Why Peppermint Oil?
Peppermint oil is thought to have a helpful effect on gut motility. The principal component of peppermint oil is menthol, which appears to relax smooth muscle such as that found throughout the colon. This effect on the smooth muscle is thought to act to reduce gut spasms.
Does It Help IBS?
A number of research studies have been conducted to assess whether or not peppermint oil is better than a placebo in reducing IBS symptoms. In general, there has been some indication that peppermint oil is as effective as prescription antispasmodics, leading the American College of Gastroenterology to recommend peppermint oil as a front-line treatment.
Are There any Side Effects?
Peppermint oil is generally well tolerated, although there are some reports of heartburn or burning sensations in the rectal area. In order to reduce side effects and to maximize effectiveness for IBS, enteric coated capsules are your best bet.
Is Peppermint Oil Safe for Children?
There is one study that found that children who suffered from IBS experienced significantly less abdominal pain after two weeks of taking peppermint oil supplements. The results were dramatic, with 75% of the children experiencing pain relief.
How Much Should I Take?
As with any remedy, it is best to get clearance from your physician. They are likely to recommend that you take two capsules twice a day.
The Bottom Line
The fact that IBS is a chronic disease calls for caution when considering the use of prescription medication, due to concerns about long term safety. Effective supplements thus become an important aspect of treatment. Peppermint oil would appear to fit the bill, in terms of providing a safe, well-tolerated treatment option for reducing IBS symptoms.
American College of Gastroenterology IBS Task Force "An Evidence-Based Position Statement on the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome American Journal of Gastroenterology 2009:S1-S35.
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Grigoleit, H. & Grigoleit, P. "Peppermint oil in irritable bowel syndrome." Phytomedicine 2005 601-606.
Hills, J. & Aaronson, P. “The mechanism of action of peppermint oil on gastrointestinal smooth muscle. An analysis using patch clamp electrophysiology and isolated tissue pharmacology in rabbit and guinea pig.” Gastroenterology 1991:55-65.
Kline, R., Kline, J., DiPalma, J. & Barbero, G. “Enteric-coated, pH-dependent peppermint oil capsules for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome in children.” Journal of Pediatrics 2001 138:125-128.
Pittler, M. & Ernst E. “Peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome: a critical view and meta-analysis.” American Journal of Gastroenterology 1998 93:1131–1135.
Spanier, J., Howden, C. & Jones, M. “A systematic review of alternative therapies in the irritable bowel syndrome.” Archives of Internal Medicine 2003 163:265-274.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.