Peppermint Oil Reduces Intestinal Spasms and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Two clinical studies, one from Japan and another from Iran, have confirmed that peppermint oil significantly reduces intestinal spasms. This adds to other clinical evidence that peppermint oil is helpful for irritable bowel syndrome.
Both studies tested the use of peppermint oil in patients prior to having colonoscopies. Japanese researchers from the Mitoyo General Hospital in Toyohama studied 8,269 patients who were undergoing esophagogastroduodenoscopy. The patients were divided into three groups, and given either hyoscine butyl bromide, glucagon or peppermint oil prior to their colonoscopies. The researchers developed an antispasmodic score, which gauged the level of success the treatment had in reducing intestinal spasms during the procedure.
Intestinal spasms are a problem for colonoscopies because as the equipment is inserted, sensitive intestines will often spasm, which can cause problems during the procedure and possible injury to the intestines. Thus, the drugs hyoscine butyl bromide and/or glucagon are often given prior to colonoscopy procedures.
The problem with these drugs, however, is like other pharmaceuticals, they can produce a myriad of side effects. Hyoscine butyl bromide, for example, can produce nausea, urination difficulty, breathing problems, dizziness, vision issues, rashes, itching, swelling of the hands and/or feet and other side effects.
The Japanese researchers found that the group taking peppermint oil had antispasmodic scores that were similar to the two pharmaceutical groups. Elderly patients had better antispasmodic scores than those in the pharmaceutical groups.
The researchers concluded that, “peppermint oil was useful as an antispasmodic during esophagogastroduodenoscopy, especially for elderly patients.”
Researchers from Iran’s Isfahan University found similar results in their clinical study of 65 adults. Again, the treatment was done prior to giving the patients colonoscopy procedures. The patients were given either the peppermint oil capsule called Colpermin or a placebo in capsules. The researchers measured and compared procedure times, spasm scores, pain scores, endoscopist satisfaction and patients’ willingness to repeat their colonoscopy between the two groups.
The peppermint oil group fared significantly better than the placebo group. The peppermint oil shortened the procedure times, increased the doctor satisfaction scores, and more of the peppermint oil patients were willing to have another colonoscopy than in the placebo group. More importantly, the spasm and pain levels were significantly lower among the group taking the peppermint oil prior to the procedure.
While these results indicate that peppermint oil is by far the better strategy prior to colonoscopy, the results also confirm what many traditional and alternative doctors have found in clinical environments: That peppermint oil reduces spasms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome sufferers dread the pain and intestinal sensitivity related to having spasms. For an IBS patient, a spasm can sometimes result in several days of difficulties eating and having normal bowel movements.
The use of peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome is also confirmed by a limited amount of research. Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York reviewed the available clinical research in 2007 and found that peppermint oil may well be an appropriate treatment of choice for those with irritable bowel syndrome. And a more recent review of the clinical evidence by scientists from the Leeds Gastroenterology Institute at St James’s University Hospital in the UK found that there was clear evidence that peppermint oil was a useful intestinal antispasmodic for those with irritable bowel syndrome.
Peppermint leaf and tea has also been used by traditionally for irritable bowel syndrome. However, clinical practitioners have found that peppermint oil in enteric capsules will deposit more of the active ingredients of the oil into the intestinal tract. Oil and leaf ingested orally can be partially digested in the stomach, leaving less of the oil available to the intestines. Ingesting peppermint oil directly can also aggravate heartburn symptoms. Enteric-coated capsules typically bypass the stomach.
The primary active constituents of peppermint oil include menthone and menthol.
Imagawa A, Hata H, Nakatsu M, Yoshida Y, Takeuchi K, Inokuchi T, Imada T, Kohno Y, Takahara M, Matsumoto K, Miyatake H, Yagi S, Ando M, Hirohata M, Fujiki S, Takenaka R. Peppermint oil solution is useful as an antispasmodic drug for esophagogastroduodenoscopy, especially for elderly patients. Dig Dis Sci. 2012 Sep;57(9):2379-84. doi: 10.1007/s10620-012-2194-4.
Shavakhi A, Ardestani SK, Taki M, Goli M, Keshteli AH. Premedication with peppermint oil capsules in colonoscopy: a double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial study. Acta Gastroenterol Belg. 2012 Sep;75(3):349-53.
Wilkins T, Pepitone C, Alex B, Schade RR. Diagnosis and management of IBS in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2012 Sep 1;86(5):419-26.
Kligler B, Chaudhary S. Peppermint oil. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Apr 1;75(7):1027-30.
Dew MJ, Evans BK, Rhodes J. Peppermint oil for the irritable bowel syndrome: a multicenter trial. Br J Clin Pract 1984;38:394–8.