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Research from Tehran University of Medical Sciences has concluded that cumin extract can significantly reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome – also referred to as IBS and sometimes referred as inflammatory bowel disease.
Up to 20% of Americans have been diagnosed with IBS at some point. Irritable bowel syndrome is an increasingly prevalent worldwide disorder, and there are no known drugs that will resolve the condition.
The study followed 50 patients who had been diagnosed with IBS using the ROME II criteria. 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.
The patients were followed for four weeks with cumin treatment and reported their symptoms every two weeks. The patients were followed for an additional four weeks after the treatment was halted.
All of the patients were given the treatment, which consisted of consuming 10 drops twice a day of a 2% essential oil of cumin (Cuminum cyminum).
All of the patients reported improvement of their IBS symptoms during the four weeks of treatment.
Before the treatment, 28% of the patients had severe abdominal pain and 44% had moderate abdominal pain. Following the four weeks of treatment, none of the patients reported severe abdominal pain while 22% reported moderate abdominal pain.
This pain relief continued through to four weeks after but trended back - with 5% reporting severe and 52% reporting moderate pain. More had moderate pain but combined, reduction of pain continued four weeks after treatment ended.
In the constipation group, 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.
The researchers also found that 76% of the patients had mucous in stool before treatment. This went down to zero at the end of four weeks of treatment and went to 52% four weeks following the treatment with the cumin extract.
Among diarrhea-dominant patients, all of the patients had watery or loose stools. This went down to 11% of the patients after four weeks, and 88% had normal stools. Watery and loose stool levels crept up in the four weeks after treatment ended, but still were less than before the treatment.
Before the treatment, 42% of the patients had mild or moderate nausea. After the treatment, 90% had no nausea and 10% had mild nausea.
Before treatment 87% in the constipation group had painful bowel movements. This went down to 25% after four weeks of treatment, but crept up to 72% in the four weeks after treatment ended.
Limitations of the Study
Admittedly, the study 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.
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. PubMed PMID: 24829694; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3990147.