When it comes to versatility, there are few essential oils that outperform peppermint oil.
It can be used topically or aromatically to address a wide range of health issues, from headaches and muscle aches to hair loss and IBS symptoms.
Studies have found that peppermint oil is not only a strong antioxidant, but it also contains antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and pesticidal properties. This explains why it can be put to such varied use and why folk medicine practitioners have traditionally relied on it so heavily.
We wanted to expand on the key benefits of peppermint oil by exploring its past and present uses, giving you a better understanding of how it could provide a natural complement or alternative to some commercial medicines.
What is peppermint oil?
Peppermint oil is extracted from the peppermint plant, which is classed as a herb, and is mostly grown in Europe and North America.
The plant is a mixture of two varieties of mint – spearmint and watermint, with the oil extracted from the leaves and flowers via steam distillation.
Once extracted, the essential oil contains more than 40 different compounds, including menthol, which is often used to ease discomfort. The oil also contains properties that can help to cleanse, purify and refresh the mind and body.
How does peppermint oil work?
Although there has been some research into how peppermint oil works, much more is needed to gain a better understanding of its capabilities.
When it comes to easing stomach pain, it is believed that peppermint essential oil can relieve cramps by interfering with calcium ions. Because these ions play a role in the contraction of smooth muscles in the gut, this could be why the oil is able to relax them.
When peppermint essential oil is diluted and applied topically, it stimulates the cold-sensitive nerves in the skin that trigger a prolonged cold sensation. This is where it can prove effective in treating muscle pain and headaches.
Benefits of peppermint essential oil
Here are 10 benefits of using peppermint essential oil you could enjoy:
1. Offering pain relief
A 2019 study compared the effects of lidocaine drops and peppermint oil for migraine attacks. They found that the intensity of headaches dropped by 40% when patients received either remedy.
The peppermint oil was applied to the inside of the nose at an angle, helping to reduce the pain and frequency of the headaches, in a similar way to lidocaine.
Another study looked at the effectiveness of peppermint oil tablets on people who had issues swallowing and noncardiac chest pain. More than 50% of participants found that their symptoms improved after taking the tablets.
2. Easing nausea
Although nausea can occur for many reasons, it is also a common occurrence after an operation.
Researchers looked into this with a 2016 study [GS3] that assessed how postoperative nausea could be helped by inhaling peppermint oil.
The results showed that nausea levels were lower in patients after inhaling it.
In another study conducted in 2021, 80 patients were asked to test the effects of applying one drop of peppermint oil between the nose and upper lip, 3 times a day for 5 days, after they completed a chemotherapy session.
Once the data was collected and analysed, researchers discovered that the frequency and severity of vomiting and nausea was reduced.
3. Improving skin and hair
You’ll often find peppermint oil included in the list of ingredients in many popular cosmetic products, although research into its effectiveness is limited.
However, there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence from people who believe peppermint oil benefits have helped to improve their hair and scalp.
One study looked to discover if peppermint oil could help to ease chronic itching (which can be caused by a wide range of internal and external conditions).
Using a 1% solution of peppermint oil was found to reduce the severity and length of the itch.
Other studies have also looked at the effectiveness of topical menthol, with researchers learning that skin blood flow could be increased through topical application.
This could prove beneficial for hair growth, as it could help to stimulate blood flow to the scalp.
4. Helping IBS symptoms
People who have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) often experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal pain.
Research into the benefits of peppermint oil for IBS has produced some positive results, with a trial study finding that the oil was able to reduce abdominal pain and other associated IBS symptoms.
Exactly how peppermint oil helps to ease IBS symptoms remains unclear, although it is believed the oil can have an anti-inflammatory effect, whilst also helping to smooth and relax muscles in the GI tract and affect various types of bacteria that are naturally present in the GI tract.
5. Supporting the relief of other GI conditions
To ease the symptoms of functional dyspepsia, a condition that can cause indigestion, bloating and stomach pain, menthol or peppermint oil mixed with caraway could prove effective.
This was examined further in a 2019 review, which looked at the results of several studies using this approach. It concluded that the treatment could help to relieve functional dyspepsia symptoms, although more research is required.
Peppermint oil benefits produced results that were more effective than a placebo at reducing the frequency and duration of the symptoms in children and adolescents with GI conditions.
6. Combating bacteria and yeast
The antimicrobial properties in peppermint oil have been found to be beneficial in combating various types of fungi and bacteria.
For example, one 2019 study looked at the effectiveness of the oil against bacteria such as Escherichia coli, proteus mirabilis and Acinetobacter baumannii.
The results showed that although more research is needed, it showed real potential as a therapeutic solution.
7. Boosting athletic performance
Some studies have been carried out to understand more about the relationship between peppermint oil and athletic performance. Many athletes already inhale the oil as a remedy for stuffy noses, although it has not been proved to directly boost power output.
However, studies have found that when applied topically to the skin, peppermint oil can help to reduce muscle pain, minimise fatigue and offer muscle relaxation, all of which aid recovery times and can prove useful in improving overall athletic performance.
8. Supporting the respiratory system
People who suffer with blocked sinuses find that inhaling peppermint oil can clear the airwaves and offer relief from a scratchy throat. This can also have the added benefit of clearing mucus build up and reducing congestion.
The cooling sensation provided by menthol has been found to relax the bronchial muscles (located in the windpipe), which could be the reason why peppermint oil improves breathing in people struggling with coughs.
Using the oil in a diffuser, inhaling it once it has been mixed with boiling water or combining it with other essential oils are all ways you may be able to enjoy peppermint oil benefits.
9. Improving oral health
The European Journal of Dentistry published a lab report that found how the antimicrobial properties of peppermint oil were particularly effective against oral pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Enterococcus faecalis, Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus.
It explains why the peppermint plant has been used for well over 1,000 years as a natural breath freshener. Bacteria and fungus can be effectively killed off, helping to reduce the development of infections and cavities.
The cooling and numbing elements of peppermint oil can also be used to ease gum pain and soothe toothaches, offering a natural and effective solution.
10. Keeping bugs at bay
Along with the likes of pine, lemongrass, clove and thyme, research has found that peppermint essential oil is one of the most effective extracts when it comes to repelling bugs.
This means if you want to ward off ants, mice, spiders and other pests, spraying or applying peppermint oil allows you to use a natural repelling agent, instead of a chemical-based product.
The oils mentioned above were also found to reel filarial, malaria and yellow fever vectors for up to 180 minutes.
In another study, researchers found that just 0.1ml of peppermint essential oil applied to the arms offered up to 150 minutes of total protection against mosquitoes.
How to use peppermint oil
Here are some common uses of peppermint oil you could try to:
Ease muscle and headache pain
Peppermint oil can prove very effective in helping to relieve muscle and headache pain.
If you have a mild headache or bodily aches and pains and want to test the benefits of peppermint oil, simply mix 3-5 drops of the oil with your preferred carrier oil (1 teaspoon per 2-3 drops of oil) and apply to the affected area.
Help hair and scalp health
You can also massage the oil directly into your scalp, add 2 drops of peppermint essential oil to one teaspoon of your preferred carrier oil.
Then, slowly rub into the scalp. You may notice a tingling sensation, which is the menthol going to work, and then wash it out after 15-20 minutes.
Another option is to add the same amount of peppermint oil to your favourite shampoo and conditioner before using as normal.
History of peppermint oil
Peppermint essential oil is one of the most traditional medicinal treatments, with its use stretching back to ancient Chinese and Japanese folk medicine.
It also makes an appearance in Greek mythology, when Pluto transformed Mentha into a sweet-smelling herb after falling in love with her. He believed that doing so would allow people to appreciate for years to come.
The Egyptians have also been documented as peppermint oil users, with traces found in several pyramids dating as far back as 1000 B.C.
In the modern age, some of the more common peppermint essential oil benefits include using it to soothe the gastric lining and to reduce feelings of nausea.
Peppermint oil FAQs
Are there any risks that come with using peppermint oil?
When taken in high doses, consuming peppermint oil can be toxic to the internal organs due to their high concentration levels.
If you are allergic to peppermint oil or menthol do not use peppermint essential oil.
Similarly, if you have gallstones or liver disease, look for an alternative. Pregnant people should avoid using peppermint oil and discuss their options with a qualified doctor.
How much peppermint oil should I use?
For topical application, dilute with a carrier oil of choice (1-2 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil) to reduce the chances of skin irritation.
First-time users of peppermint oil (and any other essential oil) should first complete a patch test to ensure compatibility.
What is the best way to store peppermint essential oil?
Keep your peppermint oil inside a suitability sized dark glass bottle in a cool, dry place away from direct heat sources.
This also applies to any other essential oils you may own. Once you have opened the peppermint oil, use it within 24 months.
|100% Pure Peppermint (Piperita) Essential Oil|
|Botanical Name||Mentha Piperita|
|Benefits & Uses||Fresh, Decongestant, Spider Repellent|
|Suitable for Diffusers?||Yes, this peppermint (piperita) essential oil is perfect for diffusers.|
|Suitable for Candles and Soaps?||Yes, this peppermint (piperita) essential oil is perfect for candle and soap making.|
|Extraction Method||Steam Distillation|
|Bottle Type||Tamper proof and UV resistant|