Peppermint is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint and was first cultivated near London in 1750. Peppermint is now cultivated widely, particularly in the U.S. and Europe. The two main cultivated forms are the black mint, which has violet-colored leaves and stems and a relatively high oil content, and the white mint, which has pure green leaves and a milder taste. The leaves are used medicinally.
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
0.5 ml in half a glass of water three times per day swished slowly in the mouth before spitting out
A mouthwash containing sage oil, peppermint oil, menthol, chamomile tincture, expressed juice from echinacea, myrrh tincture, clove oil, and caraway oil has been used successfully to treat gingivitis.
A mouthwash combination that includes sage oil, peppermint oil, menthol, chamomile tincture, expressed juice from echinacea, myrrh tincture, clove oil, and caraway oil has been used successfully to treat gingivitis.2 In cases of acute gum inflammation, 0.5 ml of the herbal mixture in half a glass of water three times daily is recommended by some herbalists. This herbal preparation should be swished slowly in the mouth before spitting out. To prevent recurrences, slightly less of the mixture can be used less frequently.
A toothpaste containing sage oil, peppermint oil, chamomile tincture, expressed juice from Echinacea purpurea, myrrh tincture, and rhatany tincture has been used to accompany this mouthwash in managing gingivitis.3
Of the many herbs listed above, chamomile, echinacea, and myrrh should be priorities. These three herbs can provide anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial actions critical to successfully treating gingivitis.
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
90 mg of oil plus 50 mg of caraway oil in enteric-coated capsules taken three times per day, for indigestion only
A combination of peppermint, caraway, and fennel has been shown to reduce gas and cramping in people with indigestion
Carminatives (also called aromatic digestive tonics or aromatic bitters) may be used to relieve symptoms of indigestion, particularly when there is excessive gas. It is believed that carminative agents work, at least in part, by relieving spasms in the intestinal tract.4
Among the most notable and well-studied carminatives are peppermint, fennel, and caraway. Double-blind trials have shown that combinations of peppermint and caraway oil and a combination of peppermint, fennel, caraway, and wormwood have been found to reduce gas and cramping in people with indigestion.5, 6, 7 Generally, 3–5 drops of natural essential oils or 3–5 ml of tincture of any of these herbs, taken in water two to three times per day before meals, can be helpful. Alternately, a tea can be made by grinding 2–3 teaspoons of the seeds of fennel or caraway or the leaves of peppermint, and then simmering them in a cup of water (covered) for ten minutes. Drink three or more cups per day just after meals.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
0.2 to 0.4 ml in enteric-coated capsules, three times per day
Peppermint oil reduces gas production, eases intestinal cramping, and soothes irritation. It has been reported to help relieve IBS symptoms in two analyses of controlled trials.
In the intestinal tract, peppermint oil reduces gas production, eases intestinal cramping, and soothes irritation.8 Peppermint oil has been reported to help relieve symptoms of IBS in two analyses of controlled trials.9, 10 Evidence supporting the use of peppermint oil has come from double-blind trials that typically have used enteric-coated capsules that supply 0.2–0.4 ml of peppermint oil taken two to three times per day.11, 12, 13, 14, 15 Some trials have found peppermint oil ineffective.16, 17 The reason for these conflicting findings remains unclear.
The combination of 90 mg of peppermint oil plus 50 mg of caraway oil in enteric-coated capsules taken three times per day led to significant reduction in IBS symptoms in a double-blind trial.18 In a similar trial, capsules that were not enteric-coated were as effective as enteric-coated capsules.19 The same combination has compared favorably to the drug cisapride (Propulsid) in reducing symptoms of IBS.20 The purpose of enteric coating is to protect peppermint oil while it is passing through the acid environment of the stomach.
Whole peppermint leaf is often used either alone or in combination with other herbs to treat abdominal discomfort and mild cramping that accompany IBS. The combination of peppermint, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and wormwood was reported to be an effective treatment for upper abdominal complaints in a double-blind trial.21
A combination of peppermint, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and wormwood was reported to be an effective treatment for upper abdominal complaints in one trial.
