Essential oils are amazingly popular and have a long history of being used for both medicinal and health reasons. At the same time, they are versatile, playing roles in aromatherapy, natural medicine, beauty, cleaning and many more areas.
This versatility is particularly clear when looking at the various peppermint oil uses. In fact, peppermint oil is one of the most common essential oils that people rely on, with lavender and tea tree oil being other popular options.
The popularity of peppermint as an essential oil isn’t just because people like the smell either. Instead, there are some particularly powerful implications of peppermint oil, which make it perfect for a wide range of different uses.
Peppermint Oil Benefits
Peppermint oil tends to produce a cooling sensation and can often be calming as a result. This is one of the key reasons that it is used topically and accounts for much of the oil’s popularity.
At the same time, peppermint oil does have some antimicrobial effects, which may be partly why the oil is so significant for digestive issues and bad breath.
There are many specific uses of peppermint oil, from the basic to the complex. However, most of these tie back to the same general set of benefits. In particular, peppermint oil is associated with the following:
- Relieving headaches
- Reducing bad breath
- Improving energy levels
- Increasing mental focus
- Helping with painful or tight muscles
- Reducing stomach pain and digestive issues
- Clearing the respiratory tract
There are also many other reasons and benefits for why people rely on peppermint oil. Some of these may be more relevant than others to your particular situation. However, they are all worth considering and can be attractive as ways to get the most out of peppermint oil.
Like other essential oils, peppermint oil can provide benefits because some of the chemicals from the plant are absorbed, such as when you rub the oil on your skin (1,2). Research also suggests that inhaling the aroma can help to stimulate the limbic system. This part of the brain plays a key role in emotions, memory and behaviors (3), which may be why the smell of essential oils can have such dramatic impacts.
Top Peppermint Oil Uses
Treating IBS. Peppermint oil is particularly well known for treating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and this is one area that has been studied significantly. In this case, the benefits are associated with supplementing the oil, rather than using it topically or breathing it in (4).
Reducing Indigestion. The digestive benefits of peppermint oil aren’t just limited to people with irritable bowel syndrome. Instead, the oil can be relevant to people with bloating and digestive issues. To get this benefit, you could add a drop of peppermint oil to water prior to a meal or drink peppermint tea.
Energy and Alertness
Increasing Energy. Peppermint is well-known for being energizing and the smell alone can often be a way to make your more alert and even improve your focus. The simplest way of doing this would be to sniff the oil. Additionally, you could choose to use an oil diffuser in the room that you are working or studying in.
Tackling Pain, Allergies and Disease
Reducing Joint Pain. Rubbing peppermint oil on joints can often help to reduce pain. Some people use a combination of peppermint oil and lavender oil for this purpose, especially as both have a similar relaxing outcome.
Reducing Muscle Pain. Peppermint oil may have a similar outcome for muscle pain as well. This could be particularly relevant after intense exercise or a workout at the gym. You don’t just have to use peppermint oil itself for this outcome either. Instead, you may be able to make a muscle rub and there are many such recipes online, along with books that offer advice on using essential oils.
Allergy Relief. Peppermint oil can also offer relief to many of the symptoms of allergies, including a blocked nasal passage and a sore throat. Some people suggest using a diffuser for this goal and also including eucalyptus and clove oil, both of which can also have similar outcomes.
Lowering a Fever. Peppermint’s cooling properties are well-known and these are particularly relevant in relation to fevers. As a result, peppermint oil can be a natural treatment to help bring down a fever, especially for people trying to avoid medication. One way of doing this is to combine peppermint and coconut oil and rub it on the bottom of the feet and neck. While medication may still be needed in some situations, having a natural alternative at hand is always appealing.
Relieving a Headache. The ability to relieve headaches is one of the key benefits of peppermint oil and the oil is particularly relevant for tension headaches. This happens because the oil can help relax muscles and improve circulation. The typical approach for taking advantage of peppermint oil in this way is to apply it directly to the temples and forehead (5).
Balancing Hormones. There is some indication that peppermint oil may help in balancing the hormones. This outcome may be particularly significant for people with polycystic ovary syndrome and could help in fighting the symptoms of that condition.
