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Essential Oils for IBS Symptoms

Over the past few years, I’ve begun using essential oils to manage more of my health symptoms. I started out using a blend containing peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, and tea tree when I had a respiratory infection. The oil blend helped clear my nasal congestion, making it easier to breathe. As I learned more about essential oils, I began experimenting and using them for other health issues and symptoms, including my symptoms from IBS. I love that essential oils have no side effects, don’t interfere with other medications and are naturally occurring in nature.

Essential oils are volatile liquids distilled from plants. (Volatile liquids are those that quickly evaporate at room temperatures.) They are 50-70 times more powerful than herbs. Essential oils provide the properties of the plants they come from, and many essential oils have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiseptic properties. 1-4

The Quality of the Essential Oil is Critical

Not all essential oils are the same quality, and there is no industry or governmental standard. The brand I use ensures all their oils are certified pure therapeutic grade – they test each batch using third party laboratories to ensure the oils are pure and potent. If you’re using essential oils for anything more than just good smells, you want to get certified pure therapeutic grade.

Using Essential Oils

Essential oils can be used in three ways:

  • Aromatically – inhaling a fine mist or vapor of the essential oil
  • Topically – placing the oils on the body, which can be “neat” (direct oil application) or diluted with a carrier oil
  • Internally – consuming the oil

Not all oils are safe to internally consume. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has designated some oils as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe for human consumption), Food Additive (FA) or Flavoring Agent (FA).

Managing IBS Symptoms

The most research on essential oils in managing IBS has been done on peppermint oil. Peppermint oil is a GRAS oil, and may be used aromatically, topically or internally. Peppermint oil has been shown to alleviate the severity of abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and gas. 5

Essential oils that may help with IBS symptoms include:

  • For bloating: peppermint (topically on abdomen or aromatically)
  • For constipation: peppermint, rosemary, lemon (apply topically on abdomen; the massaging movement can also help stimulate bowel movement)
  • For diarrhea: peppermint, ginger (topically on abdomen or aromatically)
  • For gas: peppermint, lavender, ginger (topically on abdomen or aromatically)

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Serafino A, Sinibaldi Vallebona P, Adreola F, Zonfrillo M, Mercuri L, Federici M, et al. Stimulatory effect of eucalyptus essential oil on innate cell-mediated immune response. BMC Immunol. 2008 Apr;9:17. doi: 10.1186/1471-2172-9-17
  2. Tyagi A, Malik A. Antimicrobial action of essential oil vapours and negative air ions against Pseudomonas fluorescens. Int J Food Microbiol. 2010;143(3):205-210.
  3. Tyagi AK, Malik A. Bactericidal action of lemon grass oil vapours and negative air ions. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies. 2012;13(0):169-177.
  4. Pattnaik S, Subramanyam VR, Kole C. Antibacterial and antifungal activity of ten essential oils in vitro. Mircrobios. 1996;86(349):237-46.
  5. Rahimi R, Abdollahi M. Herbal medicines for the management of irritable bowel syndrome: a comprehensive review. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Feb 21;10(7):589-600. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i7.589.