Peppermint is a flowering plant that grows throughout Europe and North America and is widely cultivated for its fragrant oil. Peppermint oil has been used historically for numerous health conditions, including common cold symptoms, cramps, headache, indigestion, joint pain, and nausea. Peppermint leaf has been used for stomach or intestinal disorders and for gallbladder disease.
Peppermint oil is available in bulk herb oil, enteric-coated capsules, soft gelatin capsules, and in liquid form. In small doses, such as in tea or chewing gum, peppermint is generally believed to be safe in healthy, non-pregnant, non-allergic adults. The United States is a principal producer of peppermint, and the largest markets for peppermint oil are manufacturers of chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, and pharmaceuticals.
A-bourbonene, alpha-humulene, alpha-pinene, anisic acid, balm mint, beta-myrcene, beta-pinene, black mitchum, black peppermint, brandy mint, caffeic acid, camphor, carvone, chlorogenic acid, cineol, cobalt, coumarin, curled mint, diastereomeric mintlactone, diosmin, eriocitrin, feullis de menthe (French), folia Menthae piperitae, flavonoids, frantsila, hesperidin, hydroxymintlactone, iron, isomenthone, isomintlactone, isopentyl isovalerate, isorhoifolin, Japanese peppermint, Katzenkraut (German), Kubanskaia-6 peppermint, Kubanskaya-6 peppermint, lamb mint, limonene, linalool, lithospermic acid, luteolin, luteolin 7-O-beta-glucuronide, luteolin-7-rutinoside, menta prima (Italian), Mentha arvensis L. var piperascens, mentha extract, Mentha longifolia, Mentha piperita, Mentha piperita var. officinalis, Mentha piperita var. vulgaris, Mentha x piperita, Menthae longifoliae, Menthae piperitae aetheroleum, Menthae piperitae folium, menthe anglaise (French), menthe poivre (French), menthe poivree (French), menthofuran, menthofurolactone, menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate, methyl rosmarinate, mintlactones, Mitcham peppermint, monoterpenes, narirutin, Native Wilmet, neomenthol, oleum Menthae piperitae, Our Lady's mint, pebermynte (Danish), Pfefferminz (German), Pfefferminze (German), phenols, piperitone, Polyhybrid-7, Porminzen, pulegone, rosmarinic acid, rutin, rutinoside, Schmecker, sterols, terpenes, terpenoids, vitamin A, volatile oil, white peppermint, WS(R) 1340.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Based on human studies, the use of peppermint to improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms is currently supported.
Antispasmodic (colonic, esophageal, gastric spasm)
Peppermint oil may be beneficial in reducing intestinal spasm during and after endoscopic procedures. However, more research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
Using peppermint gel during breastfeeding may help prevent cracked nipples, reduce pain, and increase duration and number of feeds during breastfeeding. Additional research is needed to confirm early study findings.
Application of diluted peppermint oil to the forehead and temples has been tested in people with headache. It is not clear if this is an effective treatment.
Indigestion (non-ulcer dyspepsia)
There is preliminary evidence that a combination of peppermint oil and caraway oil may be beneficial for dyspepsia (heartburn) symptoms. It should be noted that heartburn can actually be a side effect of taking oral peppermint oil. Patients with chronic heartburn should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
In early study, a peppermint oil hot compress on the abdomen has been shown to provide some relief for abdominal distention. At this time, there is currently a lack of sufficient evidence to draw a firm conclusion regarding the use of peppermint for this condition. More research is needed.
Peppermint oil has been found to reduce the pain children experience during acute phases of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as recurrent abdominal pain. Peppermint may also reduce pain locally and coat the lower intestine. Additional studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Early research suggests that cleaning the mouth with an essential oil mixture of diluted tea tree, peppermint, and lemon may improve bad breath in intensive care unit patients. The use of peppermint oil-flavored mouthwash, candy, and gum to improve breath is supported extensively by anecdotal and traditional use. High-quality study that investigates peppermint alone is needed.
There is insufficient research on the use of peppermint in the treatment or prevention of the common cold. Additional study using peppermint alone is needed.
There is currently insufficient evidence regarding the use of peppermint for dental plaque and gingivitis. Additional research using peppermint alone is needed.
There is insufficient evidence regarding the use of peppermint for hot flashes. Additional research using peppermint alone is needed.
There is currently insufficient evidence regarding the use of peppermint for itching. More high quality research is needed.
Performance enhancement (cognitive and attentional function)
In preliminary study, peppermint aroma has shown mixed effects on cognition, attention, and alertness. Additional research is required before a firm conclusion can be made.
Post-herpetic neuralgia (herpes zoster pain)
There is currently insufficient research available to determine if there are benefits of peppermint oil in the treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia. More high quality studies are needed in this area.
Post-operative nausea (inhalation)
There is insufficient evidence to evaluate the potential benefit of peppermint oil in the treatment of postoperative nausea. More high quality studies are needed in this area.
There is currently insufficient evidence regarding the use of peppermint for stress. More high quality studies are needed in this area.
Aromatherapy with peppermint oil, lavender, and rosemary has been used to reduce shoulder pain and improve motor power in patients recovering from strokes. Although treatment appeared to have beneficial effects, it is unclear if this was caused by peppermint oil or the other two herbs used. Additional studies using peppermint oil alone are needed.
Peppermint oil has been traditionally inhaled to relieve nasal and pulmonary congestion. While some preliminary evidence has suggested that inhalation of peppermint oil may have benefit in the treatment of tuberculosis, additional high-quality research is required before a firm conclusion can be made.
Urinary tract infection
Peppermint tea added to other therapies has been used in the treatment of urinary tract infections. It is not clear if this is an effective treatment, and it is not recommended to rely on peppermint tea alone to treat this condition.
Vigilance improvement in brain injury (aromatherapy)
There is currently a lack of sufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of peppermint oil to affect vigilance following brain injuries. More high quality studies are needed in this area.