Hair and Skin
Skin Health. Peppermint oil can potentially improve a number of outcomes connected to the skin. This includes the chance to decrease inflammation and to improve the symptoms of some conditions, like eczema.
Reducing Itching. Another use of peppermint oil is to reduce itching, particularly if you have a rash of some type. Combining peppermint and lavender oil can be a key way of getting this outcome, although peppermint oil on its own could also be effective.
Treating Sunburn. The cooling effect of peppermint oil is also relevant for people with sunburn and the oil can serve to significantly reduce pain. It also has a hydrating effect, which can be beneficial as well.
Improving Hair Health. You can add a few drops of peppermint oil to your shampoo and/or conditioner to see a range of benefits. In particular, this may help you to wake up in the morning, especially as the smell of peppermint is naturally energizing. Additionally, doing so can help thicken hair and provide extra nourishment.
Fighting Lice and Dandruff. The antimicrobial nature of peppermint oil may help to fight lice and dandruff, while also contributing to better quality of hair overall.
Promoting Hair Growth. There is some suggestion that peppermint oil can help to reduce damage to hair, decrease hair loss and even promote growth.This is a pattern that Hair Loss Revolution talks about in more detail.
Other Benefits and Uses
Sinus Care. Simply inhaling peppermint oil (preferably diffused) can be a great way to unclog your sinuses. Likewise, the process can help offer relief for painful throats. As a result, peppermint oil is particularly relevant for people who have a cold or a cough, along with those who have other respiratory conditions.
Reducing Hunger. Some people find that the smell of peppermint oil can help to reduce their hunger and decrease cravings overall. For example, having peppermint oil diffusing in the room could, theoretically, decrease how often you snack and help with weight loss. As with many of these uses, the strength of the effect would be different from one person to the next. Still, if you struggle with weight loss, the idea is well worth trying.
Freshening the Breath. This use is exceptionally well-known, which is why there are so many peppermint-based products that are designed to help freshen the breath. To achieve this, you could just add a drop of peppermint oil onto your tongue. Alternatively, there are many products that you could make, like mouthwash and toothpaste.
Reducing Cavities. There is also some indication that peppermint oil could help to reduce cavities. Taking advantage of this would tend to involve the same approaches as for freshening your breath.
Helping with Teething. Peppermint oil is sometimes used to help infants to teeth. One way of doing so would be to mix coconut oil and peppermint oil together (in a 1:1 ratio) and rub this combination on the gums. However, it’s important to talk to a doctor about doing so first, as peppermint oil generally isn’t recommended for infants (6).
Repelling Bugs. Peppermint oil has a fairly intense smell, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that many bugs hate it. This includes ticks, spiders, ants and even mosquitos. For many people, this would be a much better alternative than the chemical-laden bug sprays out there. Plus, this particular outcome has been supported by research (7).
You don't have to use peppermint essential oil on its own either. Instead, many people use it as an ingredient in blends. This is a good way to get the benefits, without the intense scent of peppermint. The site The Miracle of Essential Oils offers a list of 15 diffuser blends to get you started.
Peppermint Oil Research
Essential oils are often viewed as being unscientific, with little evidence for the various health claims that are made. But, this isn’t strictly true. Instead, there has been a wide range of studies conducted on essential oils, including some on peppermint oil specifically.
In the case of peppermint oil, most research has been associated with irritable bowel syndrome and studies do indicate that peppermint oil can help improve outcomes. However, these outcomes are mostly associated with taking the oil in the form of a supplement (8,9).
Some other studies have suggested that peppermint oil itself may decrease indigestion and, when used topically, could help to reduce tension headaches (10,11).
Additionally, the role of peppermint oil as a decongestant does make sense, as menthol helps to thin mucus and can soothe throats (12).
Still, many of the peppermint oil uses discussed previously simply haven’t been studied. So, there is no objective way to know whether or not the oil helps with things like muscle aches, itching or other topics.
Nevertheless, there is considerable interest in essential oils and many people do feel that they are effective. Because of this, the simple answer may be to try peppermint oil for yourself and see what benefits it offers.
After all, most of the uses of peppermint oil haven’t been studied. This means that there isn't any proof that peppermint oil doesn’t work either.
It is also important to mention that essential oils aren’t standardized. As a result, the effects could easily vary between one preparation and another (13).
