Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint Plant

 Peppermint Essential Oil is a powerful agent that has many benefits from relieving headaches, settling stomachs, relieving nausea, improving concentration, stimulating hair growth, relaxing muscles, functioning as an antibacterial, and improving energy and exercise performance.  You can have too much of a good thing with Peppermint Essential Oil, as it is one of the essential oils that can be harmful when misused, but it can be a great aid when used knowledgeably.

 What is the history of Peppermint Essential Oil?

Peppermint may have originated in the Mediterranean and Northern Africa.  For much of its history, Peppermint was used interchangeably with the plain term “mint” and “spearmint,” but scholars believe that the mint mentioned in ancient texts was for Peppermint, which is a naturally occurring hybrid of spearmint and water mint.  [1]

  • Egypt: Mint was listed as a calming plant for stomach pains in an ancient Egyptian text, Ebers Papyrus, which dates to 1550 BC.  Mint was valued so much in Egypt that it was used as a form of currency. [1]  Dried peppermint leaves which dated to 1000 BC were found in an Egyptian pyramid.  [2]
  • Greece: There is a lot of mythology surrounding mint in ancient Greece.  Minthe was a river nymph in one of the five rivers of Hades.  Hades himself was in the midst of seducing Minthe when his wife Persephone found them, and Persephone vengefully turned Minthe into a low-lying mint plant so people would step on her.  Hades was so upset that he gave the plant a sweet, peppery smell so that everyone who walked on her would be able to smell her sweetness, and she would be remembered for her sweet constitution.  The Greeks also believed that mint was an aphrodisiac and would not let its soldiers consume it to maintain military control.  [2]
  • Rome: The philosophers in Rome were fond of mint and Peppermint, and they wore a crown of mint on their heads to stimulate the mind and soul.  Pliny wrote that mint stimulated the appetite.  His fellow philosophers Hippocrates and Aristotle believed that mint discouraged sexual behavior, unlike the Greeks.  [1] Royal ambadassadors carried a sprig of mint with them to prevent angry outbursts.  [2]
  • Europe: Peppermint was listed as an herbal remedy in the Icelandic Pharmacopoeias in 1240 AD, and it became popular over the following centuries.  During the middle ages, monks used Peppermint to polish teeth, and cheese makers used its strong smell to keep rodents out of the storeroom.  In 1696, Peppermint was distinguished from mint as its own species.  The London Pharmacopoeia of 1721 lists Peppermint as a remedy for colds, headaches, sores, and venereal diseases.  [1]
  • North America: The Native Americans of North America had been using a different species of mint native to North America for many centuries before the European settlers came to America.  The Europeans brought with them Peppermint and other mints from Europe and they were soon integrated, naturalized, and spread across North America.  [1]

 

What are the most common types of Peppermint?

    Peppermint comes from the family Lamiaceae and the genus Mentha. Mentha contains more than 25 species.  [3]

  1. Peppermint
  • Mentha x piperita, or Mentha balsamea Wild
  • Naturally occurring hybrid mint crossed between watermint and spearmint
  • Indigenous to Middle East and Europe

 

  1. Types of Peppermint
  2. Western Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
  3. Chinese Peppermint (Mentha haplocalyx, or “Bohe”)
    • Both Western and Chinese Peppermint contain menthol and menthone and are considered ancient species
  1. Varieties of Peppermint

                                Mentha x piperita Candymint:  reddish stems

Mentha x piperita Chocolate mint:  flavor similar to Andes Chocolate Mints, and flowers open from bottom up

Mentha x piperita Citrata:  Leaves are aromatic and hairless.

  • Varities include Grapefruit mint, Eau de Cologne mint, Lemon mint, Orange mint

Mentha x piperita Crispa:  wrinkled leaves

Mentha x piperita Lavender mint

Mentha x piperita Lime mint:  Leaves smell like limes

Mentha x piperita Variegata:  Leaves are green and pale yellow, mottled

Dulgo pole, Bulgarian population #2, Zefir, Clone 11-6-22, Mitcham Digne, Clone 80-121-33, and Mitcham Ribecourt 19 are commercial varities (or cultivars).  [3]

Morocco produces 92% of the world's Peppermint, and Argentina produces 8% of the world's Peppermint.  In the U.S., Washington and Oregon are the top-producing states for American production of Peppermint.  [3]

What is an essential oil?

