Essential Oils for IBS
Nowadays, more and more people are turning to natural remedies 1`like essential oils for IBS. But how effective are they and are they safe? In this article, we explain all you need to know about essential oils and IBS. We also discuss which essential oils are best for relieving IBS symptoms and how to apply them safely.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are plant extracts that contain a variety of active compounds. These compounds play an important role in the plant’s health, including protecting it from infection and helping it to grow.
People have used essential oils for health for thousands of years. They are probably best-known for their use in aromatherapy and inhaling the vapor of essential oils is both beneficial and enjoyable. However, there are many ways to use essential oils for IBS. The most effective method will depend on the individual patient and the symptoms that they are hoping to treat.
Different Types of Essential Oils
Before we discuss how essential oils can help IBS, it is vital to understand that there are many different types of essential oils. The FDA does not currently regulate essential oils. This means that patients need to carefully research their options before making a purchase.
Firstly, it is important to only buy from reputable brands that sell therapeutic-grade essential oils. Secondly, consider whether the oil is from a single plant or a blend of different essential oils. Other considerations include whether the oil is organic, comes from sustainable sources and whether it is pure or diluted.
It is also vital to be aware that not all essential oils are safe for oral consumption. While applying essential oils to the skin is safer, it is still necessary to consider factors like skin irritation and whether the oil affects your sensitivity to sunlight. Therefore, it is always advisable to talk to a qualified aromatherapist or knowledgeable physician before using essential oils for IBS.
How Can Essential Oils Help the Common Symptoms of IBS?
Not all patients with IBS suffer from the same symptoms. For example, some people are more prone to diarrhea, while others tend to suffer from constipation. However, there are several common IBS symptoms that affect most people with the condition at some point.
The most common symptoms of IBS:
- Abdominal pain
- Excess gas
- Irregular bowel habits
People with IBS may also experience heartburn, nausea and other digestive symptoms. They may have an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in their intestines, a condition known as gut dysbiosis. Furthermore, the condition is often linked with mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Essential oils can help with these symptoms in a variety of ways. Some improve digestive function, while others have antibacterial properties. Some essential oils are good for relieving pain and others are famous for their stress-reducing effects. So, which are the best essential oils for IBS symptoms? Let’s take a look.
Which Essential Oils Are Best for IBS Symptoms?
There is limited clinical evidence regarding the use of essential oils for IBS. However, there are a handful of studies that suggest a few specific oils may help.
Peppermint oil is probably the best-researched essential oil for IBS. It is well-known for its antispasmodic properties and ability to reduce abdominal pain. Peppermint oil also has a variety of other potential benefits for IBS. They include antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Patients tend to take peppermint oil for IBS in the form of enteric-coated capsules. This means that the capsules have a special coating that stops them from breaking down in the stomach. It allows the peppermint oil to get to the intestines where it is needed most.
One review of 12 clinical trials, involving 835 patients with IBS, concluded that peppermint oil was both safe and effective when taken in enteric-coated form. It helped to relieve both pain and global IBS symptoms.
Another essential oil that may help IBS symptoms is fennel oil. Fennel is well-known as an herb that aids digestion. It is especially famous for its carminative effects, meaning that it helps to relieve gassiness. Like peppermint, fennel has antispasmodic properties. It is also antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.
Research suggests that fennel essential oil can help to relieve abdominal pain and other IBS symptoms. One study found that fennel extract combined with curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) helps IBS patients who take it for 30 days.
Anise essential oil may also offer some benefits for people with IBS. It has antispasmodic properties and Persian medicine has used it to treat bowel problems for centuries.
Research into anise oil for IBS has shown that it can improve symptoms in 75% of patients. It appears to help with abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and many other digestive symptoms.
Other Essential Oils for IBS Symptoms
Although there is less evidence available, some patients find relief from specific IBS symptoms with other essential oils. For example, ginger is known for its ability to alleviate nausea, while lavender oil is famous for its anti-anxiety effects.
Where and How to Apply Essential Oils for IBS
There are many ways to apply essential oils for IBS and finding the best method sometimes comes down to trial and error. Some people prefer to apply essential oils directly to their abdomen and gently massage the area. Others advocate applying them to reflexology points on the hands and feet.
Either way, it is important to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying them. Olive oil, almond oil and fractionated coconut oil are all effective carrier oils and reduce the risk of skin irritation.
Test a few drops of essential oil mixed with carrier oil on a small area of skin and wait for 24 hours. If any irritation occurs, wash it off immediately and discontinue use. Otherwise, it should be safe to use the oil mix on a larger area. However, we recommend always talking to a professional before using essential oils for IBS.