupuncture Book, Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica”; Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble; 2006
MayoClinic.com: Barrett’s Esophagus
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