Ask the Pharmacist: Peppermint is a cool solution for IBS

Suzy Cohen
Peppermint leaves next to peppermint oils in glass containers.

Many people have lost their joy in eating and that’s because they have irritable bowel syndrome or IBS which includes many symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, sleep problems and suppressed immunity. One hallmark symptom is that which affects your ability to eliminate. I’m referring to diarrhea, or constipation, or alternating between the two.

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An actual diagnosis of IBS is based upon your duration of symptoms which must be six months or more. If you’re tired of the problem, and sad because you have to toilet-map every trip to the mall, then maybe peppermint is something you should try.

Peppermint is a beautiful plant that has been medicinally treasured for centuries. Known botanically as Mentha piperita, peppermint is a hybrid! It’s the hybrid baby of its parents water mint and spearmint.

Most people know that applying peppermint essential oil to your temples can help with a headache, and that peppermint gum and candies freshen your breath. Mint leaves can be infused into a pitcher of ice water for instant freshness, not to mention antibacterial and anti-fungal effects. I think that’s where mint excels for people, it has been proven to help with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and IBS.

Peppermint is available at any health food store (soft gels and liquid extracts) and supermarket (usually as a tea). You can also buy it in the produce section of some supermarkets as fresh whole leaf. 

The supplements of peppermint oil (enteric coated) are considered a relatively safe, effective traditional holistic remedy. I’m not referring to essential oil, I’m referring to a dietary supplement of peppermint oil which acts as a smooth muscle relaxant inside your intestines, as well as an antispasmodic herb. It is also known to help with gas, bloating, and minor cramping. 

Peppermint candies are a Christmas tradition with a healthy twist.

The latest study published in the Aug. 27, 2019 issue of Gastroenterology was conducted in part, to evaluate the safety and efficacy for peppermint in people with IBS. They used two different formulations that would go to certain parts of the intestine. They got about 190 people to agree to participate, across several hospitals in the Netherlands. This trial ran from 2016 to 2018. 

The enteric coated (small intestine release) preparation of peppermint did in fact prove to help reduce abdominal pain, discomfort, and general IBS severity.

Here’s a few words of caution. The enteric coated form is ideal because plain peppermint oil can irritate the stomach lining and make heartburn and ulcers worse. The enteric coating protects the peppermint oil so that it can get down lower to your intestines (rather than breaking down in your stomach).

Avoid peppermint if you have GERD which is a disorder of the lower part of your esophagus. My rationale is because peppermint relaxes your esophageal sphincter and will allow acid to reflux upwards. That’s what you are trying to avoid! So, antacids and peppermint supplements should not be combined. There are other warnings, so please ask your doctor if this type of herbal remedy is good for you.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit