What Is Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil comes from the peppermint plant, it is an aromatic herb in the mint family. Peppermint is a hybrid mint, a cross between spearmint and watermint, found naturally in North America and Europe. The oil is extracted from the leaves of the peppermint plant and is used for a variety of different purposes. 

Peppermint oil has been used to alleviate pain, relieving gi discomfort, and easing nausea. While some of the benefits come from anecdotal evidence, studies suggest peppermint oil can be beneficial for IBS and other digestive conditions, as well as pain relief. 

Continue reading to discover more about the forms of peppermint oil, its uses, health benefits.

Forms of Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil comes in many forms, essential oils, extracts, and capsules. When using it as an essential oil it is in a very concentrated form and can be used for aromatherapy, as well as diluted and applied to the skin. Extracts of the oil can be used to flavor foods since it is in a more diluted form. Capsules of the peppermint oil can be taken as dietary supplements. The cool and refreshing odor and taste of peppermint oil come from the main components menthol and menthone.

IBS Relief 

IBS has had some of the most extensive research focused on the benefits of peppermint oil in treating the symptoms. IBS is a chronic condition of the gastrointestinal tract, the condition causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. 

In a recent study of 12 trials examining the efficiency of peppermint oil capsules compared to a placebo in treating IBS, the peppermint oil improved abdominal pain and other symptoms. Some of the ways peppermint oil helps ease the symptoms include: relaxing the GI tract muscles, acting as an anti-inflammatory, affecting the bacteria in the GI tract, and decreasing the pain sensation in the GI tract. 

Other GI conditions include functional dyspepsia, a condition characterized by bloating and pain in the area of the stomach.  A recent article summarized the results of several studies using peppermint/menthol and caraway. This combination proved to be overall effective at relieving the symptoms of functional dyspepsia. 

Peppermint oil was also found in another study as an effective herbal remedy for GI conditions in children and adolescents. The oil was able to reduce the duration, frequency, and severity of abdominal pain when compared to a placebo. However, it was not proven effective in comparison to simethicone drops in treating colic.

Nausea Relief 

Nausea is a common symptom many people experience. Nausea can occur after an operation, as well as in early pregnancy. In a small study about the effectiveness of peppermint oil on postoperative nausea, they found that nausea was reduced in the patients after inhaling the oil. However, a recent review found that on four of the studies involving peppermint oil compared to a placebo, the oil had little to no effect on the severity of nausea. 

In a study about nausea in pregnant women, they had 56 pregnant women use aromatherapy with peppermint oil to treat nausea and vomiting. They found no significant difference between the peppermint oil and the placebo. 

Pain Relief 

Peppermint oil and menthol have been used to treat pain from migraine headaches, tension headaches, and other causes. In a small study using a 10% topical application of menthol solution for migraine treatment. They found that when the solution was applied to the temples and forehead, the participants had pain relief, lessened nausea, and light sensitivity relief for a longer duration compared to a placebo. 

In another recent study with people having difficulty swallowing and non-cardiac chest pain. When using peppermint oil tablets over half of the participants reported improvements for their symptoms. 

Skin And Hair

Peppermint oil can be helpful with skin and hair problems, but there is limited research on the potential benefits of the oil. A small study showed that a topical application of peppermint oil led to improvements against chronic itching, and the severity of the itch. Another small study looked at the effectiveness of peppermint oil to reduce the itching that comes with pregnancy. They applied a 0.5 percent solution twice a day for two weeks and saw a significant reduction in the severity of the itching. 

In a study using mice, they compared peppermint oil to rogaine to stimulate hair growth. They found that a 3% solution of peppermint oil led to the growth of thick, long hair in the mice after four weeks of treatment. A similar result was obtained when using rogaine. 

Bacteria And Yeast Defense

The antimicrobial properties found in peppermint oil have been tested to determine the effectiveness of the oil against different types of bacteria and fungi. The results have been mixed, in one study they found that incubating the oil with several different strains of staphylococcus aureus, some of which were antibiotic-resistant, created the production of an important bacterial toxin. The production of this bacterial toxin was dose-dependent, meaning the effects were increased with more doses of peppermint oil. The results of this study are promising, however, the antimicrobial activity in the oil may depend on the species of bacteria. Another study showed that peppermint oil had no antimicrobial activity against a strain of streptococcus. 

When tested on candida yeast in 2017 with other essential oils, peppermint oil had some antifungal activity, but the lowest activity out of all the oils that were tested. Peppermint oil has some proof to help with bacteria and yeast however, it may not be the most effective. 


Safety And Side Effects

Peppermint oil is not meant to be taken orally if adding to food use and extract. Some of the possible symptoms from taking orally are nausea, heartburn, and vomiting. Aromatherapy or diluted topical use of peppermint oil can have many benefits with a small risk. Be cautious when using the oil for aromatherapy as it can be toxic to pets, as well as irritating to children and pregnant women. 

Taken in large doses peppermint oil can be toxic because of the compound called pulegone. Therefore peppermint oil should always be diluted before topical use, preventing the oil from irritating the skin. Always test on a small patch of skin for 24 hours prior to using the oil. 

When To Avoid Peppermint Oil 

You should avoid using peppermint oil if you have the following:

  • People with a specific enzyme deficiency, called G6PD deficiency, should avoid using peppermint as an extract or oil in aromatherapy.
  • 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.
  • 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 oil aromatherapy can be toxic to dogs and cats as well.