No, we aren't talking about mints, gum, or candy canes. Really, it's quite fascinating – in a somewhat sad way – that peppermint is so commonly associated with sweet treats rather than medicinal benefits. Aside from lavender, peppermint essential oil may be the most versatile of all of our options. And yet we've limited it to Santa Claus and toothpaste!
Peppermint essential oil has the ability to:
- Treat a variety of illness from stress and migraines to skin conditions to digestive wellness
- Combat cancer cells
- Remain gentle on the skin and body
- Affect the body via respiratory, digestive, or topical applications
- Remain affordable thanks to easy propagation
- Stand up to thorough research
Is there any reason at all that we wouldn't stock our cabinets with peppermint essential oil? Our culture is seriously missing out!
History & Composition
Peppermint (Mentha x peperita) is a hybrid combination of watermint and spearmint that grows prolifically – in fact, it can take over like a weed. The aerial parts – flowers and leaves – are harvested for essential oil production, which is conducted via steam distillation. At this point, active ingredients typically include menthone at around 20% of the composition and menthol at roughly 40%. (1)
Typically, peppermint essential oil is used as an antiemetic (helps to prevent nausea) and antispasmodic (helps to prevent vomiting as well as any other harsh gastrointestinal contractions). It's a soothing digestive aid and beneficial during times of illness.
Historically, peppermint dates back as one of the oldest medicinal herbs used in Europe, an ancient remedy for both Chinese and Japanese cultures, and an Egyptian medicine in at least 1,000 B.C. When, in Greek mythology, Pluto pursued the nymph Mentha, he transformed her into an herb (guess which?) so that the generations to come would enjoy her just as well as he. Such a colorful legacy is contained well in this cool, accessible, effective substance.
Peppermint in the Literature
Stepping away from Greek literature and into the scientific realm, peppermint is found throughout databases of studies and reviews – even moreso when we look at its specific component menthol. With hundreds and literally thousands of mentions, scientists are all over this remarkable herb. I don't make promises and guarantees often, but peppermint is almost a sure thing: add it to your daily regimen and your life will never be the same.
For example, while we all hope to avoid surgery, sometimes it is a necessary part of life – and a common part of surgery is unpleasant post-operative nausea, to the tune of 1/3rd of surgical patients. In 2012, Clayton State University facilitated tests on peppermint essential oil's effects on this nasty phenomena. Moms who are in recovery from a Caesarean especially do not want to deal with vomiting and nausea on top of the mixed emotions of the joy of birth and pain of surgery, not to mention the time that could be spent bonding with their babies. So, moms were chosen for this study, with 35 respondents discovering “significantly lower” nausea levels with inhaled peppermint compared with standard treatments. (2)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The use of essential oils is sometimes underestimated when limited to the connotations of “aromatherapy.” Topical and occasionally internal applications are relevant, as well, and one drop mixed with one teaspoon of coconut oil or (internally) honey, rubbed on the stomach or ingested, can calm an upset stomach or indigestion in a snap. This remarkable ability is being broached by researchers, marked by a systematic review of the literature that cover's irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and peppermint.
Nine studies were reviewed, spanning more than seven hundred patients, and the conclusion was clear – taking peppermint essential oil in enteric-coated capsules performs much better than placebo when it comes to pain and symptom management. In their conclusion, University of Western Ontario researchers stated that,
“Peppermint essential oil is a safe and effective short-term treatment for IBS. Future studies should assess the long-term efficacy and safety of peppermint essential oil and its efficacy relative to other IBS treatments including antidepressants and antispasmodic drugs.” (3)
One of my personal favorite benefits of peppermint essential oil is bug repellant – especially since I live in mosquito country!
