Peppermint oil is made from the peppermint plant, which has been used for many years as a tea to calm the digestion. Peppermint has an anti-spasmodic action, and calms the smooth muscles of the stomach, intestines, and uterus. Peppermint also has analgesic (pain-killing) properties. Peppermint oil is used for all the main symptoms of IBS, but it may be particularly effective at relieving cramps, spasms and pain. There have been several published scientific studies showing that peppermint oil is useful in treating IBS symptoms.
The oil usually comes in capsule form, and there are also many brands of peppermint tea available. If you are using the oil version it may be worth checking to see if the tablets are 'enteric coated'. This means that they have a special coating which will allow them to reach the intestines before they dissolve, rather than breaking down in the stomach where they will do less good and could cause heartburn.
Peppermint oil side effects
The most common side effects of peppermint oil are heartburn and itching or irritation around the anus.
How successful is peppermint oil in clinical trials?
A review of 16 previous clinical trials of peppermint oil was published in the journal Phytomedicine in 2005. Nine of the 15 studies had been randomized double-blind cross-over trials, five were randomized double blind parallel group design, and two were open labeled studies. Placebos were used in 12 of the studies and anticholinergics (anti-spasmodics) in three studies in the control groups.
Eight out of the 12 placebo-controlled trials showed statistically significant improvements from the patients who received the peppermint oil. In terms of overall success, 58% of patients had improvements with peppermint oil and 29% of patients had improvements in the placebo group. In the studies where peppermint oil was compared to anticholinergics, no significant difference between the treatments was found.
Conclusion: Peppermint oil has produced statistically significant improvements in IBS symptoms in a number of studies. Pubmed article: Grigoleit HG, Grigoleit P
Another review, published in 1998 in the American Journal of Gastroenterology examined eight randomized, controlled trials.
Conclusion: Peppermint oil could be useful for treating IBS, but no definitive judgment could be made without further studies. Pubmed article: Pittler MH, Ernst E
REVIEWS OF PEPPERMINT OIL
Review by Allison
I have had IBS for around six years. Like many people here I am taking Imodium as and when needed. Without it I just wouldn't manage to go out anywhere. My doctor prescribed peppermint tablets which I found made my stomach feel like it was burning. They were way too strong and they also made my urine sting on the way out.
I decided to try extra strong mints thinking that they might work on the same basis of peppermint settling the stomach. They have been great. I have a couple every day and find that when my stomach feels uncomfortable they can soothe and settle it. They also make me burp which eases my stomach. I am sure that having wind trapped under the food starts the whole quick emptying process. Also I have noticed that when I do my regular half an hour on the cross-trainer this loosens up wind which stops it from building up and causing cramps etc. I had to post these ideas in case they can help someone.
Review by Andrew
I have had IBS for 25 years. I am now 50. My IBS is stress-related and diet-related. I have kept a food diary and tried to avoid problem foods, but I found inconsistent results because it is not just certain foods that cause issues - stress also plays a role. When I was younger I might have a flare-up once or twice a year. The frequency has now increased to weekly/fortnightly flares.
I am not sure how much pain others are in when they have a flare, but when I have a flare the pain is so severe I frequently black out while sitting on the toilet. I remain unconscious on the toilet floor until someone finds me and revives me. Falling off the toilet onto the concrete floor in this way has given me a broken rib, a broken nose and black eyes. This situation is intolerable.
I have never taken any medication of any type and the only medical advice I have received was to increase the fiber in my diet. I have given up alcohol (social drinking only) as it consistently caused me problems. My flares always happen in the middle of the night after digesting my evening meal.
A month ago I started taking one enteric-coated peppermint oil tablet 0.2ml (Mintec brand) each evening after a meal, before retiring to bed. During this past month I have not had one flare and no IBS symptoms at all. Based on my IBS history and my relatively short one-month trial, I would strongly endorse trying enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules if you have not already done so.
