Researchers in Britain say there's a more natural remedy for digestive problems such as heartburn or ulcers: an extract from pine trees.

The substance, ecabet sodium, is derived from pine resin.

A research team from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne found that the white power reduces the activity of pepsin, the chemical blamed for causing some ulcers.

When added to gastric juices in the lab, the extract caused a thickening of the mucus that lines the stomach and protects it from acid attack.

Scientists also discovered the powder reduced the survival time of another type of bacteria that causes ulcers, acting much like an antibiotic.

People with stomach ulcers are prone to esophageal reflux — when gastric juices pass the valve at the top of the stomach and irritate the lining of the gullet.

It's believed acid reflux is caused by a variety of factors, mostly dietary. Too much alcohol, fried or fatty foods, coffee and spicy foods can contribute to the problem.

Ecabet sodium has been prescribed by some therapists as an alternative to acid-control drugs for the treatment of reflux. This study may help patients who may want a more natural solution to their problem.

"Doctors often prescribe drugs which stop acid production...but some medical experts are worried there may be side effects on patients who take the drug daily for many years," says lead researcher Dr. Jeff Pearson.

Doctors say long-term use of antacids can result in diarrhea and a buildup of magnesium in the body. Too much magnesium can be serious for people with kidney disease.