During the dog days of summer, I’m especially appreciative of anything I can use to cool off, no matter how brief the relief might be! I’ve been known to sing the praises of our air conditioning system, my big floppy hat that keeps the sun out of my face, and my secret weapon for beating the heat: peppermint essential oil!
Many essential oil users, myself included, consider peppermint to be one of the most foundational oils you can have in your home collection. Peppermint oil has a variety of powerful benefits that can help with everything from migraines to chronic gastrointestinal problems, and there are plenty of ways to put it to work around the house too!
In today’s post, we’ll be exploring all of that and more in this comprehensive guide to all things peppermint oil. By the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of what peppermint oil is, what it’s good for, and the many wonderful ways you can use it!
What Is Peppermint Oil?
Peppermint essential oil is harvested from the leaves of Mentha x piperita, otherwise known as the peppermint plant. (The “x” in its scientific name signifies that peppermint is a hybrid. It’s actually a cross between two other types of mint: water mint and spearmint.)
Like its parents and other members of the mint family, peppermint is an aromatic herb with a distinctively sharp scent. The cooling effect we experience when we smell or eat mint happens because of menthol, a naturally occurring compound in mint that triggers the cold-sensitive receptors in our skin. (Crazy, right?)
Peppermint Essential Oil vs. Peppermint Extract
One more thing I want to point out here is that peppermint essential oil and peppermint extract are very different things. Peppermint essential oil retains the peppermint plant’s volatile aromatic compounds because they are carefully extracted through steam distillation.
Peppermint extract, on the other hand, is usually made by steeping peppermint in alcohol for a period of time. The only compounds that end up in the extract are the ones that are alcohol-soluble, like flavor and color compounds. So while peppermint extract may taste and smell like real peppermint, it doesn’t contain the full array of volatile compounds that make peppermint oil so beneficial.
Peppermint Oil Benefits
Peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory properties that can be useful for treating all kinds of symptoms and conditions that stem from inflammation (and there are a lot of them!) It also has pain relieving properties, thanks both to the way that menthol interacts with the body’s pain receptors and peppermint’s ability to promote blood flow.
Here are some of the specific benefits that peppermint oil has to offer:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. Studies have found promising evidence that enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules made a safe and effective treatment for IBS symptoms, likely due to both peppermint oil’s anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects.
(“Enteric-coated” just means that the peppermint oil is contained inside a protective casing that only dissolves once it reaches the small intestine. Many types of medications are enteric-coated to help prevent them from irritating your stomach, including aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.)
A 2019 review analyzed twelve separate clinical trials that studied whether enteric-coated peppermint oil could improve IBS symptoms in adults. The authors of the review concluded that peppermint oil was shown to be a safe and effective treatment method for a variety of IBS symptoms!
Peppermint oil can also be a useful treatment for nausea. A 2016 study of cardiac surgery patients found that those who experienced postoperative nausea and used a nasal inhaler containing peppermint oil experienced a significant reduction in nausea after two minutes.
Even if you’re not undergoing heart surgery, the aroma of peppermint oil can help reduce feelings of nausea in all sorts of situations (see #12 in the list of uses for peppermint oil below!)
As I mentioned previously, peppermint oil may help relieve pain too. A small 2010 study of participants with migraine pain found that applying a menthol solution to the forehead and temples led to a longer duration of pain relief, as well as less nausea and light sensitivity, when compared to the placebo group.
Most of the current research about the pain relieving properties of peppermint oil and menthol focus on migraines and tension headaches. But many people use peppermint oil to soothe other pain like muscle aches, arthritis, and even chest pain.
The tingly, stimulating effect of peppermint oil can be useful for more than just soothing sore muscles—it may help stimulate hair growth too. A 2014 study of hair growth in shaved mice found that mice treated with a 3% peppermint essential oil solution experienced similar hair growth results to mice who were treated with minoxidil, the medication found in Rogaine and other hair growth products.
The authors suggested that the peppermint essential oil solution promoted hair growth by promoting blood circulation within the skin layers where hair growth occurs. While this particular study only included mice, the results suggest that peppermint oil could be a promising treatment for human hair loss too!
For Fighting Bacteria
Scientist have shown a growing interest in peppermint oil’s antibacterial and anti-fungal properties over the past decade, especially as antibiotic resistance has become a global health problem. In a 2011 study, scientists evaluated peppermint oil’s activity against pathogenic strains of Staphylococcus aureus that are known to cause skin infections, respiratory infections, and food poisoning.
They found that at certain doses, peppermint oil effectively inhibited the expression of “virulence factors” (AKA the bad stuff that S. aureus produces that promotes infection.) These results also extended to MRSA, a group of strains of S. aureus that are particularly problematic because of antibiotic resistance. When it comes to fighting bacteria, scientists are discovering that peppermint oil packs quite the punch!