Review by Colleen
I have had IBS since I was 12. I am almost 60 now and the last 10 years it has been so bad I've had to quit working away from home, and plan any trips to even the grocery store with great care. I have also quit alcohol, caffeine and cow dairy. I eat a little goat's cheese now and then. I have found that peppermint oil pills are having good results. I went to town before noon (very unusual) and did not suffer at all. The all-day terrors are gone. The hardest food to give up was butter, but I was so tired of feeling so awful every day.
Review by Marty
I was very sick and had bad IBS but I never knew because the doctor missed it. Well by accident I found peppermint oil complex with oregano oil by Natural Factors and it is like day and night. I suffered all the time but with these I have no symptoms except peppermint breath - they are awesome.
Review by Kathy
I first found this site on my Kindle while spending the day in bed with one of my many attacks of IBS. Along with IBS I also have a large hiatal hernia which causes acid reflux, so when I get pain, I get pain! Over the years (I am 73 and I have had IBS since I was 37) I have tried just about everything, including hypnotherapy and acupuncture. I told someone the other day, newly diagnosed with IBS, that it is a life sentence - not a death sentence, but a life sentence that makes you wish sometimes you were dead.
This, after many tries, is my daily regimen. Four Citrucel tablets with a full glass of water every day. Axid AR 75mg every night before bed. The Axid takes care of the reflux and the Citrucel prevents intestinal pain and ensures regularity. When I am having a flare-up (IBS sufferers makes me a touchy person, the stomach and intestines have been called the second brain so any worry real or imagined affects me) I have found the most successful treatment during an attack is bed rest, quiet music and a light diet (steamed fish, scrambled egg, baked potato, that sort of stuff, with only hot water to drink).
Then after every meal I take one or two capsules of enteric-coated peppermint and one or two capsules of root ginger, both obtained from the health food store. I also take one capsule of Bromelain after eating protein. I don't take the ginger after about 6pm as it may keep you awake.
Because I am of an anxious nature my doctor has prescribed Xanax 0.25mg to be taken whenever I feel like it, but since even this lowest dose knocks me out, I take one at bedtime to ensure a good night's sleep, and then if I need one during the day I take half a tablet which relaxes me and makes me calmer and less inclined to start cleaning the house from top to bottom or digging the garden in a 90 degree heatwave.
I am sharing this information in the hope that it helps someone else with this awful chronic condition. Trial and error, trial and error. Keep a diary to refer back to, because when you are feeling well you tend to forget as quickly as possible the awful pain, and imagine that you are normal, but you are not normal!
What works for some does not work for others. Sometimes it is the length of time one is in pain rather than the intensity that is so wearing, and destroys the quality of life for both yourself and your family. Good luck!
Review by Michael
I like so many other sufferers was in constant pain, and it so bad that I could barely work. Watching my diet (which meant not really eating) and getting lots of exercise worked until I would cheat with my diet and then my IBS kicked me in the gut hard. Since using peppermint oil capsules I've been so much better, I can again enjoy life. It's weird that, for a disease that so many people suffer from, there really isn't much awareness from the medical community. I hope this info helps someone, I know how frustrated I was for the last two years.
Review by MG
I have suffered for decades and I recently starting using (OTC) Peppermint Plus pills. I take them as needed, as many as three per day between meals. They help me with constipation. I am a 54-year old American male who also started on Hyomax by prescription for when my bowels become overactive. I find that I am more balanced with these two additions.
Review by Penny
I find peppermint oil to be truly wonderful and I would now never go anywhere without a small bottle of pure peppermint oil on my person. If I am in agony or have dreadful wind then I find if I massage six or seven drops of this pure undiluted oil into my abdomen in a clockwise direction it eases not only the wind but the agonizing cramps as well.
Review by Andrew
I take peppermint pills after I eat something to calm my stomach. I have found them to be very helpful.
