The Case Behind Using Peppermint Oil For IBS

Why Is This Important?

Peppermint essesntial oil has been scientifically proven to have many health benefits. One of those is around its treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

In this article we consider the practical and the clinical evidence behind using peppermint oil for IBS and find it to be a real option if you are suffering….

The Soothing Menthol That Breaks More Than Just Headaches...

What Is Peppermint Oil And why Is It Thought To Be Effective?

Peppermint oil is (not surprisingly) an essential oil drawn from the leaves of the peppermint plant. It has been used in medicine since before modern medicine was created.

A lot of it’s effectiveness is said to come from the high concentration of menthol in peppermint oil (approx. 44%).

Peppermint oil has been proven to offer numerous benefits for a number of common ailments like headaches and migraine relief to the more newly recognised fibromyalgia.

Among those claims sits one that it can help with the symptoms of IBS – including constipation, bloating, gas and the overriding pain.

Exactly why peppermint essential oil is so effective for IBS however is not fully understood. When you develop IBS, both the nerves and muscles in your colon become inflamed and extremely sensitive.

Menthol appears to have a similar cooling, relaxing effect on your colon as it does with migraines and other ailments – only this time blocking the pain signals from your stomach.

Not only that, but there is significant medical research that has been carried out to prove exactly that.

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Peppermint Oil and IBS – The Facts…

One of the criticisms of essential oils is often that, with so many oils and so many perceived benefits to test, there is limited data supporting any single oil for use with any single condition.

This however is not the case here.

There are actually quite a number of small to medium size clinical trials measuring the efficacy of peppermint oil for IBS – and several key reviews of such data pulling them together to form meaningful, large batches of data.

One such review in ‘Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics’ in 2018 highlighted peppermint oils’ good safety profile and concluded,

“Placebo controlled studies support its use in irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, childhood functional abdominal pain, and post‐operative nausea.”

This particular study highlighted a number of key elements to treating IBS. Since I am not writing a clinical review, I will not go through each clinical paper in any detail.

However, to prove the case for peppermint essential oil in treating IBS, I have listed below the benefits we would need see in order to tackle IBS. I have then highlighted a couple of the clinical studies that support the use of peppermint oil in achieving that particular goal. 

I am not suggesting that you read the studies (I do that as a career), but below is a sample of the huge amount of clinical evidence behind using peppermint oil for IBS…

Smooth Muscle Relaxation – ‘Phytomedicine (2005)’ and ‘Gastroenterology (2001)

Anti-Inflammatory Properties – ‘European Journal of Pharmacology (2017)’ and ‘European Journal of Medical Research (1998)’ 

Anti-microbial/ Antifungal Effects – ‘Phytochemistry (2013)’ and ‘Frontiers In Microbiology

Controling Pain Signals From The Gut (aka ‘moderating visceral sensation’) – ‘Journal of Ethnopharmacology (1998)’ and ‘Journal of Neuroscience (2007)’ 

Furthermore, there is additional evidence around the efficacy of peppermint oil for treating IBS against increasing fibre consumption, antispasmodics and a placebo.

This was published in the BMJ (The British Medical Journal) and led to headlines such as Peppermint Oil Better Than Drugs At Treating IBS in The Daily Telegraph and Peppermint oil ‘the most effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome’ in the Daily Mail.

Peppermint Oil and IBS – Taking The Right Amounts

Adults are recommended to take 0.2ml to 0.4ml of peppermint oil up to 3 times a day in a variety of suggested manners

Children from 8 years and older should take no more than 0.1ml to 0.2ml of peppermint oil 3 times a day.

For details on how best to consume peppermint oil, check out are article on ‘how to use peppermint oil’.

DO NOT OVERDOSE.

Some people assume that because peppermint oil is a natural substance and is used in many foods etc, that it is safe to take in large doses.

The truth however, is that peppermint oil was originally used as a medicine and should be considered to still be a medicine.

In other words, increasing doses above the recommended levels will not increase it’s effectiveness and can have very serious consequences.

Specific Cautions With Ingesting Peppermint Oil For IBS.

As well as the general cautions/ side effects with peppermint oil which should be read before considering starting usage (which can be read here), there are several specific conditions where using peppermint oil should be avoided. These are…

  • GORD/ GERD. (That’s persistent heartburn caused by acid reflux also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease).
  • Hiatal Hernias
  • Gallstones

Don’t take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as there has been no research completed on whether it is safe or not.

And as with all changes in your treatment plan, you should consult your family doctor first, so they can monitor your safety. This is especially important if you are on other drugs, even for different conditions.

The Final Word –

Many people consider essential oils to be an ‘alternative’ or ‘new age’ medicine. The truth is the main essential oils were being used to treat various ailments long before drugs were developed.

Even today, many drugs contain parts of plant extracts, the same as essential oils.

The criticism is then sometimes levelled at them, that essential oils are not backed up with clear evidence. This is also not true in many cases, although the sheer number of new and mixed oils means that inevitably there are gaps because there are now so many options.

However, in the case of using peppermint oil for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), there is a wealth of research that suggests not only that it is effective – but that it is frequently more effective than more commonly used drugs.

When it comes to treating IBS, it is the high menthol content of peppermint oil that acts both as a muscle relaxant, an antimicrobial, an anti-inflammatory and a pain reliever. The perfect combination for irritable bowel syndrome relief.

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References Used –

1. B. P. Chumpitazi G. L. Kearns R. J. Shulman. (Jan 2018). Review article: the physiological effects and safety of peppermint oil and its efficacy in irritable bowel syndrome and other functional disorders. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
2. Grigoleit HG, Grigoleit P. (2005). Pharmacology and preclinical pharmacokinetics of peppermint oil. Phytomedicine.
3. Hills JM, Aaronson PI. (1991). 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.
4. Ghasemi‐Pirbaluti M, Motaghi E, Bozorgi H. (2017). The effect of menthol on acute experimental colitis in rats. European Journal of Pharmacology.
5. Juergens UR, Stober M, Vetter H. (1998). The anti‐inflammatory activity of L‐menthol compared to mint oil in human monocytes in vitro: a novel perspective for its therapeutic use in inflammatory diseases. European Journal of Medical Research.
6. Kamatou GP, Vermaak I, Viljoen AM, et al. (2013). Menthol: a simple monoterpene with remarkable biological properties. Phytochemistry.
7. Husain FM, Ahmad I, Khan MS, et al. (2015). Sub‐MICs of Mentha piperita essential oil and menthol inhibits AHL mediated quorum sensing and biofilm of Gram‐negative bacteria. Frontiers in Microbiology.
8. Atta AH, Alkofahi A. (1998). Anti‐nociceptive and anti‐inflammatory effects of some Jordanian medicinal plant extracts. Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
9. Karashima Y, Damann N, Prenen J, et al. (Sept 2007). Bimodal action of menthol on the transient receptor potential channel TRPA1. Journal of Neuroscience.
10. Alexander C Ford, Nicholas J Talley, Brennan M R Spiegel, Amy E Foxx-Orenstein, Lawrence Schiller, Eamonn M M Quigley and Paul Moayyedi. (Nov 2008). Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Medical Journal.
11. The Daily Mail. www.dailymail.co.uk