The Health Benefits of Peppermint Oil

This remedy may help IBS and provide other benefits

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Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is commonly used to flavor food, especially sweet treats. Peppermint oil and leaves have also been used medicinally to treat a variety of conditions, from heartburn to tension headaches.

Supporting research for these uses is lacking overall. An exception? Reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

peppermint oil
Verywell / JR Bee

Health Benefits

Peppermint has been used for hundreds of years to treat a variety of conditions. There is anecdotal and limited clinical evidence that peppermint leaf and peppermint oil may help in the treatment of:

  • Breastfeeding discomfort
  • Heartburn
  • Tension headache
  • Relief from discomfort during gastrointestinal exams

People have also used the minty herb—which is a mix of water mint and spearmint—to treat hot flashes, dental plaque, bad breath, pain from shingles, stress, morning sickness, nausea and vomiting, and a wide range of other conditions.

There is insufficient evidence to know for sure if peppermint oil can provide any of these benefits.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Peppermint oil has been studied in the treatment of IBS. Studies have provided promising results, according to a 2019 review.

Peppermint oil contains L-menthol, which blocks the calcium channels in smooth muscle and produces an antispasmodic effect on the gastrointestinal muscles.

In addition, peppermint oil also contains antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulating, and anesthetic activities, all of which may be relevant in the treatment of IBS.

A number of research studies have been conducted to assess whether or not peppermint oil is better than a placebo in reducing IBS symptoms.

In general, there has been some indication that peppermint oil is as effective as prescription antispasmodics, leading the American College of Gastroenterology to recommend peppermint oil as a front-line treatment.

There was one study published in 2001 that found that children with IBS experienced significantly less abdominal pain after two weeks of taking peppermint oil supplements. The results were dramatic, with 75% of the children experiencing pain relief.

Possible Side Effects

Peppermint oil is generally well tolerated, although there are some reports of heartburn or burning sensations in the rectal area when it is used to treat IBS.

Peppermint leaf and oil can also cause allergic reactions including flushing, headache, and mouth sores. You may also experience dermatitis (skin irritation) if you use peppermint oil on the skin.

Peppermint oil appears to be safe when taken in standard doses and has been used safely in many clinical trials. However, the safety of using large quantities of peppermint leaf or peppermint oil is not known.

Dosage and Preparation

There is no recommended dose of peppermint or peppermint oil. Studies investigating the herb's effects on different conditions have evaluated various doses.

For example, a product containing 90 milligrams (mg) of peppermint oil and 50 mg of caraway oil was taken two or three times daily for up to four weeks in a study that was part of a 2007 review of research on peppermint's effect on upset stomach.

In a study published in 2005 involving IBS patients, a thrice-daily dose of one to two enteric-coated capsules (each providing 0.2 mL or 180 to 225 mg of peppermint oil) was used.

As with any remedy, it is best to consult with your physician before trying peppermint oil.

What to Look For

Peppermint oil is available in liquid form and in capsules. Enteric-coated capsules are worth looking for, especially if you have IBS, as they protect the oil from being degraded by acid in the stomach.

When you buy a peppermint oil product or supplement, check the Supplement Facts label to get information about what is in the product (some contain other ingredients).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that you look for a product that contains a seal of approval from a third party organization that provides quality testing.

These organizations include U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab, and NSF International. Certification from one of these organizations does not guarantee the product's safety or effectiveness, but it does provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.

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Article Sources
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