Efficacy and Safety of Peppermint Oil in a Randomized Double-blind Trial of Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Zsa Zsa R. M. Weerts, Ad A. M. Masclee, Ben J. M. Witteman, Cees H. M. Clemens, Bjorn Winkens, Jacobus R. B. J. Brouwers, Henderik W. Frijlink, Jean W. M. Muris, Niek J. De Wit, Brigitte A. B. Essers, Jan Tack, Johanna T. W. Snijkers, Andrea M. H. Bours, Annieke S. de Ruiter-van der Ploeg, Daisy M. A. E. Jonkers, Daniel Keszthelyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background & Aims: Peppermint oil is frequently used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), despite a lack of evidence for efficacy from high-quality controlled trials. We studied the efficacy and safety of small-intestinal–release peppermint oil in patients with IBS and explored the effects of targeted ileocolonic-release peppermint oil. Methods: We performed a double-blind trial of 190 patients with IBS (according to Rome IV criteria) at 4 hospitals in The Netherlands from August 2016 through March 2018; 189 patients were included in the intent-to-treat analysis (mean age, 34.0 years; 77.8% female; 57.7% in primary care), and 178 completed the study. Patients were randomly assigned to groups given 182 mg small-intestinal–release peppermint oil, 182 mg ileocolonic-release peppermint oil, or placebo for 8 weeks. The primary endpoint was abdominal pain response, as defined by the US Food and Drug Administration: at least a 30% decrease in the weekly average of worst daily abdominal pain compared with baseline in at least 4 weeks. The co-primary endpoint was overall relief of IBS symptoms, as defined by the European Medicines Agency. Secondary endpoints included abdominal pain, discomfort, symptom severity, and adverse events. Results: Abdominal pain response did not differ significantly between the peppermint oil and placebo groups: 29 of 62 patients in the small-intestinal–release peppermint oil group had a response (46.8%, P =. 170 vs placebo), 26 of 63 patients in the ileocolonic-release peppermint oil group had a response (41.3%, P =. 385 vs placebo), and 22 of 64 patients in the placebo group had a response (34.4%). We did not find differences among the groups in overall relief (9.7%, P =. 317 and 1.6%, P =. 351 vs 4.7% for placebo). The small intestinal peppermint oil did, however, produce greater improvements than placebo in secondary outcomes of abdominal pain (P =. 016), discomfort (P =. 020), and IBS severity (P =. 020). Adverse events, although mild, were more common in both peppermint oil groups (P <. 005). Conclusions: In a randomized trial of patients with IBS, we found that neither small-intestinal–release nor ileocolonic-release peppermint oil (8 weeks) produced statistically significant reductions in abdominal pain response or overall symptom relief, when using US Food and Drug Administration/European Medicines Agency recommended endpoints. The small-intestinal–release peppermint oil did, however, significantly reduce abdominal pain, discomfort, and IBS severity. These findings do not support further development of ileocolonic-release peppermint oil for treatment of IBS. Clinicaltrials.gov, Number: NCT02716285.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-136
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Early online date27 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder
  • PERSUADE Study
  • RCT
  • Treatment


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