Peppermint Essential Oil: Uses and Benefits
Introduction to Peppermint oil
Peppermint is used in candy and sweet treats for adults and kids alike, but it also has medicinal uses.
The scientific name is Mentha x piperita, and is often just called "mint". Peppermint originally came from Europe, but can now be found in backyards and gardens all over the world, as well as growing in the wild.
Believe it or not, humans have been using peppermint plant oil for almost ten thousand years….and peppermint, which is a hybrid of two plants, has therefore been referred to as the “world’s oldest medicine.” You'll find it in pretty much every brand of toothpaste, for the clean taste and smell that it adds.
The modern peppermint plant is actually a hybrid of two original wild plants - water mint and spearmint - and has stronger medicinal properties than either of the two originals; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
New studies are showing that traditional wisdom about this plant was right on target. Read on for more uses and benefits of this wonderful, spicy-smelling essential oil.
- Peppermint Oil [NCCAM Herbs at a Glance]
Basic information on peppermint oil, including common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources to learn more. From the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Tummy troubles? Try Peppermint Oil
One of the most useful applications of peppermint plant oil is for gastrointestinal and digestive disorders, including nausea and indigestion.
Have you ever eaten a mint after dinner? Restaurants serve peppermints after a meal not just as a breath and mouth freshener, but also to aid digestion.
More importantly, a study conducted in 2007 showed that 75% of the patients in the study who took peppermint oil capsules for four weeks had a major reduction in irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. That’s great news for those of us who love peppermint sweets, chocolate, and ice cream! (Although it's hard to pretend that the extra sugar and fat in those foods is actually healthy.....)
If you want to read the medical facts in more detail, a link to resources can be found to the right of this text.
Other tips for using peppermint essential oil at home
For poison ivy or poison oak rash, apply diluted peppermint oil to soothe the itching;
Inhale peppermint oil before a workout to boost your mood and reduce fatigue;
Hot Flushes: Breathe in the aroma of peppermint oil for about five minutes. You’ll cool off quickly;
Got a stuffy nose from a cold, flu, or allergies? Place a drop of peppermint oil on the tongue and inhale to relieve congestion, or put a few drops in a bowl of warm water with the same number of drops of eucalyptus oil, for a natural decongestant;
Paint fume fix: Mix half of a small bottle of peppermint oil into a gallon of paint to dispel the fumes;
Remove a tick: Apply a drop of peppermint oil to the tick and it will unlatch itself from the host, without leaving its head behind (a risk if you just pull at a tick);
Mix a few drops of peppermint oil in a warm footbath to relieve sore, hot, swollen or over-used feet, or use a foot cream with cooling peppermint essential oil in it.
How Should I Take Peppermint Oil?
How you take peppermint oil can make a world of difference.
In capsule form, it is much more effective to take it on an empty stomach, since the oil needs to pass through the stomach unimpeded and reach the intestines before it dissolves.
If you've eaten and have a full or partially-full stomach, the oil can be discharged too high up in your digestive system, and not give as much in the way of benefits.
Another way to ingest peppermint is through herbal tea. Peppermint tea is naturally caffeine-free and can be sweetened with a little honey or plain sugar.
Brew 1-2 tablespoons dried (or 3-4 tablespoons fresh) mint leaves per eight ounce cup of freshly-boiled water. You can also buy ready-made peppermint tea bags (I use two per mug, rather than one)
The stronger the tea, the better the effects on your digestion, so don't be afraid to make a dark brew!
Peppermint tea is an amazingly refreshing and invigorating drink, too, perfect for hot afternoons and evenings. Mint tea is common all over the Middle East, particularly after dinner. You can drink mint tea hot, warm or cold, and all are enjoyable.
Keep your garden pest-free with peppermint plants and peppermint oils
Peppermint oil is a safe, natural way to repel pests in your home and garden. The oil’s strong, clear smell deters many household pests. The following spray will repel ants, aphids, plant lice, and types of beetles.
Peppermint oil spray: Fill a quart-sized container with water and add 10-15 drops of peppermint oil. Shake well. Spray leaves of plants or along the sides of buildings to drive away pests.
To discourage mice, put a few drops of peppermint essential oil on cotton balls and place them around your house. Use the scent on areas where mice might enter homes, such as in basements or doorways.
For gophers, moles, and other burrowing animals, try mixing a tablespoon of peppermint oil in a quart of water and then pour or spray on the hole.
Growing your own peppermint plants
For those who want to grow the peppermint herb at home, be aware of this: peppermint will take over your yard or garden quickly if you don’t contain it!
Easy-to-grow peppermint plants generally do well in shaded areas and need a good water supply.
As soon as the flowers begin to open, collect the leaves and flowering tops to use in your kitchen or medicine chest. Dry the leaves in a warm, dry place for at least a week to prevent mould from forming.
It’s best to use plants from a nursery or garden centre, as shop-bought peppermint plant seeds don’t always grow into true peppermint, but rather into a strangely-scented spearmint plant.
True peppermint plants rarely
produce seeds, because they are hybrid plants rather than originals, and therefore tend to be sterile.
Peppermint aromatherapy oil
Peppermint oil is commonly used in aromatherapy products.
Peppermint aromatherapy massage of the stomach and abdomen can relieve symptoms of nausea and indigestion, as can inhaling from a few drops of essential oil in warm water.
Aromatherapy massages aiming to invigorate and energise very often include peppermint oil.
Aromatherapy products frequently blend peppermint oil with one or many of the folloing essential oils, as they are good in combination:
- tea tree
Aromatherapy cream for strained or tired muscles and ligaments usually includes peppermint oil, as it warms and encourages blood flow to the area.
Herbal Lore - Peppermint
Did you know that honeybees love the peppermint flower? They produce a sweet-smelling honey from peppermint fields.
People who should avoid peppermint
Infants and children should avoid peppermint oil capsules, and adults should use peppermint essential oil in small doses to be effective.
Possible side effects include allergic reactions and heartburn - neither is particularly common, but anyone who suffers an adverse reaction should obviously steer clear of peppermint oil thereafter.
Be sure to avoid using this potent oil around eyes and nose to avoid burning sensitive skin.