An essential oil is the oil of an aromatic plant which is formed as a “secondary metabolism” of the plant.  Secondary metabolisms are natural defense mechanisms which protect the plant from pests and microbials and are either scents, colors, or attractants for pollination.  Essential oils can also be called volatile oils.  The oil is considered essential because it is the essence of the plant. [4]

How is Peppermint Essential Oil Made?

                Essential oils can be produced through a mechanical expression or a steam distillation.  Solvents such as ethanol, acetone, or hexane are sometimes needed for extraction of oils from certain plants.

Essential oils produced through distillation are separated through steam condensation and leaves a small amount of a volatile liquid behind:  the essential oil which is extremely concentrated.  [4]

Peppermint loses essential oil if the dry leaves lie in piles or heaps.  In an effort to prevent fermentation of the Peppermint, producers often distill the fresh Peppermint immediately after cutting.  [5]

Mint produces the best oil and menthol yield when 10% of the crop is at the flowering stage.  It requires a lot of water to grow.  The highest oil content is found when Peppermint is harvested in the sun, but if it’s environment is too warm, especially at night, a toxic compound called Menthofuran will form.  [5]

 

What is peppermint essential oil made of?

Peppermint essential oil contains 1,8-cineole which comprises 3.5-14% of its content.  Menthol is the active ingredient and makes up 33-55%, or up to 75% of the plant.  [6]

Menthone:  14-33%

Isomenthone:  1.5-10%

Neomenthol:  trace-4.6%

Menthofuran:  1-9%

Menthyl acetate:  2.8-10%

Mintlactone

Isomintlactone

Pulegone:  0.8-24.9% (found in high amounts in young leaves)

Limonene:  1.3-26.8%

Linalool:  0.2-0.8%

Piperitone:  0.7-1.2%

Sabinene:  0.3-1.6%

Myrcene:  trace-0.7%

a-pinene: 0.8-2%

b-pinene: 1.0-2.9%

a-terpineol:  trace-0.4%   [6]

What are the benefits of Peppermint Essential Oil?

Peppermint Oil Relieves Headaches

Applying Peppermint Oil to the forehead and temples relieves migraine without aura—this study from 2010 concluded that peppermint oil applied topically is a safe and effective treatment for migraine

Peppermint Oil Relieves Stomach Upset and Nausea

Peppermint oil taken orally relieves IBS and abdominal painthis study from 2014 concluded that peppermint oil is a safe and effective treatment for the discomfort associated with IBS when taken in an enteric-coated capsule

Peppermint Oil Relieves Menstrual Cramps

Peppermint oil reduces menstrual pain and severitythis study from 2016 concluded that pain and severity of menstrual cramps taken in a capsule

Increases Relaxation

Peppermint oil has a relaxing effect on the gastrointestinal system, and pain-relieving effects on central and peripheral nervous systemthis study from 2006 concluded that Peppermint oil has analgesic and anesthetic effects in the CNS and PNS and relaxes gastrointestinal tissue

Improves Concentration, Energy, and Exercise performance

Peppermint oil increases cognitive performance—this study from 2018 concluded that peppermint oil taken in a capsule increases cognitive performance and reduces mental fatigue

Peppermint oil reduces sleepiness—this study from 2005 concluded that peppermint oil is invigorating and reduces daytime sleepiness when used in aromatherapy

Peppermint oil benefits exercise performancethis study from 2013 concluded that peppermint oil ingested in water increased exercise performance by lowering heart rate and blood pressure

Stimulates hair growth

Peppermint oil stimulates hair growth (in mice)—this study from 2014 concluded that peppermint essential oil stimulated hair growth in mice, and without any change in body weight gain

Weight Loss Aid

Peppermint oil reduces appetite—this study from 2013 concluded that Peppermint essential oil administered in a capsule reduces appetite.

Anectodal evidence suggests that just inhaling the aroma of Peppermint can curb appetite.

Relieves Sinus Congestion

Peppermint oil promotes airflow in the nasal tract—this study from 2008 concluded that Peppermint has direct activity on the airflow in the nasal tract, respiratory tract, and coughing reflex

Antibacterial

Peppermint oil inactivates E. coli, Salmonella, and L. monocytogenes (in vitro)—this study from 2018 involved in-vitro examination of bacteria-infused pineapple and mango juice and found that Peppermint essential oil rendered the bacteria inactive

Eases Allergy Symptoms

Peppermint oil is effective in relieving nasal allergy symptoms (in rats)—this study from 2001 concluded that peppermint oil administered  orally to rats reduced nasal symptoms, sneezing, and nasal rubbing

Muscle Relaxation

Peppermint oil is a muscle relaxer (anti-spasmodic) (in vitro rat tissue)—this study from 2010 concluded that peppermint oil in-vitro rat tissue had a relaxant effect and was anti-spasmodic

How Does It Work?

