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Peppermint Oil and Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Introduction

Peppermint oil is an aromatic herb that is a member of the mint family.1 It can naturally be found in North America and Europe.1,2 Peppermint has various uses and is often used as flavoring in a number of items such as breath mints, candies and gum. Peppermint oil has a strong and sharp odor that is cool and refreshing. Additionally, the extracted peppermint oil can also provide health benefits as well. Peppermint oil is extracted from the peppermint plant and some oils can be stronger concentrations than others.1,3

 

Usually, peppermint oil can be found in various forms. For example, this can include essential oils (which are often very concentrated and strong), extracts (which is a more diluted form that can be added to foods for flavor), and capsules.1 Peppermint oil has a wide variety of uses. For example, it has been used for treating digestive issues, topical relief from itchiness and muscle pain, and it is a scent that is often added to soaps and mouthwashes as well.1 The most evidence behind uses for peppermint oil supports digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and indigestion.1

 

In the United States today, peppermint oil is not an approved supplement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1 Therefore, it is important to ensure that any individual who would like to try this product consults with a healthcare provider to assess the safety of using this product.

 

How Does Peppermint Oil Work?

The exact mechanism by which peppermint oil works to relieve symptoms of indigestion and symptoms of IBS are not entirely known. However, there are studies that have comprehensively shown that peppermint oil can have a few different mechanisms of action.4,5 Firstly, it appears that peppermint oil can cause smooth muscle relaxation which is beneficial because this will cause relaxation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to relieve symptoms.4 Secondly, it has been found the peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory effects, which is a good way to provide relieve from inflammation-related pain.4 Lastly, studies have shown the use of peppermint oil has decreased pain sensations in the GI tract as well.4 All of these mechanisms still require more evidence, however, it has been established that peppermint oil is definitely beneficial for individuals with IBS and GI issues.

 

Potential Benefits of Peppermint Oil

IBS and indigestion are the two most common disease states that peppermint is used to improve. Evidence suggests that peppermint acts to reduce gas.4,5 Therefore, it will provide relief for symptoms of IBS including abdominal pain, diarrhea and flatulence. Additionally, peppermint oil contains a chemical component that will also improve symptoms of indigestion.1,2 A 2018 review article determined that the use of peppermint oil in combination with caraway (a type of fennel seed), was associated with relief of symptoms associated with indigestion. This is a finding that can also be helpful for individuals with GI diseases such as IBS.

Peppermint oil has also been associated with improvement in nausea symptoms as well. Certain studies have specifically found that the use of peppermint oil improved the symptoms of post-operative nausea.7

Overall, the most benefit found from the various studies conducted on peppermint oil have mainly been associated with improvement in GI symptoms. Unfortunately, there are not too many studies that support the use of peppermint oil for nausea symptoms. More studies are required to determine the full benefit of this natural product.

How Do You Take Peppermint Oil?

Peppermint oil can be used as aromatherapy, topically, and food-grade peppermint oil can even be added to your food. Peppermint oil is often available in many convenience stores – especially as an essential oil option. The FDA recommends that when using peppermint oil as an essential oil product, always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Essential oils are not meant to be taken by mouth. It is important to keep the peppermint oil away from young children and pets because accidental ingestion of this can be toxic. Peppermint oil, when used as aromatherapy, must be diluted into water. If using peppermint oil as a topical agent, it is important to dilute this into a carrier oil in order to avoid any type of reaction. Peppermint oil is very concentrated, and it is important to ensure that this product is diluted properly before the intended use.

 

If you are planning on taking peppermint oil by mouth, it is important to purchase food-grade peppermint oil from a reputable source. Always use the manufacturers labeled instructions when using this product for consumption. In order to take this product by mouth, you may add the suggested amount of oil drops into the desired food or drink that you are planning to ingest.

As discussed, peppermint oil is not regulated by the FDA. Use caution when trying new this product and always use the same manufacturer once you have established which brand you prefer. This will help ensure that you are receiving a similar strength of the supplement with each use.

Safety of Peppermint Oil

As a natural product, this may seem like a wonderful option to try for individuals that do not think they are achieving appropriate relief from over-the-counter GI relief medications. However, peppermint oil may not be for everyone.

Side Effects

Peppermint oil is overall well tolerated by most individuals. However, there are some side effects that can occur. When using concentrated peppermint oil, as mentioned above, always make sure to dilute the product. Otherwise, when applying undiluted peppermint oil topically, this can cause burning sensations and be damaging to the skin. Additionally, avoid getting peppermint oil into the eyes as this can cause irritation and burning sensations. Lastly, if you are someone who has sensitive skin, peppermint oil should be avoided if possible, to avoid skin reactions like a rash.

Serious Side Effect

Peppermint oil should be avoided in infants and toddlers. Use of peppermint oil in this age group can cause a halt to breathing. Additionally, there have not been enough studies to determine the safety of peppermint oil use in pregnancy. Consult with a doctor if you are pregnant and wish to use peppermint oil for its various benefits.

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