Peppermint has been used for health purposes for many years, with experts believing that the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans used mint thousands of years ago.
Peppermint, the Latin name of which is Mentha piperita, is widely used today, as a flavoring in foods, fragrance or “cooling” effect in cosmetics, and supplement for health conditions that include digestive problems and headaches.
Peppermint, in the form of an essential oil, is used in cosmetics and foods for its minty fragrance, taste, and cooling effect, with some believing it may even encourage hair growth.
There is a clear distinction between peppermint oil and other peppermint products found in stores, such as syrups, flavorings, or bath and body oils.
Essential oils are a concentrated form of plant extracts that impart their odor and flavor.
It may take more than 200 pounds of a plant to make just 1 pound of an essential oil.
Thus, peppermint oil or any essential oil should be used with care to avoid reactions, side effects, or toxicity. The benefit of essential oils is that only a small amount may have a strong effect.
Peppermint oil is used in shampoos, cleansers, bath products, makeup, and lotions. But, the benefits of peppermint oil may go beyond cosmetics. Though research is limited, peppermint oil could hold promise as a hair growth treatment.
A study published in Toxicological Research suggests that a peppermint oil solution promotes hair growth. The peppermint oil used performed better than minoxidil, which is a hair growth product approved by United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Menthol, the main component in peppermint oil, has been shown to increase blood flow to the area where it is applied.
A study in Microvascular Research found that a 4 percent menthol solution caused blood vessels to widen, which increases blood flow.
Though this has not been directly linked to hair growth, better blood circulation to the skin could, in theory, encourage more hair to grow in the affected area.
Many shampoos and hair products contain small amounts of peppermint oil or menthol due to their cooling effect and fragrance. Skin care products, such as toners and cleansers, often contain menthol, as well.
This content in hair and beauty products can promote a feeling of cooling and cleanliness and enhance the scent of the product.
But, if the concentration of peppermint oil is not listed on the label, it is difficult to know if a shampoo contains enough for potential hair growth.
For those looking to use peppermint oil for possible hair growth, a more reliable method may be to add high-quality peppermint essential oil directly to a shampoo or conditioner before use.
But, a concentration of 3 percent oil, as highlighted in the Toxicological Research study, can be difficult to measure without the proper scales.
So, a rule of thumb is for someone to add 1 or 2 drops to the hair product in their hand, mix it, and apply it to the hair. A light tingle is desirable but burning or too much tingling may mean the oil is too strong.
If this happens, immediately rinse the product off the skin and hair and try less oil next time. If burning or irritation continues, a person should see a doctor.
Peppermint oil is classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
A report in the International Journal of Toxicology states that peppermint oil was found to be “minimally toxic” in oral studies, based on several different studies that used high doses.
But, essential oils are usually very concentrated, which means a little can go a long way.
The American Academy of Family Physicians state that peppermint oil, similarly to many essential oils, can be toxic in high doses.
However, they say the small amount that is included in over-the-counter medications, herbal teas, and cosmetics is probably safe.
Peppermint oil should not be used full strength on the skin or scalp. Instead, it should be diluted with a carrier oil, such as jojoba or coconut oil, or mixed in with a hair product.
Products that contain peppermint oil should not be applied to the face or chest of babies or children, as they may cause breathing problems when the menthol is inhaled.
Also, care should be taken to avoid applying the oil to the sensitive skin around the eyes and the to eyes themselves, as burning, irritation, and pain can occur.
Hair loss affects millions of men and women, and it can have a negative impact on a person’s mental and social well-being.
A study in the Journal of Health Psychology concluded that hair loss can cause “dramatic and devastating emotions,” leading to problems with self-esteem and self-confidence.
So, due to its overall safety and low risk of side effects when used topically and in the correct dilution, peppermint oil may be worth a try if a person is unhappy about their hair.
If hair loss occurs suddenly and without a clear cause, a person should see their doctor to rule out any underlying health conditions.