December 5, 2022

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Peppermint Essential Oil: Uses and Benefits

5 min read

Ah, peppermint. It’s a classic scent and taste that almost everyone enjoys. What positive associations do you associate with peppermint? Sweets your grandmother sniffed you, fresh mint breath, hot mint chocolate or latte on a cold winter morning?

And not just for culinary enjoyment and oral care. Oil distilled from the peppermint plant – scientific name Mentha x piperita – is commonly useful for medicinal and aromatic purposes. Peppermint oil contains beneficial compounds, particularly high levels of menthol, that give it antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

I’m not really an essential oil guy, but lavender oil and peppermint oil are two that we usually keep on hand because they’re so multifunctional. Here are some research-backed benefits of peppermint.

6 reasons to use peppermint oil

Peppermint Oil Helps IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

I know from personal experience how IBS symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and cramps, impact daily quality of life. For me, removing grains and adopting a more primal lifestyle made all the difference, but if you’re still struggling with IBS symptoms, peppermint oil might help.

Two recent meta-analyses concluded that enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules are significantly better than placebo at relieving pain and global IBS symptoms. It is also effective for children. It may work by reducing muscle spasms, killing pathogens, directly relieving pain, and/or reducing inflammation.

Peppermint oil for headaches

This may be one of the oldest traditional uses for peppermint. Contemporary studies confirm that peppermint oil applied topically or intranasally can relieve headaches as well as traditional pain relievers or lidocaine.

Mix a drop or two of peppermint essential oil in a carrier oil like jojoba oil. Massage the oil into your temples with your fingertips, being careful not to get too close to your eyes. (Trust me, peppermint plus eyeballs isn’t a good combination.) Or, put 5 to 10 drops of peppermint oil in a diffuser and practice some resonance breathing. This is especially good if you have tension headaches.

Prevent nausea and vomiting

A friend of mine had an operation a while ago. As part of the post-op care, the hospital offered him the option of aromatherapy – he had a choice of a few different scents, including peppermint, which he could smell to help control post-op nausea and vomiting. And it worked, which he thought was pretty cool. I’ve heard of other hospitals using this approach. In some studies I looked at, peppermint oil not only relieved nausea and vomiting, patients preferred it to antiemetics.

Peppermint oil aromatherapy has been shown to be effective post-operatively, as my friend can attest, during pregnancy and during chemotherapy. Products containing peppermint oil can also help with motion sickness.

May relieve itching

Chronic itching, called pruritus, can drive you up the wall. Two small studies suggest peppermint oil might help. In one case, participants applied either peppermint oil or petroleum jelly to areas of chronic itching twice a day for two weeks. In the other, pregnant women took either a placebo or peppermint oil diluted in sesame oil orally twice a day for two weeks. In both studies, peppermint oil provided better itching relief than the alternative.

Some people also use peppermint oil topically to relieve symptoms of skin conditions like eczema. However, peppermint can be too pungent for some people’s sensitive skin, so proceed with caution. Always mix it in a carrier oil, and before applying it to already inflamed skin, take the time to do a patch test. Apply a small amount of diluted peppermint oil to an area of ​​skin where you don’t have eczema or a psoriatic rash (the inside of your arm if possible). Dab on the oil mixture morning and night for a week. If everything looks good, apply a small amount to the affected area and see how it reacts.

Peppermint oil for allergies?

I know a few people who swear by the “allergy trio” for seasonal allergies — peppermint, lavender, and lemon essential oils. I haven’t been able to find any actual research on its effectiveness, but it’s clear that many people believe it helps with their allergy symptoms. Placebo? Maybe, but if it works… Next time you have allergies, put a few drops of these oils in a diffuser and see if you notice any benefit.

Peppermint Oil for Bugs and Pests

Peppermint oil may be a safer alternative to chemical insect repellents in certain circumstances. It is particularly effective for getting rid of aphids in your garden. Peppermint (and many other plants) produce a chemical called (E)-beta-farnesene, which acts as a chemical messenger between flora and fauna. (Technically, if you need a factoid for your next dinner party, (E)-beta-farnesene is an olefin, and ants produce it to use as a tracking pheromone to mark food routes for other ants.)

I digress. You can make a DIY pest spray by filling a spray bottle with it

2 cups water 10 to 15 drops of peppermint essential oil A few drops of dish soap (optional)

shake it. Before spraying it over your plants, test it on a few leaves and wait a few days. Tomatoes and radishes in particular may not like having peppermint oil sprayed on them.

You can also use this spray on countertops to deter ants from marching into your kitchen. Or put a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton pad and place it where ants enter your home. Anecdotally, some people have had success getting rid of spiders and mice this way as well. Don’t leave peppermint oil lying around if you have dogs or cats, however, as it can be toxic.

Peppermint Oil Safety

Peppermint oil is generally considered safe for humans to use topically (when diluted appropriately), aromatically (diffused), or when taken as directed in prepared enteric-coated capsules. However, some people are more sensitive to this than others, so always test your reaction.

Peppermint oil can also interact with the drug cyclosporine. Talk to your doctor before taking enteric-coated capsules if you have low stomach acid or are taking PPIs or H2 blockers.

And keep peppermint oil away from pets.

Diffusion is a great place to start. Try it the next time you have a headache, allergies, nausea, are stressed, or need to focus. Let me know if it helps.

About the author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather of the primal food and lifestyle movement, and New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, in which he explains how he combines the keto diet with a primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The Primal Blueprint, which in 2009 is credited with accelerating the growth of the Primal/Paleo movement and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark founded Primal Kitchen, a real food company that sells Primal/ Paleo, Keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen clips.

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