Does peppermint oil help against irritable bowel syndrome?

The properties of peppermint oil have been studied for its effects in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. According to recent studies, such as one published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, this product it is proposed as a safe and effective therapy against the pain and symptoms of this disease.

What else is known about it? Are there other studies to back it up? This time we want to tell you all the details. In addition, we delve into its benefits and how it can be used for that purpose.

Peppermint oil benefits against irritable bowel syndrome

Peppermint has been used since ancient times for various medicinal purposes. Both its leaves and its essential oil have been incorporated into drinks, extracts and ointments that serve as adjuvants to conditions such as colds, headaches or digestive problems.

Now, not long ago, science determined that peppermint essential oil has therapeutic potential against irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In particular, it helps control symptoms such as pain, constipation, bloating, and gas.

In fact, a review of studies published in The BMJ concluded that peppermint oil was more effective than placebo in treating irritable bowel syndrome. Its effects even seem to exceed those of fiber and are compared to those of antispasmodic medications.

But why is it effective? Researchers suggest that this ingredient has antispasmodic activity. Menthol, one of the active compounds in peppermint, has a relaxing effect on intestinal smooth muscle. Thus, it manages to reduce abdominal distention, pain, the sensation 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 helpful to calm the abdominal symptoms of IBS.

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

Irritable bowel is a condition that causes frequent pain in the abdomen, often linked to specific foods.

Read also: Know irritable bowel syndrome

Is peppermint oil a safe treatment?

To date, most studies have determined that peppermint oil has a good safety profile. Despite this, more research is needed and its use should not be taken lightly. It is necessary to bear in mind that it is not a first-choice treatment and its consumption should be done in a responsible way, preferably under medical supervision.

In large doses, peppermint and its derivatives have negative effects. For example, it has been observed to interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and medications. In addition, administered orally it can trigger heartburn, dry mouth and nausea. In a few cases, it also causes allergic reactions.

How is peppermint oil used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome?

For now, the studies that have been done on peppermint oil and irritable bowel syndrome have focused on its presentation in capsules. There is no evidence of the same effects when drinking peppermint tea prepared from the leaves. Still, this drink is considered safe.

Peppermint capsules are usually enteric-coated to prevent stomach juices from breaking it down. With this, they do not dissolve until they reach the intestine and the appearance of side effects, such as heartburn that we already mentioned, is avoided. Doses are generally as follows:

  • Adults: from 0.2 ml to 0.4 ml of peppermint oil, 3 times a day.
  • Children 8 years and older: 0.1 ml to 0.2 ml of peppermint oil, 3 times a day.

It should be noted that it should not be consumed simultaneously with antacids, since they break its coating. Also, the capsules must be swallowed whole. It is not convenient to use peppermint oil alone; it is necessary to use the correct dose that is already measured in the capsules.

The effectiveness of the compound in the irritable bowel has been proven in capsule presentation.

Discover: 6 signs that your intestine is sick

Recommendations for patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disease that requires a multidisciplinary approach. Therefore, although supplements such as peppermint oil help against your symptoms, medical consultation is essential.

Both doctors and nutritionists – and even psychologists – can guide you towards effective methods to reduce symptoms and avoid complications. It is necessary to modify the diet and tend to a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, the following are worth considering:

  • Secure a optimal fiber intake.
  • Avoid gluten.
  • Adopt a special eating plan, known as a "low FODMAP diet."
  • To do physical exercise.
  • Avoid stressful situations.
  • Sleep well.
  • Consume water and healthy drinks.
  • Follow the treatment suggested by the doctor.
  • Go to psychological therapy.

Research on adjunctive treatments for irritable bowel syndrome is ongoing. Therefore, it is now possible to use supplements, such as peppermint oil, to manage symptoms. Anyway, it is good to consult your doctor before choosing them.