We all know what peppermint smells like. And for most of us it features in our everyday life, from the toothpaste we brush our teeth with, to the gum we chew and the Mojitos we sip away on.
But other than smelling and tasting great, what are the benefits associated with using peppermint oil? How much of it should we use, what’s the best way to use it and are there any side effects you should know about? Learn all you need to know in this article…
What is peppermint oil?
Peppermint oil is extracted from the peppermint plant, which grows throughout Europe and North America.1
The plant, which is classed as being a herb, is a mix between two types of mint - water mint and spearmint. Both the leaves and the natural oil from the peppermint plant are used for beneficial purposes. The natural oil, where peppermint essential oil originates from, comes from both the flowers and leaves.
The entire peppermint plant contains menthol, which provides a cooling sensation and can help alleviate discomfort. It also has has cleansing, purifying and refreshing properties.2
These days, peppermint is used for all sorts of different purposes and is available in all sorts of different forms, such as tablets, essential oil, tinctures and tea.
Peppermint oil is extracted from the leaves and flowers of the peppermint plant, which grows throughout Europe and North America. Peppermint is a mix between two types of mint - water mint and spearmint.
What does peppermint oil do?
Peppermint oil can be used in so many ways. It can be applied topically to the skin, but make sure you dilute it first with a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil.
You can pop some in a diffuser and breathe in the refreshingly minty scent all around you. You can gently inhale it and you can drink peppermint tea. You can also bathe in it, either on its own or combined with other complementary essential oils, such as lavender and geranium.
What is peppermint oil good for?
You’ve probably realised by now that peppermint oil is used to provide a lot of ‘good’ for all sorts of benefits. We’ve listed several of them below:
7 benefits of peppermint oil
It helps muscles relax
Peppermint’s main active ingredient, menthol, is thought to have a relaxing effect on the smooth muscle of the intestine.3,4
It can ease stomach discomfort
Scientists think peppermint temporarily desensitises sensors in the gut, reducing abdominal discomfort.5 A 2016 study in Digestive Diseases and Sciences found it may also reduces excess gassiness.6
It can tackle constipation
Peppermint’s relaxant effect on muscles means it also speeds up the transit of food through the gut. This can reduce the symptoms of indigestion, such as bloating and constipation.7
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 strong cleansing properties, which can help your mouth fight dental plaque.8
It can help boost hair health
Peppermint essential oil can reportedly boost blood flow when applied to the scalp. In turn, this may aid your growth journey.9
Some initial studies have shown peppermint also has a soothing and cleansing effect on the scalp, which can be beneficial for overall hair health.
It can relieve itchy skin
Due to its cooling sensation, peppermint oil can help provide relief to discomfort caused by itchy skin. Dilute two drops of pure peppermint oil in one tablespoon of aloe vera gel or warm coconut oil and smooth over itchy or dry skin. Add a drop of tea tree oil for extra relief. Always carry out a patch test first.10
It can deter insects
Bugs hate the smell of peppermint! Spray some diluted peppermint oil on yourself to fend off ticks, spiders, ants and mosquitoes. Natural bug sprays use peppermint oil as one of their active ingredients, along with other oils, such as lemongrass, citronella and geranium. And if you do get bitten, applying peppermint oil can help reduce any itchiness.11
The benefits of peppermint oil are incredibly widespread and include easing stomach and muscle discomfort, keeping teeth clean, relieving itchy skin and keeping insects at bay.
Peppermint oil dosage
Peppermint is usually safe for adults when used according to provided instructions, but it shouldn’t be used by children under four-years-old or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.12
For digestive discomfort, 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 to 0.4ml of peppermint oil in capsule form up to three times a day.13
For headache relief, apply 10% of peppermint essential oil diluted with a carrier oil, such as almond oil, sparingly to the skin.
Peppermint oil side effects
- Skin irritation
- Allergic reaction14
If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking peppermint oil and see your GP.
Peppermint oil is generally considered safe for adults to take, unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Side effects are minimal and include heartburn, skin irritation and allergic reactions.
