What Is It?
Health Benefits
Dosage Information
Guidelines for Use
General Interaction
Possible Side Effects
Evidence Based Rating Scale

What Is It?

An herb prized for its medicinal benefits and distinctive flavor, peppermint (Mentha piperata) is a naturally occurring hybrid of spearmint (M. spicata) and water mint (M. aquatica). Unlike other mints, however, peppermint contains in its healing volatile oil the powerful therapeutic ingredient menthol, as well as menthone, menthyl acetate and some 40 other compounds. The oil is made by steam-distilling the plant's aromatic leaves and stems, which are gathered just before its light-purple flowers appear in the summer.

Health Benefits

Peppermint oil acts as a muscle relaxant, particularly in the digestive tract, and it can also reduce the inflammation of nasal passages and relieve muscle pains. It's added to dozens of commercial antacid preparations (and, not surprisingly, can be found in countless toothpastes and breath fresheners for its distinctively minty taste). Some sources recommend placing a mixture of peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil and ethanol (ethyl alcohol) on the forehead and temples to reduce headache pain. And for many people, drinking peppermint tea offers a soothing option to capsules or tinctures.

Specifically, peppermint may help to:

• Treat irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint's antispasmodic effect can provide significant relief for the abdominal pain, bloating, alternating periods of constipation and diarrhea, and general abdominal discomfort associated with this intestinal condition.(1.2)
• Ease nausea and vomiting. Nausea and motion sickness can subside with the use of peppermint tea or peppermint oil capsules, which both work to moderately anesthetize the stomach's sensitive mucous lining.(3,4)
• Control flatulence and diverticular disorders. Peppermint can be helpful for people who have digestive symptoms such as gas and intestinal cramps from time to time. It can also offer relief for those with such chronic gas-causing conditions as diverticulosis; the tea may prove especially effective in such cases. Among its other attributes, peppermint relaxes digestive spasms.(5)
• Improve digestion and reduce heartburn. The menthol in peppermint increases the beneficial flow of all digestive juices, including bile. It also calms digestive spasms.(6)
• Dissolve gallstones. A number of studies indicate that peppermint oil may aid in reducing the size of gallstones and thus help some people avoid surgery. Consult your doctor before using peppermint oil for this purpose.(7)
• Reduce the severity of herpes outbreaks. Recent research finds that peppermint oil reduces the viral levels of herpes simplex 1 and 2 in cell cultures. Further research is necessary but, because of the oil is able to penetrate the skin, peppermint oil may be suitable for topical therapeutic use against recurrent herpes infection.(8)
• Fight bad breath. Several drops of peppermint oil applied to the tongue can freshen the breath. Drinking peppermint tea may help by killing bacteria and keeping the mouth moist.
• Control muscle aches and chronic pain. When massaged into the skin, peppermint oil plays an innocuous trick on the nerves: It stimulates those that produce a cool, soothing sensation and desensitizes those that pick up pain messages.(9)
• Clear congestion and cough related to colds and allergies. By reducing inflammation in the nasal passages, peppermint can help to relieve the congestion so commonly associated with colds and seasonal allergies. Drinking peppermint tea--and inhaling the menthol--may also ease breathing. Peppermint oil and menthol appear in numerous commercial cough remedies, topical ointments, nasal decongestants, inhalants and other formulations.
• Control mild asthma. Peppermint tea may offer some relief for mild asthma attacks, lessening bronchial constriction and making it easier to breathe. Peppermint oil capsules are sometimes combined with other herbs for asthma relief.
• Fight stress. The aroma of peppermint oil when added to bath water may help release tension and dissipate fatigue.
• Substitute for conventional drugs in medical procedures. The antispasmodic effects of peppermint oil make it a viable alternative to conventional medications used to calm the digestive system during medical procedures. Researchers in Japan have shown that peppermint oil is safe and affective in reducing digestive spasms during Upper Endoscopy and Double Contrast Barium Enema.(10,11)

Note: Peppermint has also been found to be useful for a number of other disorders. For information on these additional ailments, see our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Peppermint.


  • tincture
  • softgel
  • ointment
  • oil
  • dried herb/tea
  • cream
  • capsule

Dosage Information

Special tips:

--To brew peppermint tea: Use 1 or 2 teaspoons of dried peppermint leaves for each 8 ounces of water. Pour very hot (not boiling) water over the leaves, cover the cup (to prevent the volatile oil from being released) and allow the mixture to steep for 10 minutes, then strain.

--Because the strength of tinctures varies, follow package guidelines for use. Usually, 10 to 20 drops per glass of water is recommended.

  • For irritable bowel syndrome, nausea or gallstones: Take one or two enteric-coated peppermint capsules two or three times a day between meals. Each capsule should contain 0.2 ml of oil. Some people prefer to drink peppermint tea regularly, particularly for nausea.

  • For relief from stomach upset and other digestive complaints, flatulence and diverticular disorders: Drink three or four cups of peppermint tea a day, between meals. For diverticular disorders, also try a cup of the following herbal tea three or four times a day: Combine one part peppermint and one part valerian to two parts wild yam. Pour 8 ounces of hot (but not boiling) water over the mixture, steep for 10 minutes, then strain and sweeten to taste.

