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Peppermint Oil May
Relieve Irritable Bowel Pain


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For children suffering with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), relief may come in the form of a common herb--peppermint, researchers report.

In a study of youngsters aged 8 to 17, peppermint oil capsules helped relieve IBS, a collection of gastrointestinal symptoms including bloating, severe abdominal pain, and cycles of constipation and diarrhea that do not fit into known disease categories. While some believe that the cause may be stress-related or due to psychological problems, that theory is controversial.

``Peppermint oil should be considered for the treatment of moderate levels of pain in children with IBS,'' Dr. Robert M. Kline, of the University of Missouri-Columbia, and colleagues write in the January issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

In the 2-week study, 42 children with IBS were treated with peppermint oil or an inactive placebo pill.

On the first day of the study, all of the children complained of abdominal pain and many also complained of diarrhea, constipation and gas. Following the 2-week treatment period, however, 71% of the youth given peppermint oil said they felt ''better'' or ``much better,'' compared with 43% taking the placebo. While peppermint oil reduced the severity of abdominal pain, it did not reduce other symptoms, the report indicates.

``The analysis showed that peppermint oil did not alter heartburn, gas, urgency of stools, belching, stool pattern or stool consistency,'' the authors write.

More research is needed before the supplements can be recommended to children. The study was conducted for only a short period of time and the ``safety of any treatment warrants persistent examination, especially in children,'' the researchers note.

Peppermint oil for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome in children ``appears to be safe,'' Dr. Terry Hatch of the University of Illinois College of Medicine told Reuters Health in an interview. However, the findings are valid only for the particular age group studied, he said, and the 2-week study period revealed only short-term benefits. Hatch did not participate in the study.

The study was funded by a grant from Tillotts Pharma AG, a company based in Ziefen, Switzerland that produces peppermint oil-containing products.

SOURCE: Journal of Pediatrics 2001;138:125-128.

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