Review by M
I just want to offer my endorsement of Heather's Tummy Tamers peppermint oil capsules. They are by far the most effective brand that I've tried. Regimint was absolutely useless, and the NOW brand was minimally effective, at best. Heather's works for a broad range of symptoms, including pain, reflux, and flatulence.
Review by Ernie
I have IBS-D with lots of pains, bloating and severe flatulence. I tried Heather's peppermint oil capsules and they didn't help me at all. In fact they gave me more stomach pains and the feeling of having a real sour stomach. For every day I kept taking it the pains kept growing. I had to quit on the fifth day.
Review by Kelly
I was diagnosed with IBS about nine years ago. After trying several tablets from the doctor I decided to try natural products. For me the peppermint oil capsules ease the pain and reduce the bloating. Aloe vera seems to make me go to the toilet more regularly (I used to go about once a week). I buy both these products from Holland and Barrett, and I take them every day otherwise I know I would be very bloated and constipated.
Review by Hunt
I have tried both peppermint oil and peppermint tea (NOW brand). The tea doesn't do much of anything, so I don't recommend it at all. The peppermint oil has given me some mild relief from constant diarrhea, and I'd say the stomach cramps and urgency have lessened by about 10%-30%, but I still suffer significantly. The peppermint oil has by no means eliminated or resolved my symptoms, and I wouldn't call this a great solution. Over-the-counter drugstore products work much better for me, but are probably less safe than peppermint oil, so I'll stick to this regime for a few more months.
Review by Emily
I have IBS and anxiety disorder. Nothing has worked better for my IBS than enteric-coated peppermint capsules. Drinking peppermint tea, although delicious, causes too much heartburn and acid reflux for me. The enteric-coated capsules have eliminated my bloating and gas, diarrhea and abdominal pain. The only think I don't like is that I can feel exactly when the caps dissolve in my intestinal tract! It feels like a tingling hot and cold feeling. It passes quickly and leaves me feeling much better afterward. I am taking the Pepogest brand as recommended by my herbalist.
Review by Victoria
Peppermint oil is one of the only things that works well for me, and is reasonably inexpensive to purchase. I love it, it's easy to take and it gives me instant relief from everything from diarrhea to cramping and pain. I cannot go without this, it really does help people with IBS!
Review by Kay
I tried the peppermint oil capsules and the second day experienced a burning sensation with bowel movements that a customer service person from the HelpforIBS order line assured me was not a normal reaction. She suggested I might have an intolerance to salicylates, which are at a high level in the capsules.
Since salicylates are in just about every plant food known to man, I doubt if I can avoid them...but I have no intention of taking the peppermint oil capsules again. I have no problem with a cup or two of hot peppermint tea each day and may try the fennel capsules in the future.
Review by Natasha
I been suffering severely with IBS-C since I was 17, I'm now 25. I tried peppermint oil capsules and they gave me severe gas, cramps, bloating, and diarrhea. Now I just stick to peppermint tea which helps somewhat.
Review by Joanne
I was prescribed peppermint capsules by my doctor, but to be honest they have just been making me feel worse. Someone mentioned a warming effect on the stomach which has been really bad for me, making me feel sick. I will persevere however and see what happens.
Review by Holly
I am a 21 year-old female diagnosed with IBS over a year ago after six years of recurrent abdominal pain, bloating, etc. After being diagnosed I had my IBS under control by changing my diet, but since starting university the stress has been upsetting my IBS again.
Every morning for three weeks I have been waking up in extreme lower abdominal pain with diarrhea and vomiting that would last for up to three hours, and every time I ate throughout the day the pain and other symptoms would come back almost immediately. It was to the point where I was forcing myself to get up four hours before class to accommodate the pain, and not eat until I had done everything I needed to for the day.
Today I stumbled upon this website while I was experiencing the extreme cramping pain. I immediately got my roommate to find me some peppermint tea bags and made a big cup of it. It has almost instantaneously made my pain and diarrhea and vomiting go away. As soon as I finish this cup I am going out to buy some capsules to try them out and see if they can help with my IBS on a day-to-day basis.
