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Can You Use D-Limonene to Overcome Heartburn?

D-limonene derived from citrus peels may help ease the symptoms of acid reflux. Some people take it for gallstones, too.

Have you suffered from heartburn? Many people report that they feel a characteristic burning sensation under the sternum sometimes. Others experience this problem more frequently. You can manage occasional heartburn with over-the-counter medications, home remedies or even herbal products. One reader wrote to praise an unusual treatment known as d-limonene. Here are some things you might want to know about it.

D-Limonene to Beat Heartburn:

Q. Do you know about d-limonene for acid reflux? They make it from orange peels and sell it as a supplement.

This stuff takes time, but it works. I know people who have been on PPIs for years to treat their reflux and were able to get off of them using d-limonene. When I took it myself, my symptoms completely disappeared. If I feel any heartburn at all, which rarely happens now, I take a couple of capsules after dinner for a day or so and the pain disappears.

What Is D-Limonene?

A. Thank you for telling us about a heartburn remedy we had not encountered before. Many citrus oils contain d-limonene. Food and beverage manufacturers use this ingredient to give their products a pleasant lemony fragrance. The fragrances found in soaps, shampoos and other personal care products may also feature d-limonene. (In fact, it is one of the components of our People’s Pharmacy Bed Soap.)

What Do Studies Show?

While there are few controlled studies, this agent has been used to treat gastroesophageal reflux and dissolve cholesterol-based gallstones (Alternative Medicine Review, Sep. 2007).  It is considered quite safe, although people can develop allergies to most substances, including d-limonene (Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, Critical Reviews, 2013). People are most likely to notice such sensitivity as skin irritation or contact dermatitis when they are using a cosmetic containing d-limonene. That should have no bearing on its use against heartburn, however.

Learn More:

If you are interested in other ways to control your acid reflux symptoms, you may want to consult our online resource, eGuide to Overcoming Digestive Disorders. You will also find solid information on this problem in our interview with Dr. Robynne Chutkan. It is Show 1224: What Is the Best Way to Manage Your Heartburn?

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Sun J, "D-Limonene: safety and clinical applications." Alternative Medicine Review, Sep. 2007.
  • Kim YW et al, "Safety evaluation and risk assessment of d-Limonene." Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, Critical Reviews, 2013. DOI: 10.1080/10937404.2013.769418
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