Find out all about peppermint oil, including what it does, the benefits to taking it and how much you might need
Written by Beth Gibbons on December 6, 2018
Reviewed by Dr Sarah Schenker on December 18, 2018
What is peppermint oil and what does it do?
Peppermint oil is extracted from the peppermint plant, which grows throughout Europe and North America. Peppermint has been used throughout the ages for its distinctive flavour and aroma, and as a traditional herbal aid for the following:1
- digestive problems
Today, peppermint oil is popular for the following:
- soothing digestive problems, like gut spasms and indigestion
- relieving tension headaches and muscular pain2
Peppermint oil is available as tablets, an essential oil, tincture or tea.
Benefits of peppermint oil
What does peppermint oil do in the body?
It helps muscles relax: peppermint’s main active ingredient, menthol, found in the leaves and flowers of the plant is thought to have a relaxing effect on the smooth muscle of the intestine, relieving muscle spasms.3,4 When applied to the skin, it’s muscle-relaxant effect has been shown to soothe headaches, too.5
It can ease stomach pain: scientists think peppermint temporarily desensitises pain sensors in the gut, reducing abdominal discomfort.6 A 2016 study in Digestive Diseases and Sciences found it also works as an anti-inflammatory and reduces excess gassiness, which can relieve tummy aches and pains.7
It can tackle constipation: peppermint’s relaxant effect on muscles means it also speeds up transit of food through the gut, reducing symptoms of indigestion such as bloating and constipation.8
It can help keep your teeth clean: peppermint is a popular toothpaste flavour for a reason, and not just the fresh minty taste. It has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, which can help your mouth fight against dental plaque.9
How much peppermint oil is safe to take?
Peppermint is usually safe for adults, but it shouldn’t be used by children under four years old, or for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.10
For digestive complaints, take peppermint in capsule form or as a tea. Read the label carefully for instructions. It’s generally recommended that adults can take between 0.2-0.4ml peppermint oil in capsule form up to three times a day.11
For headache relief, apply 10% of peppermint essential oil diluted with a carrier oil, such as almond oil, sparingly to the skin.
What are the side-effects of taking or using peppermint oil?
- skin irritation
- allergic reaction12
If you experience any of these side-effects, stop taking peppermint oil and see your GP.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
1. European Medicines Agency. Assessment report on Mentha X Piperita L Folium
2. National Center For Complimentary And Integrative Health. Peppermint Oil
3. Encyclopedia.com. Peppermint
4. Ford AC, et al. Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis
5. Gobel H, Schmidt G, Soyka D. Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters
6. Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. GI Society. Peppermint and IBS Pain Relief
7. Cash BD, Epstein MS, Shah SM. A Novel Delivery System of Peppermint Oil is an Effective Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms
8. As above
9. Dagli N, et al. Essential oils, their therapeutic properties, and implication in dentistry: A review
10. As Source 1
11. American Family Physician. Peppermint oil
12. As Source 2