Irritable bowel syndrome is an increasingly prevalent worldwide disorder, and up to 20% of Americans have been diagnosed with IBS at some point.
There are no known pharmaceutical drugs that will resolve the condition. Meanwhile, natural healers have found that several strategies will successfully reduce IBS symptoms.
Cumin oil studied as IBS treatment
Cumin essential oil is one of these. Researchers from the the Middle East found that cumin extract can significantly reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, also called inflammatory bowel disease.
The study followed 50 patients diagnosed with IBS using ROME II criteria. Before the study began, 28 percent of the patients were experiencing severe abdominal pain. Forty-four percent experienced moderate abdominal pain.
The patients had symptoms including watery and irregular stools, painful elimination, abdominal pain, nausea and other symptoms. The doctors also ruled out other disorders that could have been producing the symptoms. They also excluded patients that had known food allergies.
More than half the patients had diarrhea-dominant IBS, and the rest had constipation-dominant IBS. The average duration of IBS among the patients was three years.
The researchers treated the patients for a month with 10 drops twice a day of 2% cumin essential oil. The patients’ symptoms were checked every 14 days.
At the end of the four weeks, every one of the patients reported significant improvement in IBS symptoms. None of the patients reported severe abdominal pain, compared to 28 percent before the treatment. And only 22 percent of them reported moderate abdominal pain, compared to 44 percent before the treatment.
The pain relief continued after the treatment, with some fall back. During the next four weeks, only five percent reported severe pain and 52 percent reported moderate pain. This pain relief continued through to four weeks after but trended back – with 5% reporting severe and 52% reporting moderate pain. This means that 57 percent reported pain compared to 72 percent prior to treatment.
Constipation improved too
Among those who were constipated, patients went from between two and six bowel movements per week to between six and 12 bowel movements per week after four weeks of treatment.
In the diarrhea group, the patients went from between 14 and 50 bowel movements per week to between six and 23 bowel movements a week.
So both groups had improved bowel movement frequency. This improvement in both groups persisted through four weeks after stopping the treatment, though in both groups there was a trend back to their original scores after stopping the treatment.
Nausea, diarrhea and constipation all improvement
Before treatment 76 percent of the patients had mucous in the stool. After the four weeks of treatment, none had the mucous in the stool. During the next four weeks, this grew to 52 percent, showing the treatment cut mucous down to nil.
Of those patients who had diarrhea, following the four weeks of treatment, only 11 percent of the patients had the watery stools. And 88 percent had normal stools. These percentages increased after treatment ended as well.
In addition, prior to treatment, 42 percent of the patients experienced mild or moderate nausea. After the treatment, only 10 percent experienced nausea, and this was all mild nausea.
Before treatment 87 percent of those suffering constipation had painful bowel movements. Following the treatment, only 25 percent had painful bowel movements. In the four weeks following treatment, this grew to 72 percent – still lower than before the treatment.
Cumin essential oil halts microbe infections
Addition research from India’s Banaras Hindu University found that cumin seed essential oil proved to be anti-fungal. The researchers found that cumin seed oil significantly inhibited Aspergillis flavus – which causes aflatoxin.
Earlier research found cumin oil inhibits several other species of yeast and bacteria, including Candida species and Escherichia coli.
Another study, from 2011, showed that cumin inhibited the growth of the intestinal parasite, Blastocystis hominis.
What is Cumin?
The seeds and slender leaves of the drought-tolerant cumin bush has been used traditionally for thousands of years. The seeds are either used whole, crushed or made into oil. The ancient Hebrews and the ancient Egyptians used cumin seed as digestive aide, food preservative and spice – able to soothe the digestive system and help prevent gas.
Cumin has also been used medicinally in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine to help soothe digestion and eliminate intestinal bloating. It is used as a spice in Ayurvedic-inspired dishes such as korma and masala, and used in soups in Chinese dishes.
Active constituents in cumin include cuminaldehyde and cymene.
Admittedly, the clinical study above had no placebo group. Some of the patients also had some adverse effects immediately after taking the cumin extract. These included nausea, abdominal pain and dizziness.
In addition, as many patients trended back to their original condition during the four weeks after the treatment, the treatment would not be considered a cure for IBS.
At the same time, cumin is an inexpensive herb that is readily available as a spice herb. The oil was shown to be antibacterial, so whole seeds or whole crushed seeds are likely to retain that property.
It should also be noted that cumin essential oil can be very powerful, especially when taken internally. This study used a 2% essential oil, a very diluted essential oil. Ten drops of a 100% essential cumin oil could be dangerous.
Thus it is wise to consult with your health practitioner before using this or other treatments for IBS.
Agah S, Taleb AM, Moeini R, Gorji N, Nikbakht H. Cumin extract for symptom control in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a case series. Middle East J Dig Dis. 2013 Oct;5(4):217-22.
Pai MB, Prashant GM, Murlikrishna KS, Shivakumar KM, Chandu GN. Antifungal efficacy of Punica granatum, Acacia nilotica, Cuminum cyminum and Foeniculum vulgare on Candida albicans: an in vitro study. Indian J Dent Res. 2010 Jul-Sep;21(3):334-6. doi: 10.4103/0970-9290.70792. PubMed PMID: 20930339.
Shetty RS, Singhal RS, Kulkarni PR. Antimicrobial properties of cumin. World J Microbiol Biotechnol. 1994 Mar;10(2):232-3. doi: 10.1007/BF00360896.
Yakoob J, Abbas Z, Beg MA, Naz S, Awan S, Hamid S, Jafri W. In vitro sensitivity of Blastocystis hominis to garlic, ginger, white cumin, and black pepper used in diet. Parasitol Res. 2011 Aug;109(2):379-85.