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A friend of mine bought Peppermint teabags from health store and drinks a cup or two every day. He thinks it helps with his food digestion. Is that right?

Dr. Brown: Peppermint oil has been has been extensively investigated in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. This herbal medicine is being widely used in the treatment of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome for its antispamotic, carminative and sedative effects. A mixture of mints by the name of Carmint was used in a study in Iran. This mixture contained spearmint leave (Mentha spicata) and two other herb Melissa officinalis, and Coriandrun sativum and was used for improvement of symptoms of abdominal pain and bloating in subjects with irritable bowel syndrome. Patients were treated for eight weeks. This particular study showed that the frequency of abdominal pain, cramping and discomfort were significantly lower in the Carmint group than in the placebo group at the end of the treatment trial. The severity and frequency of the bloating was significantly reduced. In a recent review article in August of 2005, 16 clinical trials detailing the use of peppermint oil in the treatment of IBS were examined. Twelve of the studies were controlled by a placebo arm whereas the other four studies used a comparator of conventional therapy. Eight of the 12 placebo-controlled studies did show a statistically significant effect in favor of peppermint oil. The average overall success rate was approximately 58% for peppermint oil and only 29% for placebo. Adverse affects secondary to the use of peppermint oil were mild and short-lived but they were very specific. Patients using peppermint oil will notice heartburn and anal or perianal burning or discomfort. The authors concluded that peppermint oil is safe and for the most part well-tolerated and appears in these studies to be effective in controlling the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome including abdominal pain and cramping and diarrhea and/or constipation. They felt that patients in general, demonstrated improvement in the quality of life as evidenced by these clinical trials. The authors of this review may be a bit optimistic about the efficacy of peppermint oil given the quality of these studies. It should also be mentioned another review of the literature published in 1998, which only examined 8 published articles, did not show a significant role for peppermint oil in the symptom relief of IBS.In summary, peppermint oil would appear to be a safe approach and potentially effective approach to the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome complicated by abdominal pain and cramping but a firm recommendations for its use must be held back until much better clinical trials are completed.
2007-11-06 10:56:39

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