Peppermint Oil for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects millions of Americans with painful abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, and bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Eliminating dairy and caffeine often takes care of the problem, but if not I often put patients on peppermint oil--and there is finally now solid evidence to support this centuries-old practice.
The latest volume of the journal Phytomedicine reviewed the evidence--16 clinical studies, most of them double-blind placebo-controlled crossover studies (one of the most scientifically rigorous study designs). The majority of these studies showed a consistent and significant improvement in IBS symptoms compared to placebo. The recommended dosing for adults is 1-2 enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules three times a day for 2 to 4 weeks. As always, pregnant and breast-feeding women should consult their physician before putting any new substance in their bodies.
The effect of the peppermint oil was so powerful that some of the studies even performed a head to head comparison between the peppermint oil and the current pharmaceutical drugs on the market and found comparable results. Of course the drugs in current use have side-effects including everything from dry mouth and blurred vision to confusion and memory impairment. The most common side effect of the peppermint oil was, well, let's just call it the "perianal tingle," as the minty freshness exits the body.