Gut Health

Discover the Soothing Benefits of Peppermint Essential Oil

By Justin Fowler-Lindner

Peppermint oil from Mentha piperita plants is more than just a refreshing flavor of toothpaste. 

When applied topically, it crosses the skin barrier and activates an immediate cooling sensation, and it can also be taken orally.

Peppermint essential oil may treat:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) 
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory issues 
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin

To top it all off, peppermint possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.

Let’s take a closer look at what this versatile essential oil has to offer.

What Is Peppermint Essential Oil?

Peppermint is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint that grows naturally in North America and Europe.

Due to its menthol content, peppermint essential oil has a bold flavor and scent that’s ideal for cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, and toothpastes.

History of Peppermint Oil

Records show that the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians used various kinds of mint for healing purposes. 

It wasn’t until the 1700s, however, that peppermint was identified as a unique species.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Morocco produces roughly 92 percent of the world’s commercial peppermint.

In the United States, most of the country’s peppermint oil comes from Oregon and Washington state.

How Peppermint Oil Is Made

Peppermint essential oil is made from the leaves of the peppermint plant via CO2 extraction, cold extraction, or steam distilling.

Today, peppermint is available in dietary supplements like liquid extracts, peppermint oil capsules, liquid solutions, and teas.

How to Use Peppermint Essential Oil

Pure peppermint essential oil can be ingested, applied topically, or inhaled via aromatherapy.

Orally: Peppermint oil is a popular treatment for digestive health issues like IBS. Add 1-2 drops to water to fight bad bacteria and protect the gut lining. Never take peppermint oil orally for more than 1-2 weeks to reduce the risk of side effects.

Topically: Because peppermint oil is highly concentrated, it’s best to dilute it in a carrier oil like coconut oil, avocado oil, or jojoba oil before applying it to the skin to relieve pain and treat itchy skin.

Aromatically: The active compounds in peppermint oil are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream when inhaled. Apply a few drops directly to the skin or use a diffuser to spread it throughout the room.

5 Health Benefits of Peppermint Essential Oil

Most of the available peppermint essential oil studies are about IBS, indigestion, nausea, and headaches.

With that said, early research shows that it may also be a potential treatment for respiratory conditions, headaches, itchiness, and fatigue.

1. Digestion

At least nine separate studies have evaluated peppermint oil for digestion.

Overall, researchers believe that, “Peppermint oil is a safe and effective short-term treatment for IBS.”

In five of the studies, peppermint oil significantly improved IBS symptoms.

Here’s a closer look at a few of the studies:

  • In a 2007 study, 57 patients with IBS were treated with either peppermint oil (two enteric-coated capsules twice per day), or placebo. After four weeks of treatment, 75 percent of patients in the peppermint oil group showed a greater than 50 percent reduction in overall IBS symptoms compared to only 38 percent in the placebo group. 
  • A 2008 meta-analysis determined that peppermint oil can reduce gassiness and bloating, relax the muscles of the intestines, and reduce colon spasms. 
  • A 2011 scientific review found that peppermint oil can effectively reduce digestive spasms in patients with IBS. 
  • In a 2016 study, “The researchers concluded that peppermint oil inhalation is a viable first-line treatment for nausea in postoperative cardiac surgery patients.”
  • In an outpatient study conducted in Germany, 45 patients were treated with peppermint oil and caraway oil or a placebo. After four weeks of treatment, the peppermint/caraway group experienced a 95.4 percent improvement in symptoms.

However, it’s also important to note that the peppermint oil groups in these studies were more likely to experience adverse side effects like nausea, although incidents were typically mild and passed quickly.

2. Immunity and Respiratory Support

According to recent lab tests, peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral effects that may strengthen the immune system and make the body more resistant to illness.

Inhaling peppermint oil may also clear the sinuses, relieve a scratchy throat, and treat respiratory conditions.

In a 2019 study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of peppermint, thyme, and eucalyptus oils on immune response. They found that the combination of these three essential oils can support the immune system and boost healthy bacteria.

3. Headaches

Peppermint oil may treat headaches by relaxing the muscles and improving blood flow.

Here’s what the research has to say:

  • In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted at the Neurological Clinic, University of Kiel, Germany, researchers treated patients with four different combinations of peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, and ethanol aromatherapy. The peppermint and ethanol group reported the greatest improvement in headache pain.
  • In another German study, patients with tension headaches were treated with either peppermint oil or a placebo. Patients in the experimental group began to feel the effect of peppermint after just 15 minutes and experienced a significant reduction in headache intensity.
  • A 2016 German medical article claims that oral peppermint oil is equally as effective as acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) and paracetamol (Tylenol) at treating tension headaches.

4. Relieves Itchiness

Peppermint’s anti-inflammatory properties and menthol’s cooling effects may relieve itchiness from inflammatory skin conditions like pruritus: a common skin problem that’s characterized by chronic itchiness.

In a 2012 clinical trial, 96 women with pruritus were treated with either oral peppermint oil or a placebo twice a day for two weeks. Symptoms decreased more in the peppermint oil group.

Lavender oil can also treat itchiness. For the ultimate DIY anti-itch remedy, try combining peppermint and lavender oil with coconut oil. 

5. Energy and Performance 

To top it all off, peppermint oil may increase energy, enhance cognition, and boost physical performance.

In a 2006 study, 144 volunteers were treated with either ylang-ylang or peppermint oil before taking a cognitive test. According to the study’s authors, “Peppermint was found to enhance memory whereas ylang-ylang impaired it and lengthened processing speed. In terms of subjective mood, peppermint increased alertness and ylang-ylang decreased it.”

Peppermint essential oil may also boost exercise performance…

In a 2014 study, participants were treated with either peppermint oil or a placebo. The peppermint oil group increased their grip strength by an average of 36.1 percent and jumped 6.4 percent further.

As impressive as these studies are, they don’t even give you the whole picture. Peppermint oil may also support:

With that said, peppermint oil isn’t entirely risk-free, and cases of toxicity have been reported at high doses.

Keep doses of peppermint oil to two-drops-or-less, and never take it orally for more than 1-2 consecutive weeks. If you have any pre-existing health problems, ask your healthcare professional for medical advice before beginning treatment.

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