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How Effective Is Peppermint Oil for IBS?

By C. Webb
Updated Feb 12, 2024
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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder with symptoms that include diarrhea, constipation, stomach cramping, and gas. Research indicates that up to 20 percent of people have IBS. Peppermint oil has long been held as a home remedy for IBS, and several clinical studies have concluded that peppermint oil for IBS is an effective treatment for the disorder. In some cases, peppermint oil proved to be more effective than traditionally prescribed anti-spasm medications.

A study conducted by the American College of Gastroenterology concluded that 26 percent of patients given peppermint oil for IBS found a measure of relief from their symptoms. One report in the peer-reviewed American Family Physician Journal came to the same conclusion and recommended peppermint oil as a viable alternative to prescription medications in the treatment of IBS. The report indicated that more studies were needed to definitively show that peppermint oil works, but early results suggested the oil was worth trying.

Peppermint oil can be purchased as liquid oil or sold in capsules. It is an over-the-counter remedy, with no prescription necessary. Participants in one study ingested 200 milligrams two to three times a day in capsule form, while control-group members received placebo capsules. In that study, the peppermint oil proved to relieve at least mild IBS symptoms.

Irritable bowel syndrome typically takes one of two paths. It can mainly cause constipation or it can produce severe diarrhea. Research results indicate that the use of peppermint oil for IBS is most effective in the group that has severe diarrhea.

Those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea often complain of bloating, abdominal pain, and frequent trips to the restroom. Life plans are formed around when the person will eat and how far from the nearest restroom each activity will be. As many as one in five people worldwide suffer from the disorder. The syndrome often proves difficult to treat with traditional medications.

Peppermint oil has been used as an herbal remedy for various ailments throughout history. It is derived from a cross between spearmint and watermint and used in many herbal recipes. Though it can be found in stores in liquid form, most people using peppermint oil for IBS take it in capsule form.

Peppermint oil capsules are recommended over liquid because the liquid sometimes causes heartburn. When used in small doses for IBS, peppermint oil is considered safe, though it can cause nausea or an allergic reaction. Too much peppermint oil can harm the kidneys. Patients with IBS should consult a physician before starting on a peppermint oil regime for their symptoms.

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