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Peppermint Oil Can Help With IBS Symptoms

People looking for a natural way to manage IBS symptoms might want to try enteric-coated peppermint oil. Exercise could also help.
Peppermint Oil Can Help With IBS Symptoms
Woman hands on her stomach, probiotics food for gut health, having stomachache

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a terrible trial. Up to one in five individuals suffers with this chronic condition for which there is no cure (JAMA, March 3, 2015). People with IBS may experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation or occasionally both (alternating). Doctors used to classify it as a “functional disorder, meaning they could find nothing anatomically or physiologically amiss. Consequently, they put relatively little effort into helping patients with their IBS symptoms. Fortunately, that is gradually changing.

Managing IBS Symptoms:

Q. I used a recipe for fennel tea that I found on your website. It really does help me with gas.

I have a problem with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The doctor didn’t have anything to prescribe but suggested I use IBgard. It’s ok, but I’d rather use a nondrug approach. What can you recommend?

Enteric-Coated Peppermint Oil:

A. IBgard contains enteric-coated peppermint oil. An analysis of twelve randomized controlled trials found that peppermint oil, a natural product, is safe and effective for IBS (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Jan. 17, 2019).  The most recent placebo-controlled study found that only peppermint oil designed to be released in the small intestine reduced abdominal pain and other IBS symptoms (Gastroenterology, Jan. 2020).

Exercise:

Some studies have found that various forms of exercise can reduce IBS symptoms (Neurogastroenterology and Motility, Feb. 2019). If you want to try a nondrug approach, you might consider daily walking or a regular practice of tai ji or qigong. Another possibility is a low FODMAP diet that cuts out foods that are readily fermented by bacteria in the digestive tract.

Homeopathy:

A systematic review found a small amount of evidence supporting the use of homeopathy, specifically asafoetida (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Nov. 13, 2013). We are not aware of any studies comparing homeopathic asafoetida to peppermint oil.

Learn More:

You can learn more about fennel tea, peppermint oil and managing IBS symptoms in our eGuide to Digestive Disorders. Let us know what you have found most helpful. Someone else may benefit.

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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. .
Digestive Disorders
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Digestive Disorders
Citations
  • Chey WD et al, "Irritable bowel syndrome: A clinical review." JAMA, March 3, 2015. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2015.0954
  • Alammar M et al, "The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: A meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data." BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Jan. 17, 2019. DOI: 10.1186/s12906-018-2409-0
  • Weerts ZZRM et al, "Efficacy and safety of peppermint oil in a randomized, double-blind trial of patients with irritable bowel syndrome." Gastroenterology, Jan. 2020. DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.08.026
  • Zhou C et al, "Exercise therapy of patients with irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials." Neurogastroenterology and Motility, Feb. 2019. DOI: 10.1111/nmo.13461
  • Peckham EJ et al, "Homeopathy for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Nov. 13, 2013. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009710.pub2
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