Whole peppermint leaf is often used either alone or in combination with other herbs to treat abdominal discomfort and mild cramping that accompany IBS. The combination of peppermint, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and wormwood was reported to be an effective treatment for upper abdominal complaints in a double-blind trial.22
Spread a 10% oil solution across the temples three times over a 30-minute period
Peppermint is a soothing oil that appears to have pain-relieving effects when applied topically.
A preliminary report suggested that peppermint oil has relaxing and pain relieving effects, and may be useful as a topical remedy for tension-type headache.23 In a double-blind study, spreading a 10% peppermint oil solution across the temples three times over a 30-minute period was significantly better than placebo and as effective as acetaminophen in reducing headache pain.24 Similar use of an ointment combining menthol and other oils related to peppermint oil was also as effective as pain relieving medication and superior to placebo in another double-blind study.25
Refer to label instructions
Volatile oils from peppermint have been shown to have significant antifungal action. Doctors recommend enteric-coated capsules, which break down in the intestines instead of the stomach.
Volatile oils from oregano, thyme, peppermint, tea tree, and rosemary have all demonstrated antifungal action in test tube studies.26 A recent study compared the anti-Candida effect of oregano oil to that of caprylic acid.27 The results indicated that oregano oil is over 100 times more potent than caprylic acid, against Candida. Since the volatile oils are quickly absorbed and associated with inducing heartburn, they must be taken in coated capsules, so they do not break down in the stomach but instead are delivered to the small and large intestine. This process is known as “enteric coating.” Some doctors recommend using 0.2 to 0.4 ml of enteric-coated peppermint and/or oregano oil supplements three times per day 20 minutes before meals. However, none of these volatile oils has been studied for their anti-Candida effect in humans.
Refer to label instructions
This gas-relieving herb is usually given to the infant as a tea. Peppermint tea should be used with caution in infants, as they may choke in reaction to the strong menthol.
Several gas-relieving herbs used in traditional medicine for colic are approved in Germany for intestinal spasms.28 These include yarrow, garden angelica (Angelica archangelica),peppermint, cinnamon, and fumitory (Fumaria officinalis). These herbs are generally given by healthcare professionals as teas or decoctions to the infant. Peppermint tea should be used with caution in infants and young children, as they may choke in reaction to the strong menthol.
Common Cold and Sore Throat
Refer to label instructions
Peppermint, a source of small amounts of menthol, is believed to work by acting on receptors in the nasal mucous membranes, leading to a reduction of nasal stuffiness.
Eucalyptus oil is often used in a steam inhalation to help clear nasal and sinus congestion. It is said to work similarly to menthol, by acting on receptors in the nasal mucous membranes, leading to a reduction of nasal stuffiness.29Peppermint may have a similar action and is a source of small amounts of menthol.
Refer to label instructions
In one study, a mixture of essential oils successfully dissolved gallstones. The most effective herb in that mixture is available only by prescription, but peppermint oil is similar to it.
According to preliminary research, a mixture of essential oils dissolved some gallstones when taken for several months.30 The greatest benefits occurred when the oils were combined with chenodeoxycholic acid, which is available by prescription.31 However, only about 10% of people with gallstones have shown significant dissolution as a result of taking essential oils. Peppermint oil is the closest available product to that used in the research described above. Use of peppermint or any other essential oil to dissolve gallstones should only be attempted with the close supervision of a doctor.
0.5 to 8 grams daily
Volatile oils made from peppermint have antibacterial properties and may be effective in mouthwash or toothpaste form.
The potent effects of some commercial mouthwashes may be due to the inclusion of thymol (from thyme) and eukalyptol (from eucalyptus)—volatile oils that have proven activity against bacteria. One report showed bacterial counts plummet in as little as 30 seconds following a mouthrinse with the commercial mouthwash Listerine™, which contains thymol and eukalyptol.32 Thymol alone has been shown in research to inhibit the growth of bacteria found in the mouth.33, 34 Because of their antibacterial properties, other volatile oils made from tea tree,35 clove, caraway, peppermint, and sage,36 as well as the herbs myrrh37 and bloodroot,38 might be considered in a mouthwash or toothpaste. Due to potential allergic reactions and potential side effects if some of these oils are swallowed, it is best to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before pursuing self-treatment with volatile oils that are not in approved over-the-counter products for halitosis.
Low Back Pain
Refer to label instructions
A combination of eucalyptus and peppermint oil applied directly to a painful area may help by decreasing pain and increasing blood flow to afflicted regions.
A combination of eucalyptus and peppermint oil applied directly to a painful area may help. Preliminary research indicates that the counter-irritant quality of these essential oils may decrease pain and increase blood flow to afflicted regions.39 Peppermint and eucalyptus, diluted in an oil base, are usually applied several times per day, or as needed, to control pain. Plant oils that may have similar properties are rosemary, juniper, and wintergreen.
Refer to label instructions
Cooling essential oils, such as peppermint, have also been used topically to relieve burning pain and itch.
Cooling essential oils, such as peppermint and menthol, have been used topically to relieve burning pain and itch. Such oils should not be applied full-strength, but should rather be diluted (for example in lotion or gel) to avoid further skin irritation.
A great many plants have been used historically to treat skin inflammations like poison oak and poison ivy dermatitis. Examples include calendula (Calendula officinalis), blood root (Sanguinaria canadensis), Virginia snakeroot (Aristolachia serpentaria), holy basil (Ocimum tenuifolium), and chickweed (Stellaria media). None of these remedies has been subjected to controlled clinical studies to determine if they are safe and effective for this use.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Recognized in the early 18th century, the historical use of peppermint is not dramatically different than its use in modern herbal medicine. Classified as a carminative herb, peppermint has been used as a general digestive aid and employed in the treatment of indigestion and intestinal colic by herbalists.1
How It Works
How It Works
Peppermint leaves yield approximately 0.1–1.0% volatile oil which is composed primarily of menthol (29–48%) and menthone (20–31%).40 Peppermint oil is classified as a carminative (prevents and relieves intestinal gas).41 It may also relieve spasms in the intestinal tract. Peppermint oil or peppermint tea is often used to treat gas and indigestion.
Three double-blind trials found that enteric-coated peppermint oil reduced the pain associated with intestinal spasms, commonly experienced in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).42, 43, 44 However, another trial found no effect of peppermint on IBS.45 A double-blind trial found that an enteric-coated combination of peppermint and caraway oils was superior to a placebo for people with gastrointestinal complaints including IBS.46 A combination of peppermint, caraway seeds, and two other carminative herbs (fennel seeds and wormwood) was reported to be effective for gastrointestinal complaints including IBS in another double-blind study.47
A tea of peppermint is a traditional therapy for colic in infants but has never been investigated in a human trial. Peppermint should be used cautiously in infants (see side effects below).
Peppermint oil’s relaxing action also extends to topical use. When applied topically, it acts as an analgesic and reduces pain.48 A trial of topical peppermint oil applied to the temples of healthy volunteers (with or without eucalyptus oil) found that peppermint oil had a muscle-relaxing action and it decreased tension.49 Topical peppermint oil alone reduced pain in people with tension headaches as well.
How to Use It
For internal use, a tea can be made by pouring 1 cup (250 ml ) of boiling water over 1 heaped teaspoon (5 grams) of the dried leaves and steeping for five to ten minutes. Three to four cups (750–1000 ml) daily between meals can be taken to relieve stomach and gastrointestinal complaints.50 Peppermint leaf tablets and capsules, 3–6 grams per day, can be taken. For treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, 1–2 enteric-coated capsules containing 0.2 ml of peppermint oil taken two to three times per day is recommended.
For headaches, a combination of peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil diluted with base oil can be applied to the temples at the onset of the headache and every hour after that or until symptom relief is noted.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Interactions with Medicines
As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Peppermint tea is generally considered safe for regular consumption. Peppermint oil can cause burning and gastrointestinal upset in some people.51 It should be avoided by people with chronic heartburn, severe liver damage, inflammation of the gallbladder, or obstruction of bile ducts.52 People with gallstones should consult a physician before using peppermint leaf or peppermint oil. Some people using enteric-coated peppermint capsules may experience a burning sensation in the rectum. Rare allergic reactions have been reported with topical use of peppermint oil. Peppermint oil should not be applied to the face—in particular, the nose—of children and infants. Peppermint tea should be used with caution in infants and young children, as they may choke in reaction to the strong menthol. Chamomile is usually a better choice for this group for treating colic and mild gastrointestinal complaints.
