Peppermint oil may help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions affecting the digestive system. Different forms may also help relieve pain and benefit your skin.

While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils, and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

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 purposes. It has a sharp odor that’s cool and refreshing, and the 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.

Scientific name

Peppermint oil comes from the peppermint plant, Mentha x piperita.

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Read on to discover more about the forms of peppermint oil, its uses, and potential health benefits.

Peppermint oil has a wide variety of uses. For example, it can be used as:

  • a remedy 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 products such as mouthwashes
  • a fresh, pleasing scent added to soaps and cosmetic products

Ways to use peppermint oil

People can use peppermint oil in a variety of ways. It can be:

  • applied topically (on the skin)
  • diffused in the form of essential oil
  • ingested orally in tablet or capsule form
  • applied intranasally (putting droplets inside the nose)

It’s important to be careful that you are not ingesting peppermint essential oil. You should always check with a doctor before consuming peppermint oil in any form or applying it topically.

Records of the medicinal use of mint plants 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 on personal testimony, research is ongoing into the 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 (long-term) gastrointestinal (GI) condition that can involve:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • constipation

A 2019 review of 12 trials examined the efficacy of peppermint oil capsules in treating IBS when compared with a placebo. Researchers found that treatment with peppermint oil improved abdominal pain and other symptoms of IBS.

The specific ways peppermint oil helps ease symptoms of IBS and other GI conditions are largely unknown. Some possible effects include:

  • 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

The takeaway

Peppermint oil may reduce or relieve symptoms of IBS.

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For other GI conditions

Peppermint oil or menthol, one of its main chemical components, has been used in combination with caraway to remedy symptoms of functional dyspepsia. This condition is characterized by bloating, indigestion, and pain in the area of the stomach.

A 2019 review summarized the results of several studies involving peppermint, menthol, and caraway. Overall, this combination treatment appears promising in relieving symptoms associated with functional dyspepsia.

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 with a placebo.

However, peppermint oil wasn’t effective in treating colic in comparison with simethicone drops.

The takeaway

Peppermint oil may help reduce abdominal pain from GI tract issues.

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For nausea

Nausea can have many causes, and it often occurs after an operation. One small 2016 study assessed the effect of inhaled peppermint oil on postoperative nausea. The researchers found that patients rated their level of nausea as lower after inhaling peppermint oil.

However, a 2018 review of studies also examined the effects of aromatherapy on postoperative nausea. Four of the reviewed studies involved peppermint oil compared with a placebo. The reviewers found that inhaling peppermint oil had little to no effect on the severity of nausea as a postoperative symptom.

Symptoms like nausea and vomiting are also commonly present in the early stages of pregnancy.

One 2018 study of 56 pregnant patients looked at how aromatherapy with peppermint oil affected nausea and vomiting. They found no significant difference between peppermint oil and a placebo.

Researchers have also considered whether peppermint oil may have an effect on symptoms of nausea in patients with cancer who are receiving chemotherapy treatment.

A 2021 study of 80 patients tested the effects of applying one drop of peppermint oil between the upper lip and nose three times a day for 5 days after chemotherapy. The researchers found that it lessened the severity and frequency of nausea and vomiting.

The takeaway

Results from small studies are mixed on the effectiveness of aromatherapy with peppermint oil to help with nausea. In some cases, it may be beneficial, while in others, it is inconclusive.

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For pain

Wintergreen oil and menthol have been used to remedy pain from tension headaches, migraine headaches, and other causes.

In a 2019 study comparing the effects of peppermint oil and lidocaine drops for migraine attacks, researchers found that headache intensity decreased in 40% of patients receiving either drop. Peppermint oil droplets, when applied inside the nose at an angle, were shown to reduce headache frequency and pain, much like lidocaine.

Another study examined the effect of peppermint oil tablets on people with difficulty swallowing and noncardiac chest pain. Over half of the participants reported an improvement in their symptoms.

The takeaway

Different forms of peppermint oil or menthol may help remedy pain from headaches and migraine attacks when applied in the nose. In tablet form, peppermint oil may relieve discomfort for people who have trouble swallowing.

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For skin and hair

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 small 2016 study looked at the topical application of peppermint oil and the effect it had on chronic itching. Researchers found that a 1 percent solution of peppermint oil led to improvements in how long itchiness lasted and the severity of the itch.

A 2014 study in mice compared peppermint oil to minoxidil (Rogaine) and control compounds. The researchers found that a 3 percent solution of peppermint oil led to the growth of thick, long hair in mice after 4 weeks of treatment, similar to results from using minoxidil.

In a 2016 study examining the effects of topical menthol, researchers found that topically applied menthol increases skin blood flow. This could also help with hair growth, as increased blood flow may help stimulate your scalp.

The takeaway

Peppermint oil may help soothe itchy skin. More research is needed on peppermint oil’s ability to stimulate hair growth in humans.

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Against bacteria and yeast

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.

A 2019 study highlighted the antibacterial activity of peppermint oil on different strains of bacteria, including:

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Escherichia coli
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Proteus mirabilis
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Acinetobacter baumannii

This research showed peppermint oil’s potential as a future therapeutic option for certain infections, though more research is needed.

While this result is promising, the antimicrobial activity of peppermint oil may depend on the species of bacteria.

Another study found that while peppermint oil showed a potential for antimicrobial activity, it was less effective than other essential oils against 20 different strains of Streptococcus suis.

A study from 2017 looked at the activity of several essential oils against different strains of Candida yeast in test tubes. While peppermint oil did have some antifungal activity, it had the lowest activity out of all the oils that were tested.

The takeaway

Peppermint oil may work against some bacteria, but research is mixed. It has shown mild antifungal properties against certain strains of Candida.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends only using essential oils according to the manufacturers’ guidelines.

Essential oils are not meant to be taken orally. Some possible side effects from taking peppermint extract orally include:

  • heartburn
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Choose a peppermint 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. Before using aromatherapy, always consider the safety of:

  • children
  • pets
  • pregnant people

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 1 percent or less of pulegone, although in some cases they may contain more.

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 of essential oil 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. If you’re concerned about having a skin reaction to peppermint oil, test it on a small patch of your skin first.

It’s important to check with a doctor or pharmacist before taking any supplement products, especially if you’re currently taking any prescription or nonprescription medications.

Peppermint oil may have an effect on the rate the body breaks down cyclosporine, a drug typically given during the organ transplant process to prevent the body from rejecting the new organ. Peppermint oil may cause cyclosporine to stay in the bloodstream longer than it should.

Medications that are affected by liver enzymes may also be impacted by peppermint oil. These medications include:

You should also be cautious and talk with a doctor before consuming peppermint oil, especially if you’re taking drugs to reduce stomach acid, such as:

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 oil in aromatherapy.
  • People taking certain medications. Peppermint oil aromatherapy can inhibit an enzyme called CYP3A4, which is responsible for breaking down many types of medication. If you’re taking any prescription medications, talk with a 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 in peppermint oil.

Peppermint aromatherapy can also be toxic to pets like dogs and cats.

Peppermint oil comes from the peppermint plant. It has been used for many things, such as relieving:

  • GI discomfort
  • nausea
  • 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.

Speak with a doctor before using peppermint oil, and be sure to bring up any questions or concerns you may have.