shoot of green peppermint, plant, enteric-coated peppermint oil

Many of us have trouble keeping IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) distinct from IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). They are, however, totally different disorders. IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the digestive tract. Over the long term, the intestines become damaged and people suffer complications. IBS, on the other hand, is considered a functional GI disorder, meaning there is no obvious damage to the intestines. Just to make the confusion more complete, the symptoms are as similar as the abbreviations. People suffering with stomachaches and diarrhea could have either condition. (IBD symptoms also include blood in the stool, unintended weight loss and fever.) Could peppermint tea help soothe any of this discomfort?

Peppermint to Ease Symptoms:

Q. My daughter has severe ulcerated colitis and her doctor suggested she take Humira. She’s afraid of the long-term side effects.

She read an article about the pros of peppermint tea for her condition and now is drinking it twice a day. She has gone into remission and has stopped bleeding for two weeks.

A. Ulcerative colitis is a very serious condition that requires careful medical supervision. We could find no research supporting the use of peppermint for colitis. [Certain probiotics such as VSL#3 or E. coli Nissle 1917 might be helpful for easing symptoms of this condition (Curro et al, British Journal of Pharmacology, June 2017).]

Peppermint oil has, however, been studied for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A thorough meta-analysis concluded, “Peppermint oil is a safe and effective short-term treatment for IBS” (Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, July 2014). 

A recent review endorsed peppermint oil, alone or in combination with caraway seed oil, for “functional dyspepsia”–upset stomach or stomachache not associated with ulcers (Acker & Cash, Current Gastroenterology Reports, Nov. 13, 2017). Your daughter should check with her physician to make sure that peppermint will not interact badly with any of her other medications (Rahman et al, Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology, Dec. 2017).

Readers Report Their Experience with Peppermint Tea:

We have written previously about the value of enteric-coated peppermint oil for IBS.

Bob suggested in response:

“I had IBS for over 20 years. It ended when I retired. This suggests that chronic stress was the major cause. However acute stress like loss of my job, and my wife having major surgery did not correlate with my IBS symptoms. My main symptom was debilitating abdominal pain that would last for hours.

“Some things that could initiate or aggravate my symptoms include:

  • Eating or drinking cold things (sherbet, ice cream, ice water, etc.
  • Eating large meals.
  • Stimulants (caffeine or pseudoephedrine).

“Some things that helped are:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Citrucel (regular kind, the sugar-free kind made me sick)
  • Heat applied to abdomen
  • Self hypnosis (time consuming and not easy to do)
  • Peppermint capsules
  • Peppermint tea
  • Hyocyamine (brand name Levsin)
  • Drinking hot liquid that contained no stimulant and almost zero calories, i.e., chicken broth”

There is more information on home remedies for IBS, including peppermint, in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

Other Stories about Peppermint for IBS:

We had heard earlier from another reader who had suffered irritable bowel syndrome for decades. This person also found peppermint helpful:

Q. I have had irritable bowel syndrome for more than 25 years. I’ve tried all sorts of remedies, including coconut macaroon cookies. I ate so many I can’t stand even looking at them!

Then I remembered you had mentioned special peppermint pills. I found them at the health food store, and they work so fantastically well, I can’t believe it.

I have an almost normal life again. You can’t go out very much with this disease, especially if the diarrhea is severe as mine was.

A. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas. One study demonstrated that enteric-coated peppermint oil could significantly reduce such symptoms.

Testing Enteric-Coated Peppermint Oil:

The enteric coating ensures that peppermint oil is delivered to the small intestine, where it helps to ease spasms, instead of to the stomach, where it could aggravate heartburn. It can be purchased at health food stores. One brand name to look for is Pepogest. Another brand is Colpermin.

A study of Colpermin published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences (Dec. 2010) found benefit without “significant adverse reactions.” This was a placebo-controlled double-blind trial involving 90 subjects. More recently, scientists evaluated IBgard, a capsule containing sustained-release microspheres of ultra-purified peppermint oil (Cash, Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Sep. 2015). People taking the peppermint oil had far fewer symptoms than those on placebo.

We are delighted that peppermint has worked so well for you. Others should check with their doctors or pharmacists before taking this herb. Research shows that peppermint oil can interact with prescription medications in the same way as grapefruit. Blood levels of many medicines could rise, leading to side effects.

Anyone who would like more information about home remedies for a variety of digestive tract problems (colitis, constipation, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea, gas, heartburn, hemorrhoids, nausea, reflux, etc) may find our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies of interest.

Revised 11/23/17

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Janet
    Elk Grove, CA
    Reply

    My father died from Crohn’s Disease. Not one doctor told him to modify what he ate, they just threw pills, pills and more pills his way. In the end, the medications killed him. When I became symptomatic, I changed what I ate and ditched all medications. I’m vegan and symptom free. DAIRY is the biggest culprit – take DAIRY out of your diet. DAIRY is for baby cows, not for baby humans!

  2. av
    Reply

    I have had UC for approx. 30 years. I am allergic to almost all the meds. I started the Atkins diet and with in 7 days the UC was gone. It’s been gone for almost 2 years. Getting the sugar and high carbs out of my diet was the best thing I have done. It worked for me it just might work for you.

  3. CM
    Reply

    I have been to 4 Gastro doctors and none can seem to help me. I have slow motility in my intestines, took 6 1/2 hrs for the barium to reach my colon when I had an Upper GI. I have taken Regland, AmItiza,Murilax,Kristalose and nothing works. When I get really constipated I end up getting sick to my stomach. Now I can’t eat garlic, spegatti sauce, barbecue sauce and some veggies like cucumbers and peppers. Get horrible indigestion and sometime vomit. The docs think it is all connected but no one has come up with a fix.
    Does anyone have any suggestions? This has been going on for a long time.

  4. HN
    Reply

    For UC, the most helpful things I have found are taking L-Glutamine powder (at least 9 gms/day total, take half 2x/day at 30 min before a meal) and adding more sweet potatoes and whole grain brown rice to the diet. I also do best when I avoid ALL of the following items:

    dairy, wheat, cold drinks, fruit juice, processed foods, refined flour, pastry, pasta, breads, cold raw foods, refined sugar and sugar substitutes, coffee, alcohol, deep fried foods, peanuts and peanut butter, bananas, avocado

    A visit to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor taught me many important factors that the “specialists” never told me–they only recommended removing my entire colon because it was “too far gone” nearly 15 years ago. So glad I didn’t take their advice because it works just fine, thank you.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Total
USD
Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.