Peppermint can help take some of the “irritable” out of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, according to a recent metanalysis of 9 randomized trials.
With its long history of traditional use as a digestive aid and to soothe suffering stomachs, peppermint oil has often been studied to help manage symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But the results of these trials have been variable: some studies have shown promise, while others have failed to show benefit.
Overall, the data weigh in favor of the herb, says gastroenterologist Reena Khanna, MD, and colleagues from the Robarts Research Institute, London, ON.
Dr. Khanna’s group undertook a systematic review assessed benefits of peppermint oil for IBS symptoms in 9 randomized placebo-controlled trials. The review included a total of 726 patients who were assigned to enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules or placebo for at least 2 weeks.
Patients who had peppermint oil had significantly greater improvement in global IBS symptoms than placebo in five studies and greater improvement in abdominal pain in five studies (DynaMed level 2 [mid-level] evidence).
Taking peppermint oil associated with:
- A global improvement in IBS symptoms (relative risk [RR] 2.23, 95% CI 1.78-2.81, NNT 3) in analysis of 5 trials with 329 patients.
- Improved abdominal pain (RR 2.14, 95% CI 1.64-2.79, NNT 4) in analysis of 5 trials with 357 patients.
- One or more adverse events reported (RR 1.73, 95% CI 1.27-2.36) in analysis of 7 trials with 474 patients
The authors note that the most common adverse event was heartburn, which was generally mild and transient. (Khanna R, et al. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2013 Oct 4.)
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