A 2015 German study tested the use of hot oil poultices on people with irritable bowel syndrome. They found that using a hot oil poultice appeared to be a safe and effective method of reducing pain related to IBS. The researchers also reported that although the most benefit was likely to due to the application of heat, their patients said that they received the highest level of benefit from using the hot caraway oil poultice, rather than a heated poultice made from olive oil alone.
Caraway is a culinary spice used to flavour a variety of vegetable dishes, breads, cakes and biscuits. Like many spices it also has medicinal properties. For instance, caraway has antispasmodic and carminative properties, and therefore might reduce abdominal pain, spasms and bloating.
Irritable bowel syndrome is characterised by a number of symptoms, including abdominal pain and spasms, bloating or distension and altered bowel habit.
Spasms are an involuntary contraction of muscles that can occur in skeletal muscles and smooth muscle. The bowel wall includes smooth muscle, and spasms of the bowel muscle can cause intense abdominal pain.
Antispasmodic herbal remedies such as peppermint oil capsules are used effectively internally to soothe the spasms of irritable bowel syndrome. And, of course a soothing application of a hot water bottle for a tummy ache is an age old remedy. Yet, this is the first study I have seen testing the topical application of heated herbal remedies for irritable bowel syndrome.
How to make a caraway hot oil poultice
- Add 2ml caraway essential oil to olive oil and dilute to 100ml.
- Spread 1 tsp of the caraway oil over the abdomen
- Cover with a moist towel and then a dry towel.
- Warm a heat pad to a tolerable temperature and place the heated pad on the top.
- Rest with the poultice in place for 20 to 30 mins.
In the study, the participants did this daily for three weeks.
The application of heat causes relaxation of abdominal muscles and reduces the associated pain. A method that is often used to relieve menstrual cramps.
However, the results of this study suggest that using caraway oil provided a better improvement in symptoms. In fact there are many antispasmodic herbs that could be used in this way.
Some that spring to mind include fennel, lavender, chamomile, roman chamomile, ginger, lemon balm, basil and sage. However, I must point out that I am not recommending the use of essential oils or caraway during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and suffering from irritable bowel syndrome I do recommend seeking the help of a qualified herbalist.
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