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 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).

This article discusses the health benefits of peppermint and the possible side effects. It also covers what dosages are used and what to look for when buying it.

peppermint oil
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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 other conditions. Some of these include hot flashes, dental plaque, bad breath, pain from shingles, stress, morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting.

There is not enough evidence to know for sure if peppermint oil can provide any of these benefits.

Recap

Peppermint has been used for a wide variety of conditions, from heartburn to hot flashes. However, research studies haven't found enough evidence that peppermint is an effective treatment for these conditions.

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 cells. This reduces spasms in the gastrointestinal muscles.

In addition, peppermint oil also contains the following properties:

  • Antimicrobial: Reduces microorganisms, like bacteria or viruses
  • Anti-inflammatory: Treats inflammation
  • Antioxidant: Protects cells from damage
  • Immunomodulating: Affects the body's immune system
  • Anesthetic: Helps reduce the feeling of pain

All of these may be relevant in the treatment of IBS.

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. This led the American College of Gastroenterology to recommend peppermint oil as a front-line treatment.Antispasmodics help to relax the smooth muscles in the digestive tract to reduce symptoms.

One study 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 side effects. Specifically, some have reported heartburn or burning sensations in the rectal area when using it 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.

In one study, patients received a product containing 90 milligrams (mg) of peppermint oil and 50 mg of caraway oil. It was taken two or three times daily for up to four weeks.

In a study involving IBS patients, one to two enteric-coated capsules were used three times a day. Each of the capsules provided 0.2 mL or 180 to 225 mg of peppermint oil.

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

Recap

Peppermint oil may cause some side effects, such as heartburn, a burning sensation in the rectal area, or allergic reactions. There isn't a recommended dose of peppermint oil, so check with your doctor before using it.

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. That's because 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. It will give you information about what is in the product. Some products contain other ingredients.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests looking for one with a seal of approval from a third-party organization providing 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. It does indicate that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients on the label, and doesn't contain harmful levels of contaminants.

Recap

When buying peppermint oil capsules, look for the ones that are enteric-coated, since they don't dissolve in your stomach. Check the label for information about ingredients and quality testing.

Summary

Peppermint oil has been used to treat various conditions. Most of these aren't supported by research, though it does seem to be helpful for relieving irritable bowel syndrome. Side effects may include heartburn or a burning sensation in the rectal area. When buying a peppermint oil supplement, look for a seal of approval from U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab, or NSF International.

A Word From Verywell

If you're thinking of using peppermint oil as a supplement, check with your doctor. They can help you decide whether it would be helpful for your condition. They can also help you determine the dosage you should take.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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