Finally, essential oils are an extremely challenging area to study.
Not only is funding difficult to obtain but the oils themselves present challenges. The lack of standardization is one aspect of this.
Additionally, the most powerful research uses placebos to ensure any results are genuine. However, using placebos is difficult with essential oils as they are aromatic in nature (14).
The challenges in research suggest that evidence about peppermint oil benefits may always be limited. Still, the best way to figure this out may be for people to simply try the oils for themselves and see what outcomes they experience.
Concerns and Possible Interactions
For the most part, peppermint oil is safe, especially as peppermint is common as an ingredient and some people regularly drink peppermint leaf tea. It has also been categorized as likely safe, providing that you’re consuming it in common amounts (15). This includes using the essential oil directly or taking it in the form of dietary supplements.
Nevertheless, there are still some areas to be aware of.
Firstly, essential oils tend to be highly concentrated and this includes peppermint oil. As a result, many uses either just rely on a few drops or a diluted form of the oil
Applying peppermint oil to the skin can also result in some side effects, including irritation and skin rashes. In some cases, this may be due to the oil not being diluted enough. The side effect could also occur as the result of a sensitivity to the oil.
Because of this, it’s normally best to apply the oil to a small area and watch for any side effects, before using it liberally. Peppermint oil can also cause heartburn in some people, which is another reason to be careful when you first use it.
There is also the potential for peppermint oil to interact with medication, including over-the-counter medications for acid reflux and heartburn.
For that matter, any medication that lowers stomach acid should not be taken at the same time as a peppermint supplement. Doing so can mean that the exterior of the peppermint capsules dissolves too quickly and this can have negative implications.
Additionally, peppermint may decrease iron absorption and increase quercetin absorption. As a result, you should wait at least 3 hours between taking peppermint oil and either iron or quercetin supplements.
Finally, peppermint supplements may lower blood pressure. As a consequence, they could increase the impacts of medication that decreases blood pressure. In some situations, this could result in dangerously low blood pressure.
Using Peppermint Oil Effectively
There are many different ways to use essential oils and the earlier section highlighted key ideas for peppermint oil. However, there are also many others and each person tends to find their own approaches.
Many of these uses relate to inhaling or smelling the oil and there are multiple ways to achieve this. The most common example would be to use an oil burner.
This type of burner has a long history and is often used as a way to fill the air with fragrance. However, some people argue that this isn’t the most effective way to use any essential oil.
One reason for this is that the heating disperses the compounds in the oil at a different rate, with the more volatile ones being dispersed first. This means that you probably won’t get all of the therapeutic benefits of the oil.
The process may still be useful if you just want an appealing smell. But, it isn’t the best way to get benefits from peppermint oil.
One alternative is cold-air nebulizers or diffusers. As the name suggests, these don’t heat the oil. Instead, the peppermint oil is basically converted into vapor and expelled into the air. The site Natural Living Ideas offers more detail about this option and the benefits that you can expect.
The end result is similar to an oil burner in terms of overall smell. However, you’re not compromising the quality of the oil in the process, so you’re likely to get more health benefits overall. At the same time, this type of product is able to decrease the growth of mold and mildew.
Another interesting style is an ultrasonic diffuser. These operate in a different way and they tend to be inexpensive and quieter. That quietness makes them particularly relevant if you want the benefits of an essential oil while you are sleeping.
However, they do increase moisture, which can be determinantal in houses with mold issues. As such, you would need to choose between the two styles based on your own needs. In some cases, you might even consider having both and using them at different times.
Regardless of the style you use, diffusers are powerful tools. The site Holistic Health Herbalist key reasons for this, along with some recipes that you can try out.
Finally, there are also other options.
For example, some companies produce devices that make it easy to inhale the vapor from essential oils or to roll the oil on your skin. This may be particularly relevant for some uses.
It is also possible to include peppermint oil in foods, including protein shakes. This approach can be one way to get some of the benefits of peppermint oil and make your diet more interesting overall.
Likewise, there are many options for creating natural products that contain essential oils. Doing so may be especially relevant if you plan to use the oils topically.
As for the oils themselves, there is certainly no shortage of different brands that sell peppermint essential oil – many of which produce high-quality products.
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