Peppermint is an aromatic plant, created from the blending of water mint and spearmint.

Peppermint is used to add flavor or fragrance to foods, cosmetics, soaps, toothpaste, mouthwashes, and other products, and it may have some medicinal uses.

A person can also use dried or fresh peppermint (Mentha piperita) leaves to brew tea.

Peppermint is originally from Europe, but now people cultivate it all over the world. This article is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods.

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Peppermint is a popular traditional remedy for a number of conditions.

Research shows it may be effective in alleviating:

The different forms of peppermint may be good for helping different ailments. These forms and the conditions they may help include:

Peppermint oil

Indigestion

Peppermint oil can help calm the stomach muscles and improve the flow of bile. This makes it suitable for people who have indigestion.

However, it should not be used by people with gastroesophageal reflex disease (GERD), which has different causes of indigestion.

Irritable bowel syndrome

A 2018 review suggests that peppermint, in various forms, can help treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

These symptoms include:

  • pain
  • bloating
  • diarrhea
  • gas

Skin conditions

Peppermint oil is widely used for calming skin irritation and itchiness, as well as reducing redness. However, a person should always dilute it before using it on the skin.

According to the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, a good recipe is 1 ounce (oz) of carrier oil, such as mineral or olive oil, mixed with 3–6 drops of the essential oil. Before use, test a small amount of the diluted oil on the forearm to rule out an allergic reaction.

However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support or challenge this use.

Headaches and migraine

Research from 2016 found that applying diluted peppermint oil onto the forehead can be an effective remedy for a tension headache.

A review of 19 other studies showed that while the evidence for using herbal remedies for migraine is inconsistent, the effect of menthol (the key ingredient in peppermint) may be positive.

Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy

Many people who experience nausea during pregnancy say they notice benefits from using peppermint in its various forms, including oil. However, studies have either been inconclusive or contradictory.

According to a 2016 study on the safety of herbal medicines in pregnancy, 15.9% of study participants used peppermint for nausea relief.

A 2018 study showed that the effect of peppermint oil on nausea during pregnancy was not significantly different from the effect of a placebo. However, both the study group and the placebo group participants experienced a decrease in symptoms.

A person who is pregnant should speak with a doctor before taking peppermint for any reason.

Relieving chemotherapy-induced vomiting

Nausea and vomiting, or emesis, are common side effects experienced by cancer patients during chemotherapy.

A 2021 study found that peppermint oil significantly reduced the frequency of nausea, vomiting, and retching in people undergoing chemotherapy.

The study concluded that treating these symptoms in such patients with peppermint oil is relatively safe.

Peppermint steam

Colds and flu

Menthol, the main chemical component of peppermint, is an effective decongestant. Decongestants shrink the swollen membranes in the nose, making it easier to breathe.

Menthol is also an expectorant. Expectorants loosen and bring up mucus from the lungs. This helps people with coughs.

For the best results, a person can add 3–4 drops of peppermint essential oil to hot water and then inhale the steam.

Peppermint capsules

Treating and healing chronic wounds

Research published in the journal ACS Nano suggests that scientists have found a way to package antimicrobial compounds from peppermint and cinnamon in tiny capsules that can both kill biofilms and actively promote healing.

The researchers packaged peppermint oil and cinnamaldehyde, the compound in cinnamon responsible for its flavor and aroma, into silica nanoparticles.

The microcapsule treatment was effective against four different types of bacteria, including one antibiotic-resistant strain. It also promoted the growth of fibroblasts, a cell type that is important in wound healing.

Although research suggests that essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these. A person should talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils, and they should be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. A person should always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

Peppermint can consist of fresh or dry leaves for use in food or as tea. A person can find peppermint essential oil as an ingredient in tinctures, chest rubs, and creams.

A person can also swallow it in the form of enteric-coated capsules. This allows the peppermint to pass into the intestine.

Peppermint essential oil is a concentrated oil that is extracted from the peppermint plant by steam distillation. The whole fresh or partly dried plant is used before it starts to flower.

The amounts of the chemical components in peppermint oil may vary depending on the batch, and where and how it was produced. 2019 research showed the following component amounts:

  • menthol (38.45%)
  • menthone (21.8%)
  • 1,8-cineole (5.62%)
  • neo-menthol (4.19%)

Like other essential oils, a person should not take peppermint essential oil orally. It is important to make sure to dilute it with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin.

Peppermint and spearmint are similar plants, but they have different consistencies and benefits.

Peppermint (mentha piperita), which is derived from spearmint, contains more than 30% menthol and up to 0.2% carvone. Carvone is a substance found in many plant essential oils.

Spearmint (mentha spicata), on the other hand, contains up to 70% carvone and only up to 1% menthol.

Both plants may help alleviate digestive symptoms and nausea. They also provide some pain relief.

However, peppermint works better for relieving respiratory and skin symptoms, whereas spearmint can function as an anticonvulsant and helps activate the white blood cells in a person’s blood. Peppermint is a stimulant, while spearmint is a sedative.

Peppermint, like many other herbs, can interact with other herbs, supplements, or drugs. Peppermint can also trigger side effects in some individuals. It is possible to be allergic to peppermint.

Anyone who already receives medication should talk with their doctor before using peppermint. Peppermint should not be used by young children. When applied to a child’s face, peppermint can cause life threatening breathing problems.

Peppermint is not recommended for people who:

  • have a hiatus hernia
  • have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • have an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • have hemolytic anemia

What medications does peppermint interfere with?

Peppermint may interact with some drugs, including:

People should also not use it with antacids. This is because some peppermint supplements are in capsule form. Their coating may break down too rapidly if the patient is also taking an antacid, increasing the risk of heartburn.

Peppermint is a plant that is a combination of water mint and spearmint. A person can drink it as a tea, use it as an essential oil, or as take it as a herbal medicine in the form of a capsule.

Research shows peppermint can help alleviate a variety of ailments, including gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and nausea.