Now that we’ve covered some the benefits of peppermint oil, let’s talk about ways to take advantage of those benefits! Here are 20 uses for peppermint oil that prove just how useful it is to have around the house!
20 Practical Uses For Peppermint Oil
1. Soothe A Headache
Dab a drop or two of peppermint oil over your temples, neck, and sinuses to help ease the pain of a stubborn headache!
2. Treat Allergy Symptoms
Both peppermint essential oil and lemon oil can help open up your airways during allergy season. Add a few drops of both oils to a diffuser and breathe deeply to help relieve allergy symptoms naturally.
3. Boost Productivity
Need an energy boost to help you get stuff done at work or around the house? Just add some peppermint essential oil to your favorite diffuser!
4. Increase Energy
Peppermint can help improve blood circulation and mental awareness, leaving you feeling more energized and alert. You can even inhale it right out of the bottle if you’re on the go!
5. Stay Alert While Driving
It’s important to stay alert while you’re driving, especially on long drives when it’s easy to zone out. Add a few drops of peppermint oil to a cotton ball and clip it to your air vents. The energizing scent of peppermint will keep you alert (and freshen the air in your car too!)
6. Relieve A Toothache
Peppermint oil contains menthol, which is well known for its ability to dull pain and relax muscles. Apply a few drops around your jawline after dental work, or to help soothe the pain of a toothache.
7. Control Trash Odor
Put a few drops of peppermint oil in the bottom of your garbage can. The minty fresh scent will control odors in your trash, while also helping to deter ants and other pests like mice!
8. Ease Constipation
Massage peppermint oil over the lower abdomen to relieve constipation and help get things moving again.
9. Cool A Fever
When someone has a fever, it can take a while for fever reducing medicines to kick in. In the meantime, grab your bottle of peppermint oil for quick cooling relief! Rub several drops on the soles of the feet for a cooling effect.
10. Deter Spiders
You don’t need chemicals to keep spiders at bay if you have peppermint oil on hand! Spiders hate peppermint oil, and and will avoid areas where you apply it.
11. Control Your Appetite
The scent of peppermint oil can help you curb cravings and feel more full. Keep a bottle nearby to help stave off those afternoon junk food cravings.
12. Relieve Motion Sickness
Peppermint oil is great for settling feelings of nausea. After a roller coaster ride, bumpy plane landing, or other nausea-inducing event, rub a few drops of peppermint on your stomach to ease discomfort.
13. Tame Tummy Troubles
Indigestion or upset stomach? Rub a few drops of peppermint oil on your stomach for quick relief. (This makes it a great traveling companion!)
14. Cool Tired Feet
Spending the day on your feet can leave them feeling hot and tired, but peppermint oil can help! Add a few drops to a foot bath or bucket of cold water, then soak your feet for cooling relief.
15. Stimulate Your Scalp
The energizing effect of peppermint can help stimulate and cleanse your scalp. Add a few drops of peppermint to your shampoo and conditioner when you wash your hair for scalp stimulation and a boost of natural energy.
16. Enhance Your Workout
Inhale peppermint oil before and even during a workout to boost your energy levels and reduce fatigue.
17. Clean Your Home Naturally
Peppermint oil has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that make it excellent for cleaning. Add it to your favorite cleaning products, or use it alone to clean countertops and bathroom surfaces!
18. Soothe Sore Muscles
Sore muscles after a strenuous workout? Add about 5 drops of peppermint oil to a teaspoon of your favorite carrier oil, and use it as a massage oil to soothe muscle tension and soreness.
19. Relieve Arthritis Pain
Thanks to its menthol content, peppermint essential oil can be just as helpful for arthritis pain as any of those store-bought menthol creams! Apply it to areas affected by arthritis, tendonitis, and other forms of joint pain for cooling pain relief.
20. Remove Ticks
Use peppermint oil on a cotton swab to smother pesky ticks. They will remove their heads to come up for air, then you’ll be able to pick them off with a pair of tweezers.
Using Peppermint Oil Safely
Just because essential oils are natural and useful doesn’t mean they are perfectly safe, so it’s important to use them carefully and wisely.
For safety’s sake, I do not recommend ingesting essential oils without supervision or approval from a healthcare professional. Possible side effects of taking peppermint oil orally include heartburn, nausea, and vomiting.
Additionally, be aware that peppermint oil and aromatherapy in general can be toxic to pets. Never force essential oils on pets, and when using a diffuser, ensure that pets are either out of the area or free to leave at any time.
In some cases, peppermint oil may cause irritation or rashes when applied directly to the skin. Most people tolerate it well when it is properly diluted with a carrier oil before being applied topically, but those with very sensitive skin may want to test it on a small patch of skin first.
Finally, I’m not a health expert, and this post is NOT intended to be taken as medical advice. As always, consult your doctor or a trusted health professional, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and use your best judgment in matters relating to health and safety.
What are your favorite uses for peppermint oil?