Peppermint Oil Against Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Peppermint oil is a natural product that's been widely researched for its possible effects against the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. So, what did the studies find?
Peppermint Oil Against Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Last update: 16 December, 2020

The properties of peppermint oil have been studied for its effects on people afflicted by irritable bowel syndrome. According to recent studies, such as one published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, this is a safe and effective therapy that can relieve the pain and symptoms of this disease.

What else do we know about it? Are there other studies to support this claim? Today’s article will provide more details about it and delve into its benefits. It’ll also give you instructions on how to use it for this purpose.

Peppermint oil as a relief for irritable bowel syndrome

People have been using this herb since ancient times for all sorts of medicinal purposes. We’ve been using both its leaves and essential oil in drinks, extracts, and ointments that serve as an adjuvant to conditions such as colds, headaches, or digestive problems.

However, scientists recently determined that peppermint essential oil has therapeutic potential against irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In particular, it helps control symptoms such as pain, constipation, inflammation, and bloating.

In fact, a review of studies published in The BMJ concluded that peppermint oil was more effective than a placebo in the treatment of IBS. Furthermore, its effects appear to outperform those of fiber and are compared to those of antispasmodic drugs.

OK, but, why is it effective? Well, researchers suggest that this ingredient has antispasmodic activity. That is, menthol, one of the active compounds in peppermint, soothes the intestinal smooth muscle. Thus, it helps reduce abdominal distention, pain, the feeling of incomplete evacuation, constipation, and diarrhea.

In a shared randomized controlled trial in Digestive and Liver Disease, a four-week treatment with peppermint essential oil was found to be helpful in the relief of the abdominal symptoms characteristic of IBS.

In addition, research in the medical journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics observed that this oil has other mechanisms of action against IBS, such as modulation of visceral sensitivity, its antimicrobial activity, and its anti-inflammatory effect.

A woman with a stomach ache.
Irritable bowel is a condition that causes frequent pain in the abdomen, often linked to specific foods.

Is peppermint oil safe?

Most studies determined that peppermint oil is safe. There’s more research to be done though so don’t take these results to heart. Keep in mind this isn’t a first-choice treatment and you must consume it responsibly — under medical supervision, preferably.

This is because mint and its derivatives have negative effects in large doses. For example, researchers observed that it interferes with the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and medications. In addition, it can trigger heartburn, dry mouth, and nausea when taken orally. It also causes allergic reactions in rare cases.

Treating IBS with peppermint oil

So far, studies on peppermint oil and irritable bowel syndrome have focused on its capsule form. There’s no evidence that drinking peppermint tea prepared from the leaves provides the same effects. This infusion is quite safe though.

Mint capsules usually have an enteric coating that prevents stomach acids from breaking them down. This is so that they won’t dissolve until they reach the intestine and thus avoid any harmful side effects such as the stomach acidity we mentioned above. In general, the doses are:

  • Adults: from 0.2 ml to 0.4 ml of mint oil, three times a day
  • Children 8 years and older: 0.1 ml to 0.2 ml of peppermint oil, three times a day

Note that you mustn’t consume it simultaneously with antacids because these will break the enteric coating. In addition, you must swallow the capsules whole, so don’t use mint oil by itself. You must adhere to the proper dose which is already carefully measured in every capsule.

A peppermint capsule.
The effectiveness of the compound in the irritable intestine has been proven in the capsule format.

Recommendations for patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disease that requires a multidisciplinary approach. Therefore, you must consult a doctor before using supplements such as peppermint oil to relieve its symptoms.

Both doctors and nutritionists – and even psychologists – can guide you towards effective methods to reduce symptoms and avoid complications. Also, you must modify your diet and adopt healthy habits. Thus, consider the following:

  • Ensure an optimal consumption of fiber
  • Avoid gluten
  • Adopt the “low-FODMAP” diet
  • Be physically active
  • Avoid stressful situations
  • Adopt proper sleep hygiene habits
  • Drink enough water and other healthy drinks
  • Follow any treatment suggested by your doctor
  • Attend psychological therapy

Research on adjuvant treatments for irritable bowel syndrome continues to progress. It’s for this reason that it’s now possible to use supplements, such as peppermint oil to manage your symptoms. Always consult your doctor beforehand.

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  • Alammar N, Wang L, Saberi B, et al. The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019;19(1):21. Published 2019 Jan 17. doi:10.1186/s12906-018-2409-0
  • Cash BD, Epstein MS, Shah SM. A Novel Delivery System of Peppermint Oil Is an Effective Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms. Dig Dis Sci. 2016;61(2):560-571. doi:10.1007/s10620-015-3858-7
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