Many people experience the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus occasionally, otherwise known as acid reflux. Some people may try natural remedies, such as honey, to ease the heartburn symptoms it causes.

Acid reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux (GER), is common. It occurs when the contents of the stomach go in the wrong direction from the stomach to the throat through the connecting tube known as the esophagus.

When this happens, a person may taste stomach acid and experience a burning feeling behind their breastbone or inside their throat. This burning sensation is heartburn and is often worse in the evening, after eating, or when lying down.

Some people turn to natural remedies for acid reflux if over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications do not soothe their symptoms.

Ancient populations began using honey thousands of years ago for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Some scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests using honey to treat wounds and manage conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and gastrointestinal diseases.

This article discusses whether honey can help acid reflux. It looks at the scientific evidence to support its use, the benefits of honey for acid reflux, and its potential risks. It also examines other treatments for acid reflux.

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Little research specifically evaluates honey’s use for acid reflux, and no clinical studies compare using honey to treat or prevent acid reflux with conventional medicines.

OTC and prescription medications manage acid reflux in several ways:

Honey may work in similar ways to tackle acid reflux.

Neutralizing stomach acid

Stomach acid has a pH of about 1.5–2.0, making it quite acidic. Antacids raise the pH of stomach acid to 3.5 or above, reducing its acidity and relieving the burning sensation of acid reflux.

Honey has an acidic pH of 3.2–4.5. Due to its pH value, it is unclear whether honey has a neutralizing effect on stomach acid or contributes to the increase in acidity of it.

Providing a physical barrier

Experts in physiology suggest in the British Medical Journal that honey may perform a similar function to alginates due to its viscose nature.

Honey may form a coating on the inner layer of the esophagus and stomach, preventing stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.

Providing a protective coating

Stomach acid and pepsin can damage the esophageal lining in people with reflux. Pepsin is an enzyme that produces acid to break down food for digestion.

Compared to relatively nonviscous fluids, such as water, honey is a highly viscous liquid that flows much more slowly. This means that honey can coat the mucus membrane of the esophagus, providing a protective layer.

Honey may also exhibit cytoprotective activity. Cytoprotection is a process where compounds protect cells from damage.

Free radicals may contribute to acid reflux by damaging the esophageal and stomach lining. Honey is an antioxidant and can remove free radicals before they cause damage.

Healing the esophageal lining

There is conflicting research on honey’s ability to heal damage to the esophagus, and none of the research centers around acid reflux.

Some research focuses on honey’s wound healing potential, suggesting honey may help accelerate wound healing through mechanisms such as:

  • antibacterial effects
  • anti-inflammatory effects
  • antioxidant activity
  • promoting the development of new blood vessels, known as angiogenesis
  • stimulating immune system mediators
  • encouraging cell growth and tissue repair

Acid reflux may cause inflammation in the esophagus. Honey may reduce inflammation by inhibiting certain compounds.

Research from 2014 investigated using honey to reduce the pain of esophageal inflammation that some people experience after cancer therapies. Researchers found that using honey for esophageal inflammation was no more effective than standard supportive care.

Learn more about the benefits of honey.

Honey is a safe and natural substance for individuals ages 1 year and older. However, parents and caregivers should not give honey to children younger than 12 months because it has bacteria that may cause infant botulism.

Most people can consume honey without experiencing side effects and use it alongside conventional therapies. However, this does not necessarily mean no interactions exist between honey and medications. People should always consult with a healthcare professional for possible drug interactions.

Scientists need to conduct experiments to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of using honey for acid reflux. They also need to assess the most suitable dosage and duration of use and compare it with conventional drugs for the condition. Until then, healthcare professionals cannot advise a regimen to treat acid reflux with honey.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that a person may experience heartburn relief after 5 milliliters (ml) or 1 teaspoon of honey. More research is necessary to determine the most suitable dosage of honey for acid reflux.

Heat and liquids alter the viscosity of honey, so adding honey to warm water or tea may change the properties of honey that are useful for acid reflux. Honey could potentially work best when consumed by itself after meals to maintain its viscosity and coat the contents of the stomach.

Many lifestyle changes and medicines are effective in treating acid reflux. Doctors may recommend:

  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • elevating the head off the bed by 6–8 inches while sleeping with extra pillows
  • quitting smoking
  • avoiding foods associated with acid reflux symptoms, such as acidic, high fat, and spicy foods
  • antacids
  • H2 blockers
  • PPIs

Learn more about acid reflux.

Honey has many properties that could be useful for acid reflux. It could potentially help people experiencing acid reflux with their symptoms by neutralizing stomach acid, providing a physical barrier between the stomach and the esophagus, and providing a protective coating.

However, there is insufficient quality evidence to prove its effectiveness in improving acid reflux-related symptoms, and no clinical studies indicate how it compares to standard acid reflux treatments.

Researchers need to conduct more studies before they can confirm whether honey improves acid reflux and its related symptoms.