The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019 Jan 17;19(1):21. doi: 10.1186/s12906-018-2409-0.


Background: Peppermint oil (PO) has intrinsic properties that may benefit patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. The study objective was to determine the effect of peppermint oil in the treatment of the IBS.

Methods: We systematically searched MEDLINE (PubMed), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Cochrane CENTRAL),, EMBASE (Ovid), and Web of Science for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of PO for IBS. We appraised the eligible studies by the Cochrane risk of bias tool. We performed random-effects meta-analysis on primary outcomes including global improvement in IBS symptoms and abdominal pain. A PRISMA-compliant study protocol is registered in PROSPERO Register [2016, CRD42016050917].

Results: Twelve randomized trials with 835 patients were included. For global symptom improvement, the risk ratio (RR) from seven RCTs for the effect of PO (n = 253) versus placebo (n = 254) on global symptoms was 2.39 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.93, 2.97], I2 = 0%, z = 7.93 (p < 0.00001). Regarding abdominal pain, the RR from six RCTs for the effect of PO (n = 278) versus placebo (n = 278) was 1.78 [95% CI: 1.43, 2.20], I2 = 0%, z = 5.23 (p < 0.00001). Overall, there were no differences in the reported adverse effects: PO (32 events, 344 total, 9.3%) versus placebo (20 events, 327 total, 6.1%) for eight RCTs; RR 1.40 [95% CI: 0.87, 2.26] I2 = 0%, z = 1.39 (p = 0.16). The number needed to treat with PO to prevent one patient from having persistent symptoms was three for global symptoms and four for abdominal pain.

Conclusions: In the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date, PO was shown to be a safe and effective therapy for pain and global symptoms in adults with IBS.

Keywords: Abdominal pain; Global symptom relief; IBS; Irritable bowel syndrome; Meta-analysis; PRISMA; Peppermint oil.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Mentha piperita
  • Plant Oils / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Plant Oils
  • peppermint oil