In this article, we will unveil the potential of essential oils for IBS. We will explain what essential oils are and which can help with IBS symptoms.
Essential oils have a rich history. Cultures worldwide have utilized these aromatic extracts for their therapeutic potential, but not all are backed by science.
Read the article to learn which essential oil is the best for IBS and how to use it.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are concentrated extracts from plants, capturing the aromatic compounds that contribute to the plant’s fragrance.
These oils have been used for centuries in traditional medicine and aromatherapy for their potential therapeutic effects (1).
Essential oils for IBS – can they help?
When it comes to IBS, some people believe that certain essential oils possess properties capable of alleviating symptoms and fostering digestive well-being.
This section will explore the most commonly used essential oils for IBS and their efficacy.
Peppermint oil is known for its ability to relax the gastrointestinal tract muscles, relieve spasms, and reduce symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating (2).
L-Menthol, a component present in the essential oil of peppermint, exerts antispasmodic effects on the gastrointestinal tract by blocking calcium channels in smooth muscle (2).
This action helps alleviate spasms, relieving individuals experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort, which has been proven in multiple studies (2).
Enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules are safe to use and efficiently ease abdominal pain, but they can cause heartburn as a side effect (2).
To learn more about peppermint oil capsules for IBS, read our article: How peppermint oil capsules help IBS?
Anise essential oil is derived from the seeds of the anise plant.
It is believed to possess antispasmodic properties, which may help relax the gastrointestinal tract’s smooth muscles (3).
It may also reduce bloating and excessive gas (3).
One research on anise essential oil and IBS patients showed significant improvement in overall IBS symptoms compared to the placebo group (3).
Curcumin has shown promising results in previous research on IBS patients, probably due to its anti-inflammatory activity and positive effect on the gut microbiome (6).
In the future, it would be interesting to see if fennel oil alone helps with IBS or if it is the mix of two active ingredients seen in the studies.
Other essential oils
While it is thought that the following essential oils could alleviate symptoms of IBS, there are no studies to validate these presumptions. Those oils are:
- Lemon essential oil
- Ginger essential oil
- Lavender essential oil
- Oregano essential oil
What is the best essential oil for IBS?
The best essential oil for IBS is peppermint oil. It is one of the most studied and commonly recommended essential oils for IBS.
However, individual responses to essential oils can vary, and not everyone may experience the same level of relief.
How to use essential oils?
There are many ways to use essential oils, but you must take them in capsules for IBS symptom relief.
You might also think of peppermint tea for IBS, but there is no research looking into the effect of tea on IBS symptoms.
The capsules have an enteric coating that opens up after they leave your stomach, which minimizes the possibility of irritation or discomfort in the stomach.
Another reason for enteric coating is that it protects the capsule’s content from being broken down by stomach acid.
The third reason for enteric coating is that it can delay the release of the content until the capsule reaches the small intestine.
This can favor substances that need to be absorbed in the lower gastrointestinal tract.
Essential oils are extracted from plants, and according to research, the most beneficial for IBS is peppermint oil.
Peppermint oil works by blocking calcium channels in smooth muscle, relieving pain.
Besides peppermint oil, positive outcomes also showed anise oil and fennel oil combined with curcumin.
Research shows that people with IBS should take essential oils in capsules.
Capsules contain an enteric coating that protects essential oils from stomach acid, reduces the likelihood of stomach irritation, and releases their contents after passing through the stomach.
Written by Barbara Lešnik, Student Dietitian, reviewed by Kirsten Jackson, Consultant Dietitian BSc Hons, RD, PG Cert
Serena is UK HCPC Registered Dietitian. She graduated from Coventry University in 2021 with an upper second class in Dietetics and Human Nutrition.
Serena has previously worked as an Acute Dietitian supporting inpatients with both oral nutrition support and enteral tube feeding. She is now currently working as a Specialist Weight Management Dietitian. Alongside this, Serena has worked for The Food Treatment Clinic since 2022 and has created our low FODMAP, histamine intolerance and SIBO ebooks.
Serena has a keen interest in IBS and gut health, most specifically the low FODMAP diet. She is dedicated to helping those with gut conditions to improve their overall quality of life.