Can peppermint oil relieve indigestion or IBS symptoms?

Its muscle-relaxing effects may soothe a sensitive gut.

“Peppermint oil reduces abdominal pain by targeting specific pain receptors,” says Adrian Masclee, a professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at the Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands. “It also seems to act as a muscle relaxant.”

But Masclee is skeptical that peppermint oil helps people with indigestion, as one industry-funded study reported. That’s because the study used enteric-coated capsules, which don’t release the oil in the stomach, where indigestion strikes. “If you encapsulate the peppermint oil, it will only be released in the small bowel,” he explains.

But Masclee doesn’t recommend uncoated peppermint oil capsules.

“Because peppermint oil has a muscle-relaxing effect, it may reduce the tone of the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus,” he says. “That can cause reflux in some people.”

More promising: a handful of randomized trials—most of them small, short, and sponsored by supplement makers—hint that enteric-coated peppermint oil may reduce pain and discomfort in people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Bottom Line: The jury is still out on whether peppermint oil capsules work. If you want to try them, use enteric-coated capsules to avoid reflux.

The information in this post first appeared in the May 2017 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.

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11 Replies to “Can peppermint oil relieve indigestion or IBS symptoms?”

  1. These enteric coated capsules have reduced my severe excess bowel gas to a normal level. I wouldn’t be without them.

    1. Addendum…ibgard is micronized enteric coated time release peppermint oil which I find works better for me than peppermint gel capsules.

    1. The amount of peppermint oil in a candy is probably far too low to have any effect. Plus, the oil should be encapsulated and enterically coated, which means the oil isn’t released until it has passed through the stomach and into the intestines. Otherwise, it can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, which can lead to reflux.

  2. Most peppermint candy is more sugar than peppermint oil. The exception I have found is ICE CHIPS sweetened with Xylitol. Both peppermint and spearmint help with indigestion.

  3. Why have I never heard this from my Digestive Health Doctor, or any other doctor that I have gone to in the past year. How do I find a doctor who actually tells you that the Sphincter muscle is where my pain begins? I have had no help and am so glad to see that I am not the only one who has digestive health problems that are all looped into symptoms of IBS.
    Yes, I do have IBS but what can I do about it? So far I have only been told by my doctors to eat more fiber. Well, that is not fixing my daily cramping, bloating, etc.

  4. My mother used peppermint oil to treat chronic diarrhea associated with an undiagnosed gall bladder blockage. She was down to 80 lbs, and after 10 days on the peppermint, her diarrhea subsided. This was about 14 years ago. She also had Parkinson’s, and the diarrhea weakened her to the point where I felt she would die soon. I think the peppermint oil saved her life.

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