Review by Sara
I was diagnosed two days ago with IBS, after a month of ongoing extreme pain in my lower abdomen, towards my back. My doctor recommended enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules, so I went out and got them straight away. I have been taking them for two days now and I have not felt any pain whatsoever. They really are a Godsend, the agony I was in was getting unbearable.
Review by Kirsten
I am presently taking Zoloft and Fibercon for my IBS-C symptoms. I have also taken probiotics, which I have previously reviewed on this site. But it seems I am finally arriving at a more complete treatment of my symptoms in the past few months with the taking of peppermint gel caps.
Taking a peppermint gel cap with my meals has proven to be the only treatment that calmed down my insides enough every evening that I would feel comfortable falling asleep. There is the side effect of some cooling in my stomach and intestinal area, but that is nothing, not even unpleasant in my mind compared to the usual discomfort. I've known about the caps for a few years, but I had no idea that when taken regularly they could really tame the activity in my stomach. Not slow down digestion as much as smooth it out.
I ordered my gel caps from NOW foods for $7 for 90 gels. It's quite cheap and, as I said, very effective. I wanted to let others know my success with this. I do not know, however, if it would be as successful were I not taking the fiber supplements, etc.
Review by Nadia
Before I was diagnosed with IBS, a very intelligent emergency room doctor came up with a clipboard and told me that I had stomach problems. Wow. How insightful considering I was in the hospital for stomach pains! After being diagnosed with IBS I began trying lots of different things, but I found that peppermint oil was the best quick fix for any intestinal cramping or spasms.
I had to be careful when taking medications for acid reflux, such as Prilosec or Pepcid AC, since the medication lowers the acidity in your stomach, so the enteric-coated pill may dissolve in your stomach instead of your intestines. To solve the problem I take the peppermint oil two hours after any medication, and I take it before I eat so that it won't cause acid reflux. Overall, I cannot say enough good things about peppermint oil. And it does not have to be expensive - 90 enteric-coated pills ran me less than $8.
Review by Jackie
I am using Heather Van Vorous peppermint capsules and also her acacia fiber. At first the capsules definitely did not wait to dissolve in my colon and warmed my tummy which is kind of uncomfortable. I could only manage to take one of those in the morning because of the feeling it gives. But then this morning I ate a banana with the peppermint oil capsule and I did not have the warming effect. I was even able to drink a cup of coffee - I know that is taboo - but I can't give up my one cup of coffee in the morning.
The banana seemed to be the trick with the peppermint. I figured with the consistency, it would gather up the peppermint and help move it to the intestine. If you take it on an empty stomach, what is there to move it? So, this worked. I had just a hint of the peppermint warming - nothing bothersome - almost comfortable. It might have heated me up briefly - hard to say since I do have hot flashes.
Review by Robert
I was officially diagnosed with IBS in May 2002. Although I have had it for years, in 2002 the symptoms really started to interfere with my job, etc (severe cramping, lower intestinal pain, gas, diarrhea, and hours in the bathroom. I tried the peppermint oil capsules a few times. The first time was only for two weeks, and then I went back to the health food store and the person informed me that I need to take them for a longer period of time.
OK, so I religiously took them for two months. They did nothing for my IBS. And the peppermint oil was running about $60 for a three-week supply. Granted that is a low price, but then insurance doesn't pay for non-traditional medicine.
Review by Cheryl
I have bad IBS and peppermint oil capsules and peppermint tea has been the only and I mean the only thing that has helped to relieve my cramps, bloating, and explosive diarrhea. It's not a panacea but certainly worth the investment because it helps, but does not completely alleviate, IBS symptoms.
Review by Juli
I have found that enteric-coated peppermint capsules have been a Godsend. They do not alter the end results, so to speak, but instead make getting there easier. They relieve the intestinal twisting feeling, discomfort and cramping.