|| Mentha x piperita
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), a popular flavoring for gum,
toothpaste, and tea, also serves as a calming agent to soothe an an upset
stomach or to aid in digestion. Because it has a calming and numbing effect, it
has been used to treat headaches, skin irritations, anxiety associated with
depression, nausea, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, and flatulence. It is also
widely used to treat symptoms of the common cold. These and other conditions for
which peppermint may be beneficial are listed below.
Peppermint calms the muscles of the stomach and
improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. As a result, food
passes through the stomach more quickly. It is important to know, however, if
your symptoms of indigestion are related to a condition called gastoesophageal
reflux disease or GERD, peppermint should not be used -
Peppermint relaxes the muscles that allow
the body to rid itself of painful digestive gas.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
A number of studies have shown
the beneficial effects of enteric-coated peppermint capsules for treating
symptoms of IBS, such as pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. (Enteric-coated
capsules keep the oil from being released in the stomach, which can lead to
heartburn and indigestion.) A recent study comparing enteric-coated peppermint
oil capsules to placebo in children with IBS found that after 2 weeks, 75% of
those treated had reduced symptoms. This is in keeping with an earlier study of
adults in which 79% of participants receiving peppermint experienced a relief in
the severity of pain.
Peppermint has the potential to influence
menstrual periods and, because it relaxes muscles, may help to relieve painful
Peppermint oil may help the body break down
Peppermint oil has exhibited antiviral properties
against a number of infectious agents, including herpes.
Itching and Skin Irritations
Peppermint, when applied
topically, has a soothing and cooling effect on skin irritations caused by
hives, poison ivy, or poison oak.
Research has shown that peppermint applied to
the forehead and temples compares favorably with acetaminophen (a commonly used
over the counter medication) in terms of its ability to reduce headache
Colds and Flu
Peppermint and its main active agent, menthol,
are effective decongestants. Because menthol thins mucus, it is also a good
expectorant, meaning that it helps loosen and breaks up coughs with phlegm. It
is soothing and calming for sore throats (pharyngitis) and dry coughs as well.
Peppermint plants grow to about two feet tall. They bloom from July through
August, sprouting tiny purple flowers in whorls and terminal spikes. Simple,
toothed, and fragrant leaves grow opposite the flowers. Peppermint is native to
Europe and Asia, is naturalized to North America, and grows wild in moist,
temperate areas. Some varieties are indigenous to South Africa, South America,
|What's It Made Of?|
Peppermint preparations start with the leaves and flowering tops of the
plant. These contain a volatile oil, peppermint's primary active component,
Peppermint tea is prepared from dried leaves of the plant. Such teas are
widely available commercially.
Peppermint spirit (tincture) in an alcoholic solution containing 10%
peppermint oil and 1% peppermint leaf extract. A tincture can be prepared by
adding 1 part peppermint oil to 9 parts pure grain alcohol.
Enteric-coated capsules, which are specially coated to allow the capsule to
pass through the stomach and into the intestine (0.2 mL of peppermint oil per
Creams or ointments (should contain 1% to 16% menthol)
|How to Take It|
For digestion and upset stomach: 1 to 2 mL peppermint glycerite per day
Peppermint tea soothes an upset stomach and can aid digestion. It can be
prepared using the infusion method of pouring boiling water over the herb and
then steeping for 3 to 5 minutes. Use 1 to 2 tsp of dried peppermint leaf to 8
oz of hot water.
- Irritable bowel syndrome: Take 1 to 2 coated capsules three times per
day between meals.
- Gallstones: Take 1 to 2 enteric-coated capsules three times per day
- Itching and skin irritations: Apply menthol, the active ingredient in
peppermint, in a cream or ointment form no more than three to four times per
- Tension headaches: Using a tincture of 10% peppermint oil to 90%
ethanol, lightly coat the forehead and allow the tincture to evaporate.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and
treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger
side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For
these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a
practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.
Peppermint tea is generally a safe way to soothe an upset stomach. However,
peppermint should not be used by those with gastoesophageal reflux disease (GERD
-- a condition in which stomach acids back up into the esophagus) even though
some of the symptoms include indigestion and heartburn. This is because
peppermint can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, allowing
stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. (The sphincter is the muscle that
separates the esophagus from the stomach.) By relaxing the sphincter, peppermint
may actually worsen the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion.
Pregnant or nursing mothers should drink peppermint tea only in moderation
and those with a history of miscarriage should not use peppermint at all while
Rare negative reactions to enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules may include
skin rash, slowed heart rate, and muscle tremors.
Menthol or peppermint oil applied to the skin can cause contact dermatitis or
other type of rash, including, possibly hives. Some have described hot flashes
from the oil. It should be kept away from the eyes and other mucus membranes and
should not be inhaled by or applied to the face of an infant or small child.
Peppermint oil should be diluted and taken in very small amounts, since it can
cause negative reactions such as those listed above, cramping and diarrhea, as
well as, rarely drowsiness, tremor, muscle pain, slowed heart rate, and, in
severe cases of overdose, coma. Pure menthol is poisonous and should never be
taken internally. It is important not to confuse oil and tincture preparations.
5-Fluorouracil for Cancer
In an animal study, topical
peppermint oil increased the absorption of 5-fluorouracil, a medication used to
treat cancer that was also applied topically. It is too early to draw
conclusions about the applicability of these findings to people. Therefore, it
would be wise to avoid applying peppermint oil topically when using other
topical medications for cancer.
Abdullah D, Ping QN, Liu G. Enhancing effect of essential oils on the
penetration of 5-fluorouracil through rat skin. Yao Hsueh Hsueh Pao.
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Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy,
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Dew MJ, Evans BK, Rhodes J. Peppermint oil for the irritable bowel syndrome:
a multicentre trial. Br J Clin Pract.
Gobel H, Schmidt G, Soyka D. Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil
preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache
parameters. Cephalalgia. 1994;14(3):228-234.
Hills J. The mechanism of action of peppermint oil on gastrointestinal smooth
muscle. Gastroenterology. 1991;101:55-65.
Kline RM, Kline JJ, Di Palma J, Barbero GJ. Enteric-coated, pH-dependent
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children. J Pediatr. 2001;138(1):125-128.
Koch TR. Peppermint oil and irritable bowel syndrome. Am J
Liu JH, Chen GH, Yeh HZ, Huang CK, Poon SK. Enteric-coated peppermint-oil
capsules in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective, randomized
J Gastroenterol. 1997;32(6):765-768.
Pittler MH, Ernst E. Peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome: a critical
review and meta-analysis. Am J Gastroenterol.
Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. New York:
Churchill Livingstone; 1999:827-829, 1361-1362, 1558.
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Phytomedicinals. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press; 1999: 67-68.
Woolf A. Essential oil poisoning. Clinical Toxicology.
|Review Date: April 2002|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Steven Dentali, PhD (April 1999),
Senior Director of Botanical Science, Rexall Sundown, Boca Raton, FL; Jacqueline
A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard
University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary
Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick,
MA; Steven Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's
Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; R. Lynn Shumake, PD, Director,
Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts,
University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG (March
1999), Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD. All interaction sections have also
been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The
Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000),
Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March
2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy;
President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH,
MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative
Medicine, Honolulu, HI.|
Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc
The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of
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of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage
to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or
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regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed