Peppermint is an aromatic herb in the mint family. It’s a hybrid mint that’s a cross between spearmint and watermint. It can be found naturally in North America and Europe.
Peppermint essential oil can be extracted from the leaves of the peppermint plant and is used for a variety of different purposes.
Read on to discover more about the forms of peppermint oil, its uses, and potential health benefits.
Peppermint oil can be found in a variety of forms. Some examples include:
- essential oils, a very concentrated form that can be used for aromatherapy or diluted and applied to the skin
- extracts, a more diluted form that can be used to add peppermint flavor to foods
- capsules, which can be taken as dietary supplements
Peppermint oil has a sharp odor that’s cool and refreshing. Its taste is similar. You may be familiar with the coolness in your mouth after you consume something with a peppermint flavor.
The main chemical components of peppermint oil are menthol and menthone. However, there are many more as well.
Peppermint oil has a wide variety of uses. For example, it can be used as:
- a treatment for a variety of conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nausea, and other digestive issues, as well as the common cold and headaches
- a topical application for relief from itching, muscle pain, and headache
- a flavoring agent in foods and in products such as mouthwashes
- a fresh, pleasing scent added to soaps and cosmetic products
Records of the use of mint plants for medicinal purposes go all the way back to the times of Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. So, what does modern research say about the benefits of peppermint oil?
While some of the potential benefits of peppermint oil are based off of personal testimony, research is ongoing into its health benefits. We’ll explore some of that research below.
Some of the most extensive research into the benefits of peppermint oil has focused on IBS. IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal (GI) condition that can involve abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation.
- relaxing the smooth muscles of the GI tract
- having an anti-inflammatory effect
- affecting the types of bacteria that naturally live in the GI tract
- decreasing pain sensation in the GI tract
Peppermint oil or menthol, one of its main chemical components, has been used in combination with caraway to treat functional dyspepsia. This condition is characterized by bloating and pain in the area of the stomach.
Another review of studies of herbal remedies for GI conditions in children and adolescents found that peppermint oil was effective at reducing the duration, frequency, and severity of abdominal pain when compared to placebo.
Nausea can often occur after an operation. One
However, a recent review of studies examined the effects of aromatherapy on postoperative nausea. Four of the reviewed studies involved peppermint oil compared to placebo. The reviewers found that inhaling peppermint oil had little or no effect on the severity of nausea.
Symptoms like nausea and vomiting are also commonly present in the early stages of pregnancy. A recent
Peppermint oil is often used in cosmetic products. But there’s a limited amount of research into the potential benefits of peppermint when applied to the skin and hair.
A second small
Peppermint oil also has mild antimicrobial properties. Various studies have been performed to determine its effectiveness against different types of bacteria and fungi. The results have been mixed.
While this result is promising, the antimicrobial activity of peppermint oil may depend on the species of bacteria. Another
The FDA recommends only using essential oils according to manufacturer’s guidelines.
Essential oils are not meant to be taken orally. Some possible side effects from taking peppermint extract orally include heartburn, nausea, and vomiting. Choose an extract if you’re adding peppermint oil to food.
Aromatherapy or topical use of diluted essential peppermint oil can have significant benefits with little risk. But be aware that peppermint aromatherapy can be toxic to pets. Always consider children, pets, and pregnant women before using aromatherapy.
If taken in very large doses, peppermint oil can be toxic. It contains a known toxic compound called pulegone. Cosmetic formulations of peppermint oil are supposed to contain
It’s also important to remember that peppermint essential oil is very concentrated and should always be diluted properly before topical use. Only a few drops are needed for diluting in an ounce of carrier oil.
In some cases, peppermint oil that’s applied to the skin may cause irritation or a rash to occur. If you’re concerned about having a skin reaction to peppermint oil, test a small patch of your skin first.
People who should avoid using peppermint oil include:
- People with G6PD deficiency. People with a specific enzyme deficiency, called G6PD deficiency, should avoid using peppermint as an extract or an oil in aromatherapy.
- People taking certain medications. Peppermint oil aromatherapy can inhibit an enzyme called CYP3A4, which is responsible for breaking down many different types of medication. If you’re taking any prescription medications, talk to your doctor before using peppermint oil.
- Children and babies. You should avoid applying peppermint oil to the faces or chests of babies and young children. Side effects can occur from inhaling the menthol present in peppermint oil.
Peppermint aromatherapy can also be toxic pets such as dogs and cats.
Peppermint oil comes from the peppermint plant. It’s been used for many things, such as relieving GI discomfort, easing nausea, and alleviating pain.
While some of the proposed benefits of peppermint oil come from anecdotal evidence, research suggests peppermint oil may be beneficial for IBS and other digestive conditions, as well as pain relief.
Peppermint oil is generally safe, but it can be toxic when taken in very large doses. Additionally, you should always dilute peppermint essential oil before use.
If you have any concerns or questions about using peppermint oil, you should speak to your doctor before using it.