It's not often that a medical journal will recommend an herb as the first line of treatment for a medical condition, but that's the case with peppermint for irritable bowel syndrome. When taken in an enteric-coated capsules in a 180-200 mg dose three times a day, peppermint oil relieves the bloating, constipation, diarrhea and gas of mild IBS in adults and the same symptoms with mild recurrent abdominal pain (diagnosed by a doctor) in children.
That's the report in the study cited below.
So what do you need to know to use peppermint oil successfully?
First of all, peppermint sticks, peppermint tea, peppermint candies, and peppermint leaves may be of slight usefulness, but to get the calming effect of the herb you have to take it in an enteric-coated capsulte.
The active ingredient in peppermint is the essential oil (never, by the way, take straight essential oil of peppermint, it's just too much). The essential oil is very volatile.
This means it boils off from teas, and it can belched and flatulated away in all other forms except the enteric-coated capsule. Other kinds of peppermint may help you a little, but, once again, the full benefit of the herb for IBS is found in the capsule.
The second thing you need to know about peppermint is that it can sting or burn. A very few people will have peri-anal itching or mild heartburn after taking peppermint. But compare that to the dry mouth and blurred vision of the mainstream prescription drugs.
Finally, you need to know that peppermint will not relieve absolutely every symptom absolutely every time for absolutely everybody who has IBS. It works about 60 per cent of the time, and you may find that one brand works better for you than another for reasons that are peculiar to your body.
Peppermint is not a cure-all for IBS, but it's safe, inexepensive, and usually effective. You can find enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules in pharmacies and health stores all over the world.
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Grigoleit, HP; Grigoleit, P. Peppermint oil in irritable bowel syndrome. Phytomedicine 12(8), 601-6 (August 2005).