In a comparison of seven commercial bug repellants, Terminix® ALLCLEAR® Sidekick Mosquito Repeller nearly topped the charts. If you aren't aware, this is an “all-natural” blend that lists cinnamon, eugenol, geranium, peppermint, and lemongrass oils. It was very close to a tie with OFF!®, the chemical-laden, DEET-filled commercial brand. (4)
Although I don't recommend Terminix® ALLCLEAR® because I have little faith in a big name company to use true, pure, therapeutic grade essential oils, the lesson is the same. It underscores the efficiency of essential oils, no matter their quality. And an effective essential oil blend most definitely is preferred to harmful, toxic chemicals or nasty ‘skeeter bites!
Top 10 Peppermint Essential Oil Uses
- Ease Pain Naturally– For a natural muscle relaxer or pain reliever, peppermint essential oil is one of the best. Try using it on an aching back, toothache, or tension headache.
- Clear Sinuses – Diffused or inhaled peppermint essential oil usually clears stubborn sinuses and soothes sore throats immediately. As an expectorant, the results may be long lasting and beneficial when you're down with a cold, plagued with a cough, or struggle with bronchitis, asthma, or sinusitis.
- Relieve Joint Pain – Peppermint essential oil and lavender oil work well together as a cooling, soothing anti-inflammatory for painful joints.
- Cut Cravings – Slow an out of control appetite by diffusing peppermint before meal times, helping you feel full faster. Alternatively, apply a drop or two on your sinuses or chest to keep the benefits to yourself.
- Energize Naturally – Road trips, long nights studying, or any time you feel that low energy slump, peppermint essential oil is a refreshing, non-toxic pick-me-up to help you wake up and keep going without the toxins loaded into energy drinks.
- Freshen Shampoo -A couple of drops included in your shampoo and conditioner will tingle your scalp and wake your senses. As a bonus, peppermint's antiseptic properties can also help prevent or remove both lice and dandruff.
- Ease Allergies – By relaxing the nasal passages and acting as an expectorant, peppermint can help relieve symptoms during allergy season.
- Relieve ADHD – A spritz of peppermint on clothing or a touch on the back of your neck can help to improve concentration and alertness when focus is needed.
- Soothe an Itch – Cooling peppermint and soothing lavender combine again to sooth an itch from bug bites or healing sun burns.
- Block Ticks – Stop ticks from burrowing with a touch of peppermint essential oil. Make sure you remove them by their head to lessen your chances of contracting Lyme disease!
Cautionary Common Sense
Be sure to follow professional recommendations, healthcare provider advice, and common sense when using peppermint essential oil. While it is incredible versatile and relatively gentle, it is still a medicinal-quality substance and should be treated with care. As with all oils, make sure to always dilute with a carrier oil and, as always, listen to your body and the wisdom of those who have used aromatherapy before us: essential oils are best in small doses!
Also, don't consume neat. The University of Maryland Medical Center warns that peppermint essential oil can relax the esophageal sphincter and pose risks for those with reflux. (5) Don't consume neat. Taking one or two drops of peppermint in a gel capsule can remedy this risk relatively easily.
Safety & Drug Interactions
Are you sure you're using essential oils safely and effectively? Are you confused by dilutions and conversions?
Let me help you by taking out the guesswork. Download my FREE dilution chart guide HERE!
When it comes to drug interactions and contraindications, there are literally textbooks devoted to the study of essential oil safety and, as a trained researcher and doctor, I think it’s important to note that there is virtually no research out there discussing how essential oils interact with drugs in long-term human clinical trials. This means that essential oil safety is still a wild frontier in the science community and no one really knows (for certain) how essential oils will interact with drugs or your body.
Nonetheless, properly diluting your essential oils is fundamental to safety and effectiveness because they are highly concentrated plant compounds. To help you along your journey, I have a created an easy-to-use dilution guide that you can download for FREE to make sure that all of your topical applications are safe and effective for the entire family.
CLICK HERE to download my free Essential Oils Dilution Chart!
As with as medicine and natural therapies, this is only a guide and be sure to discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur and consult your physician immediately.