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Peppermint Oil for an Upset Stomach: Should You Try It?

In this video, learn the science behind the effectiveness of enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules to treat upset stomach.

Lauren Smith
Written by Lauren Smith | Reviewed by Alexandra Schwarz
Updated on December 24, 2021

It’s a feeling no one welcomes: You’re sitting at your desk scrambling to meet that EOD deadline you promised your boss when your stomach is suddenly attacked by cramping, bloating, and—ugh—gas.  Your mind starts to race as you worry whether your symptoms will stay steady so you can tough them out … or get worse enough you’ll have to ditch work early. Again.

Of course, the best way to prevent and treat chronic upset stomach is to reassess your diet and lifestyle. Exercise, stress relief, and certain tweaks to your diet may eliminate many tummy-turning symptoms. (Here are foods to avoid when you’re constipated and tricks to beat stomach bloat.)

But anyone with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other gastrointestinal conditions can tell you that even the most heroic dietary changes may not prevent every bout of upset stomach. For relief, some people seek natural remedies. One option that’s getting more and more attention: peppermint oil capsules.

The stomach cramps that IBS is infamous for may stem from spasms in the intestinal muscles that occur while you’re trying to digest food. Peppermint contains menthol, which may prevent spasms in the digestive tract by smoothing intestinal muscles.

Several studies have investigated just how effective peppermint oil capsules may be at relieving cramping, diarrhea, and bloating in people with IBS. One 2007 study from Digestive and Liver Disease had patients with IBS take two peppermint oil capsules twice a day for four weeks, while others took a placebo. After the four-week period, 75 percent of the patients taking peppermint oil capsules reported a drop in their symptoms, compared to just 38 percent of the placebo group.

In a 2014 meta-analysis of nine studies on peppermint oil therapy, researchers identified only a small number of mild side effects, the most common being heartburn. The researchers conclude that peppermint oil capsules are “safe and effective short-term treatment for IBS” and may be as effective as antispasmodic drugs.

The takeaway? Research suggests that peppermint oil capsules are worth a shot if lifestyle tweaks aren’t halting your tummy troubles. Give your doctor a ring to discuss if peppermint capsules might be a good fit for you and your symptoms.

References

Alam MS, Roy PK, Miah AR, Mollick SH, Khan MR, Mahmud MC, Khatun S. Efficacy of peppermint oil in diarrhea predominant IBS - a double blind randomized placebo - controlled study. Mymensingh Med J. 2013 Jan;22(1):27-30.

Cappello G, Spezzaferro M, Grossi L, Manzoli L, Marzio L. Peppermint oil (Mintoil) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Dig Liver Dis. 2007 Jun;39(6):530-6.

View All References (3)

Complementary health approaches for irritable bowel syndrome: what the science says. Bethesda, MD: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2015. (Accessed on December 25, 2021, 2018 at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/IBS-science.)

Khanna R, MacDonald JK, Levesque BG. Peppermint oil for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2014 Jul;48(6):505-12.

Symptoms & causes of irritable bowel syndrome. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, 2017. (Accessed on December 25, 2021 at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes.)

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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