4. Forster HB, Niklas H, Lutz S. Antispasmodic effects of some medicinal plants. Planta Med 1980;40:303–19.
5. May B, Kuntz HD, Kieser M, Kohler S. Efficacy of a fixed peppermint/caraway oil combination in non-ulcer dyspepsia. Arzneimittelforschung 1996;46:1149–53.
6. Westphal J, Hörning M, Leonhardt K. Phytotherapy in functional upper abdominal complaints. Results of a clinical study with a preparation of several plants. Phytomedicine 1996;2:285–91.
7. Madisch A, Heydenreich CJ, Wieland V, et al. Treatment of functional dyspepsia with a fixed peppermint oil and caraway oil combination as compared to cisapride. Arzneimittelforschung 1999;49;925–32.
8. Leicester RJ, Hunt RH. Peppermint oil to reduce colonic spasm during endoscopy. Lancet 1982;ii:989 [letter].
9. Pittler MH, Ernst E. Peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome: a critical review and metaanalysis. Am J Gastroenterol 1998;93:1131–5.
10. Poynard T, Naveau S, Mory B, Chaput JC. Meta-analysis of smooth muscle relaxants in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 1994;8:499–510.
11. Rees WD, Evans BK, Rhodes J. Treating irritable bowel syndrome with peppermint oil. Br Med J 1979;2(6194):835–6.
12. Liu J-H, Chen G-H, Yeh H-Z, et al. Enteric-coated peppermint-oil capsules in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective, randomized trial. J Gastroenterol 1997;32:765–8.
13. Dew MJ, Evans BK, Rhodes J. Peppermint oil for the irritable bowel syndrome: A multi-center trial. Br J Clin Pract 1984;38:394–8.
14. Cappello G, Spezzaferro M, Grossi L, et al. Peppermint oil (Mintoil) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Dig Liver Dis 2007;39:530–6.
15. Merat S, Khalili S, Mostajabi P, et al. The effect of enteric-coated, delayed-release peppermint oil on irritable bowel syndrome. Dig Dis Sci 2010;55:1385–90.
16. Nash P, Gould SR, Barnardo DE. Peppermint oil does not relieve the pain of irritable bowel syndrome. Br J Clin Pract 1986;40:292–3.
18. May B Kuntz HD, Kieser M, Kohler S. Efficacy of a fixed peppermint/caraway oil combination in non-ulcer dyspepsia. Arzneimittelforschung 1996;46:1149–53.
19. Friese J, Köhler S. Peppermint/caraway oil-fixed combination in non-ulcer dyspepsia: equivalent efficacy of the drug combination in an enteric coated or enteric soluble formula. Pharmazie 1999;54:210–5.
20. Madisch A, Heydenreich CJ, Wieland V, et al. Treatment of functional dyspepsia with a fixed peppermint oil and caraway oil combination preparation as compared to cisapride. Arneimittlforschung 1999;49:925–32.
21. Westphal J, Hörning M, Leonhardt K. Phytotherapy in functional abdominal complaints: Results of a clinical study with a preparation of several plants. Phytomedicine 1996;2:285–91.
22. Westphal J, Hörning M, Leonhardt K. Phytotherapy in functional abdominal complaints: Results of a clinical study with a preparation of several plants. Phytomedicine 1996;2:285–91.
23. Gobel H, Schmidt G, Soyka D. Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters. Cephalalgia 1994;14:228–34.
24. Gobel H, Fresenius J, Heinze A, et al. Effectiveness of Oleum menthae piperitae and paracetamol in therapy of headache of the tension type. Nervenarzt 1996;67:672–81 [in German].