How does Peppermint Essential Oil work for improving concentration?

                Peppermint essential oil is stimulatory because of its 1,8-cineole content.  [6]

Peppermint essential oil works for improving cognition because  it is also GABAa/nicotinic receptor binding.  [7]

 How does Peppermint Essential Oil work for muscle relaxation?

                The muscle relaxation property of peppermint oil is due to the menthol which is a calcium channel inhibitor.  [6]

How does Peppermint Essential Oil work for stomach upset and nausea?

Peppermint essential oil exerts antagonistic effects the against 5-HT3 receptor channel which reduces nausea and vomiting.  [8]

How does Peppermint Essential Oil work for headaches? 

                Peppermint Essential Oil dilates blood vessels and massaging on temples and forehead is pain relieving due to the menthol analgesic and cooling sensation.

How does Peppermint Essential Oil work for allergy symptoms?

                Peppermint Essential Oil works for allergy symptoms because the menthol opens up the nasal passages.

How does Peppermint Essential Oil work for hair growth?

                Peppermint essential oil works for hair growth by stimulating a rapid anagen stage in hair follicles.  [9]

How to Use Peppermint Essential Oil

All essential oils are highly concentrated and they will need to be diluted in carrier oils.  Using a diluted essential oil in a carrier oil will minimize the risk of skin irritation.  Be sure to use a diluted essential oil blend unless you are otherwise instructed by your healthcare practitioner. Using essential oils with children has specific guidelines based on age. Supervise the use of essential oils in children with your healthcare practitioner.

Essential Oil Dilution Chart
Essential Oil Dilution Chart

Essential oils shouldn’t be taken internally unless under the guidance of healthcare practitioner.  Most of the benefits of essential oils will be through topical or aromatherapy methods.

 

For Aromatherapy (inhalation):

  • Add to a diffuser
  • Add to a Diffuser necklace
  • Inhaler stick for allergies, reduce appetite, cognition, concentration
  • Mix into salve to make chest rub

For Massage:

  • Roll on (like the one pictured below) for on-the-go headache and muscle pain relief and to boost concentration

Peppermint Roll On

  • Pressure point massage
  • Mix into a salve for cooling joint massage
  • Rub on temples and forehead for headache relief

Pest Sprays: Mix 10 or 15 drops to 1 cup water and spray where ants are coming in

Add to shampoo for hair growth, and to decrease dandruff

Sunburn relief:  Mix 2 drops with a carrier oil/aloe for sunburn relief

 

Safety and Side Effects of Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint oil contains two toxic compounds, menthofuran and pulegone, which can be toxic to the brain.  [6]

A lethal dose in rats is at a very high dose of 4,400 mg/kg.  [6]

Contact dermatitis has also been reported from peppermint essential oil.  [6]

 

Where to Buy Peppermint Essential Oil

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References
  1. “Peppermint History.” peppermint.indepthinfo.com/history-of-peppermint.
  2. Sally Organics. “Peppermint Essential Oil Interesting Facts.” sallysorganics.com/peppermint/peppermint-interesting-facts/.
  3. “Peppermint.” Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppermint.
  4. Yap, Polly Soo Xi et al. “Essential oils, a new horizon in combating bacterial antibiotic r esistance.” The open microbiology journalvol. 8 6-14. 7 Feb. 2014, d   oi:10.2174/1874285801408010006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3950955/.
  5. “All about Peppermint Essential Oils.” www.newdirectionsaromatics.com/blog/products/all-about-peppermint-oil.html.
  6. “Peppermint.” Examine.com, published Aug 6, 2013. Last updated Jun 14, 2018. https://examine.com/supplements/peppermint/.
  7. Kennedy, D, et al. “Volatile Terpenes and Brain Function: Investigation of the Cognitive and Mood Effects of Mentha × Piperita L. Essential Oil with In Vitro Properties Relevant to Central Nervous System Function.” Nutrients, vol. 10, no. 8, 7 Aug. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10081029. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30087294.
  8. Joulaeerad, Narges et al. “Effect of Aromatherapy with Peppermint Oil on the Severity of Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy: A Single-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled trial.” Journal of reproduction & infertilityvol. 19,1 (2018): 32-38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5960050/.
  9. Oh, Ji Young et al. “Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs.” Toxicological researchvol. 30,4 (2014): 297-304. doi:10.5487/TR.2014.30.4.297  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4289931.

 

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