Peppermint oil is the natural extract from peppermint leaves. It may be classified as a supplement or a medicine, depending on licensing. 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 (dysmenorrhoea), 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.
Peppermint oil capsules (medicine) is licensed 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. Peppermint oil capsules as a medicine form can be identified by the presence of a P or GSL logo on the back of the box. Extra tests are required to meet the strict licensing laws, providing evidence of effectiveness for a specific condition (IBS) at a specified dose. Supplements have not been put through the same rigor, so will not have either of these logos, but they still need to pass tests for safety and quality of ingredients.
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.
You should talk to your doctor before taking peppermint oil capsules if any of the following apply: it's the first time getting 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.
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 gastrointestinal mucosa, acid reflux, indigestion, nausea and vomiting. The incidences of these side effects are unknown.
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