Peppermint Oil in Colon Diagnostic Treatment
People undergoing a double-contrast barium enema (DCBE) as a diagnostic test for colorectal cancer or other diseases may reduce intestinal spasms during the procedure by adding peppermint oil to the barium solution, according to a new study in Clinical Radiology (2003;58:301–5). The addition of peppermint oil makes this procedure more comfortable and eliminates the need to use other medications that may cause adverse side effects.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death due to cancer, behind lung cancer; more than 150,000 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. Screening for colon cancer includes looking for blood in the stool. If the stool test shows it contains blood, some physicians will perform a DCBE, a procedure that introduces air and barium (called a contrast medium, used to better visualize the colon walls) into the colon before x-rays of the colon are taken to look for abnormalities. Barium enemas are also used to diagnose polyps in the colon, diverticulosis (small pouches in the colon), and, in some cases, ulcerative colitis. However, the procedure often causes the colon to go into spasm, which interferes with the quality of the x-ray pictures. Medications to relax the colon are usually given before the procedure but often have adverse side effects and may not be suitable for those with heart disease or glaucoma. Peppermint oil appears to reduce colon spasms during the procedure, without causing any toxic side effects.
In the new study, 383 adults with positive screening tests for blood in the stool were assigned to one of four groups. All participants had a DCBE with (1) Peppermint oil (30 ml) added to the barium, (2) Peppermint oil (30 ml) inserted directly into the colon, (3) Injection with scopolamine butylbromide (Buscopan®), a muscle-relaxing medication, or (4) no additional treatment. X-rays were taken after each person completed the DCBE and radiologists examined them for the presence of colonic spasms.
The percentage of people free of spasms during the procedure were 38%, 42% and 38% in the groups receiving peppermint oil in barium, peppermint oil by direct insertion, and scopolamine, respectively. Peppermint oil was as effective as scopolamine in reducing colon spasms during DCBE and had a stronger effect than scopolamine on the right side of the colon, making the right side more easily visible. Treatment with peppermint oil in the barium solution and applying it to the colon directly was equally effective in reducing spasms during the procedure.
The use of peppermint oil to decrease intestinal spasms has previously been investigated. Peppermint oil was also found to be useful in reducing colon spasms in people undergoing colonoscopies. Several studies suggest taking peppermint oil orally reduces intestinal spasms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), although other studies failed to show any benefit. Although peppermint oil is generally regarded as safe, people with heartburn should avoid taking it orally, as it may make symptoms worse.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
Copyright © 2003 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc., shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.