  • For heartburn and bad breath: Drink three or four cups of peppermint tea throughout the day or place one or two drops of peppermint oil on the tongue as needed.

  • For muscle aches and chronic pain: Add several drops of undiluted peppermint oil to 1 tablespoon of a neutral oil, such as almond oil. Apply as necessary to the affected areas, up to four times a day.

  • For congestion: Drink up to four cups of peppermint tea a day, as needed. A tincture can also be used for this purpose; follow package directions.

  • For mild asthma: Take two to three peppermint oil capsules a day.

  • For stress relief: Place six to eight drops of the essential oil into a warm bath.

    Be sure to check out our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Peppermint, which lists therapeutic dosages for specific ailments at a glance.

  • Guidelines for Use

  • Take enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules between meals; use peppermint tea before or after meals.

  • Select enteric-coated capsules when treating irritable bowel syndrome, nausea or gallstones with peppermint; they release the peppermint oil into the small and large intestine rather than the stomach, where it would be less effective.

  • Most adults can drink peppermint tea regularly without worrying about an adverse reaction because the relative concentration of menthol in the tea is quite low.

  • Some people enjoy having a peppermint after dinner for its stomach-settling properties. But however refreshing the taste, few commercial "after-dinner-mint" confections actually contain much peppermint oil.

  • General Interaction

  • Do not take peppermint oil capsules if you are on felodipine for high blood pressure. Peppermint oil may increase the drug’s effectiveness and side effects.

  • Do not use peppermint oil capsules if you are taking the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin. Peppermint oil may increase the drug's effectiveness and side effects.

    Note: For information on interactions with specific generic drugs, see our WholeHealthMD Drug/Nutrient Interactions Chart.

  • Possible Side Effects

  • Generally, peppermint in recommended doses causes no side effects, even over long periods of time.

  • Very infrequently, enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules may cause heartburn or a skin rash; the latter problem may occur with topically applied peppermint oil as well, especially if it's used in combination with heat.

  • Large amounts of peppermint oil (more than two drops) placed on the tongue can actually cause heartburn and digestive upset, so avoid using more than the recommended amount.

  • Cautions

  • Never ingest pure menthol, which can be fatal in a dose as small as 1 teaspoonful (2 grams). Menthol is a major ingredient in peppermint oil.

  • Don't apply peppermint oil to the chest or nostrils of a child under age five; a choking feeling can result.

  • Don't use peppermint oil if you have a hiatal hernia. The oil's muscle-relaxing effect will intensify its symptoms.

  • Consult your doctor before using peppermint if you have gallstones.

  • Avoid large doses of peppermint oil if you're pregnant, because it can relax the uterus before it's time to go into labor.
  • References

    1. Logan AC, Beaulne TM. The treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth with enteric-coated peppermint oil: a case report. Altern Med Rev. 2002 Oct;7(5):410-7.
    2. Weydert JA, Ball TM, Davis MF. Systematic review of treatments for recurrent abdominal pain. Pediatrics. 2003 Jan;111(1):e1-11.
    3. Anderson LA, Gross JB. Aromatherapy with peppermint, isopropyl alcohol, or placebo is equally effective in relieving postoperative nausea. J Perianesth Nurs. Feb;19(1):29-35.
    4. Tate S. Peppermint oil: a treatment for postoperative nausea. J Adv Nurs. 1997 Sep;26(3):543-9.
    5. 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 trial. J Gastroenterol. 1997 Dec;32(6):765-8.
    6. Saller R, Iten F, Reichling J. Dyspeptic pain and phytotherapy--a review of traditional and modern herbal drugs. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2001 Oct;8(5):263-73.
    7. Goerg KJ, Spilker T. Effect of peppermint oil and caraway oil on gastrointestinal motility in healthy volunteers: a pharmacodynamic study using simultaneous determination of gastric and gall-bladder emptying and orocaecal transit time. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Feb;17(3):445-51.
    8. Schuhmacher A, Reichling J, Schnitzler P. Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro. Phytomedicine. 2003;10(6-7):504-10.
    9. Davies SJ, Harding LM, Baranowski AP. A novel treatment of postherpetic neuralgia using peppermint oil. Clin J Pain. 2002 May-Jun;18(3):200-2.
    10. Hiki N, Kurosaka H, Tatsutomi Y, Shimoyama S, Tsuji E, Kojima J, Shimizu N, Ono H, Hirooka T, Noguchi C, Mafune K, Kaminishi M. Peppermint oil reduces gastric spasm during upper endoscopy: a randomized, double-blind, double-dummy controlled trial. Gastrointest Endosc. 2003 Apr;57(4):475-82.
    11. Asao T, Kuwano H, Ide M, Hirayama I, Nakamura JI, Fujita KI, Horiuti R. Spasmolytic effect of peppermint oil in barium during double-contrast barium enema compared with Buscopan. Clin Radiol. 2003 Apr;58(4):301-5.

    Evidence Based Rating Scale 

    The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies with what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice. This tool is meant to simplify which supplements and therapies demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions. This scale does not take into account any possible interactions with any medication/ condition/ or therapy which you may be currently undertaking. It is therefore advisable to ask your doctor before starting any new treatment regimen.









    Aches and pains










    Few good-quality studies have shown efficacy when applied topically or used as inhalant.









    Date Published: 04/19/2005

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