25. Schattner P, Randerson D. Tiger Balm as a treatment of tension headache. A clinical trial in general practice. Aust Fam Physician 1996;25(2):216, 218, 220.
26. Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley TV. In-vitro activity of essential oils, in particular Melaleuca alternafolia (tea tree) oil and tea tree oil products, against Candida albicans. J Antimicrobial Chemother 1998;42:591–5.
27. Stiles JC. The inhibition of Candida albicans by oregano. J Applied Nutr 1995;47:96–102.
28. Schilcher H. Phytotherapy in Paediatrics. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1997, 80.
30. Somerville KW, Ellis WR, Whitten BH, et al. Stones in the common bile duct: Experience with medical dissolution therapy Postgrad Med J 1985;61:313–6.
31. Werbach MR, Murray MT. Botanical Influences on Illness: A Sourcebook of Clinical Research. Tarzana, CA: Third Line Press, 1994, 166–8 [review].
32. Kato T, Iijima H, Ishihara K, et al. Antibacterial effects of Listerine on oral bacteria. Bull Tokyo Dent Coll 1990;31:301–7.
33. Cosentino S, Tuberoso CI, Pisano B, et al. In-vitro antimicrobial activity and chemical composition of Sardinian Thymus essential oils. Lett Appl Microbiol 1999;29:130–5.
34. Petersson LG, Edwardsson S, Arends J. Antimicrobial effect of a dental varnish, in vitro. Swed Dent J 1992;16:183–9.
35. Cox SD, Mann CM, Markham JL, et al. The mode of antimicrobial action of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil). J Appl Microbiol 2000;88:170–5.
36. Serfaty R, Itic J. Comparative trial with natural herbal mouthwash versus chlorhexidine in gingivitis. J Clin Dent 1988;1:A34–7.
37. Dolara P, Corte B, Ghelardini C, et al. Local anaesthetic, antibacterial and antifungal properties of sesquiterpenes from myrrh. Planta Med 2000;66:356–8.
38. Hannah JJ, Johnson JD, Kuftinec MM. Long-term clinical evaluation of toothpaste and oral rinse containing sanguinaria extract in controlling plaque, gingival inflammation, and sulcular bleeding during orthodontic treatment. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop 1989;96:199–207.
39. Hong CZ, Shellock FG. Effects of a topically applied counterirritant (Eucalyptamint) on cutaneous blood flow and on skin and muscle temperatures. A placebo-controlled study. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 1991;70:29–33.
40. Bradley PR (ed). British Herbal Compendium, vol 1. Bournemouth, Dorset UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992, 174–6.
41. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 56–7.
42. Dew MJ, Evans BK, Rhodes J. Peppermint oil for the irritable bowel syndrome: a multicenter trial. Br J Clin Pract 1984;38:394–8.
43. Liu J-H, Chen G-H, Yeh H-Z, et al. Enteric-coated peppermint-oil capsules in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective, randomized trial. J Gastroenterol 1997;32:765–8.
44. Rees W, Evans B, Rhodes J. Treating irritable bowel syndrome with peppermint oil. Br Med J 1979; 2:835–6.
45. Nash P, Gould SR, Barnardo DB. Peppermint oil does not relieve the pain of irritable bowel syndrome. Br J Clin Pract 1986;40:292–3.
46. May B, Kuntz HD, Kieser M, Kohler S. Efficacy of a fixed peppermint/caraway oil combination in non-ulcer dyspepsia. Arzneimittelforschung 1996;46:1149–53.
47. Westphal J, Hörning M, Leonhardt K. Phytotherapy in functional abdominal complaints: Results of a clinical study with a preparation of several plants. Phytomedicine 1996;2:285–91.
48. Göbel H, Schmidt G, Dwoshak M, et al. Essential plant oils and headache mechanisms. Phytomedicine 1995;2:93–102.
49. Göbel H, Schmidt G, Soyka DS. Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters. Cephalalgia 1994;14:228–34.
50. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 336–8.
51. Sigmund DJ, McNally EF. The action of a carminative on the lower esophageal sphincter. Gastroent 1969;56:13–8.
52. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 180–2.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.