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Peppermint oil

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read
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Peppermint oil is a natural extract from peppermint leaves. It may be used as a supplement or a medicine, depending on the condition. As a medicine, it can be used to treat cramps associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Taken as a supplement or aromatherapy, it may be used to relieve nausea, period pains (dysmenorrhea), indigestion (acid reflux), or stress, although this has not been fully studied. Peppermint teabags are likely to be less effective, as the content of peppermint oil varies between brands and may be too low to provide relief.

What's the difference between medicine or supplement?

Peppermint oil capsules (medicine) may be used for the treatment of spasms and cramps in IBS. It's a good idea to get a formal diagnosis and advice from a doctor before using it. Although not FDA approved as a drug, peppermint oil is a natural product. Look for products that have a stamp stating that they have passed tests for safety and quality of ingredients.

How does it work?

Peppermint oil acts locally to relax the smooth muscle found in the gut, relieving the spasms and cramps associated with IBS. This is also thought to be the reason why peppermint oil is useful in treating nausea. It can be taken up to 3 times a day, as needed.

Who should avoid it?

You should talk to your doctor before taking peppermint oil capsules if any of the following apply: it's the first time for IBS symptoms, you are vomiting, you have unintended weight loss, you are over the age of 40 with new symptoms, you have noticed blood in your stool, or you have recently returned from travel abroad.

Are there any side effects?

Peppermint oil can cause sensitivity reactions, such as a rash, and you should discontinue use if this occurs. Peppermint oil can also cause a burning or tingling feeling in the gut, acid reflux, indigestion, nausea, and vomiting. The incidence of these side effects are unknown.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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