Many clinical studies have demonstrated that peppermint oil is an effective natural agent for the treatment of abdominal pain, bloating, wind, cramps and spasm associated with IBS.
One study compared the effect of enteric coated peppermint oil capsules to placebo (inactive capsules) in people with IBS for a period of 4 weeks. The results are shown in the graph below and found that treatment with enteric coated peppermint oil capsules is more effective than placebo. The investigators concluded that “…Enteric coated peppermint oil capsules may be considered as a drug of choice in patients with IBS symptoms…”
Liu J.-H. et al, Enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A prospective, randomized trial. Gastroenterol 1997;32:765-768
Another study also compared the effect of enteric coated peppermint oil capsules to placebo (inactive capsules) in people with IBS for a period of 4 weeks. The results are shown in the graph below. More people in the group receiving enteric coated peppermint oil capsules had a reduction in IBS symptoms. In this study the researchers also found that “the beneficial effect of peppermint oil lasts for 1 month after the therapy in more than 50% of treated patients.”
Cappello G. et al, Peppermint oil (Mintoil) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Digestive and Liver Disease 2007; 39:530-536
A paper published by the British Medical Journal reviewed studies using fibre, antispasmodics and peppermint oil in the treatment of IBS. All three agents were found to be more effective than placebo in the treatment of IBS, but peppermint oil was found to be the most effective one. Patients taking enteric coated peppermint oil had a 57% reduced risk of persistent symptoms of IBS and only 26% of patients had persistent symptoms after treatment.
A C Ford, N J Talley et al, Effect of fibre, antispasmodics & peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, BMJ 2008; 337:a2313.
While peppermint has been used since ancient times, it has only been recently that scientists have been able to provide a possible explanation why it is effective in relieving pain. This research conducted by scientists at the University of Adelaide’s Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory provides a possible mechanism by which peppermint may act to reduce abdominal pain, particularly of colonic origin.
A M Harrington et al, A novel role for TRPM8 in visceral afferent function, PAIN 2011; doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2011.01.027