Can peppermint oil relieve indigestion or IBS symptoms?

In theory, “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 may act as a muscle relaxant, he points out.

Does it help manage indigestion?

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.”

Can it help people with irritable bowel syndrome?

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.

Now the results of a larger trial are in.

Masclee and other scientists—some with ties to a peppermint oil company—randomly assigned 189 people with IBS to take 182 milligrams a day of enteric-coated peppermint oil or a placebo.

After eight weeks, pre-set targets for declines in abdominal pain and overall symptoms were no different. There was a hint that the peppermint oil might curb pain slightly, but a new study would have to confirm that finding.

Bottom Line: Don’t expect peppermint oil to have a substantial impact on the symptoms of IBS.

The information in this post appeared in the May 2017 and the December 2019 issues 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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