Drinking peppermint oil
Peppermint oil is reportedly safe to take orally and using it in this way has been proven to be safe in many clinical trials. However, you may get heartburn, nausea, abdominal pain or a dry mouth if you do drink it.15
One of the best and easiest ways to drink peppermint oil, is to make yourself a cup of peppermint tea.
Add it to herbal teas
Brew a cup of your favourite herbal tea, allow the tea to brew for three to five minutes. Then add one drop of peppermint oil and stir.
Enjoy it on its own
For hot drinks: Boil a cup of hot water and pour it into a mug. Mix in two to three drops of peppermint oil and drink.
For cold drinks: Pour yourself a glass of cold water and mix in one drop of peppermint oil to create a calorie-free, thirst-quenching drink.
Don’t forget, you can also buy ready-made peppermint teabags and loose-leaf peppermint tea.
Peppermint oil capsules
You can buy bottles of peppermint oil and you can buy peppermint tea. Peppermint oil’s also available in capsule form too.
When using peppermint oil to treat IBS, capsules tend to be taken. The capsule contains an enteric coating that prevents stomach acid from breaking it down. This enables the capsules to reach the intestines without being dissolved.16
Peppermint oil capsules should be taken with water and not opened or chewed, as this may degrade the outer coating and stop the capsule from reaching the bowel. As a result, the capsule may dissolve too early in the stomach rather than intestines. It’s best to take peppermint oil capsules at least 30 to 60 minutes before eating.
As well as inhaling and applying peppermint oil topically, you can drink it by adding it to herbal teas or hot or cold water. Alternatively, you can use peppermint tea bags. Peppermint capsules are often used to help relieve the symptoms of IBS.
How to make peppermint oil
Quite like the idea of making your own peppermint oil? Follow the guidance below for details on how to make it yourself.17
What you need:
- Fresh peppermint plant leaves
- A carrier oil of your choice (e.g. olive, grapeseed, coconut or jojoba oil)
- A small glass jar or container with a lid
- Spoon, knife, or mortar and pestle
- A small bowl
- Cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer
- Regular-sized strainer or colander
- Paper towels
How to make it:
1. Pick or buy your peppermint leaves
If you grow peppermint in your garden, pick off a good amount of leaves off the plant. Otherwise, buy some fresh mint from the supermarket.
2. Wash and dry the leaves
Throw the mint leaves into a strainer or colander and thoroughly rinse them with water. Then, wait for them to completely dry out. Spread the mint leaves out on paper towels and wait for them to dry.
3. Prepare the mint leaves
Use a spoon, knife or a pestle and mortar to crush up the leaves. You don’t have to chop them into little pieces. You just need to release the oil from the leaves.
4. Make the oil
Put a good amount of your dried peppermint leaves in your jar. Then, take your carrier oil of choice and completely cover all of the leaves. You don’t want to fill up the whole jar, otherwise the extract will be too diluted. Seal the jar tightly.
5. Wait for it to develop
Leave the mixture to sit for at least 24 hours. For extra potency, leave it for up to three days.
6. Strain your mixture
Get your strainer or cheesecloth and strain out the mint leaves. You can strain it into a separate cup or bowl. You’ll just be adding it right back into the jar once you’ve strained out the leaves.
7. Repeat steps 1 to 4
Repeat the first set of steps to prepare more leaves to be added into the jar. Add in the mint leaves and a little bit more carrier oil, and then seal the jar.
Let the oil sit with the newly-added leaves for another 24 hours, and then repeat the process again, for at least two more days. Three days is usually the magic number, but you can do more if you want the oil to be more concentrated.
Peppermint oil is a highly distinctive oil with its own set of uses and widespread benefits.
What’s more, if you happen to be a real mint-lover, then you may just enjoy simply sipping away on a peppermint tea brew, simply because you love the taste and smell of it. Highly versatile and with minimal side effects, no wonder peppermint oil’s been used in the health world over the years.
Last updated: 23 April