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Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)

Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Peppermint is a plant in the mint family. The leaf and oil are used as medicine.

Peppermint is used for the common cold, cough, inflammation of the mouth and throat, sinus infections, and other respiratory infections. It is also used for digestive problems including heartburn, nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), cramps of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract and bile ducts, diarrhea, bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, and gas.

Some people also use peppermint for menstrual problems, preventing spasms during endoscopy procedures, fevers, headaches, to reduce stomach bloating after surgery, and as a stimulant.

Peppermint oil is applied to the skin for headache, muscle pain, nerve pain, toothache, inflammation of the mouth, joint conditions, bad breath, menopausal symptoms, hot flashes during treatment for breast cancer, itchiness of the skin during pregnancy, hives, for repelling mosquitoes, for reducing plaque, and for reducing nipple discomfort during breastfeeding.

People use peppermint oil rectally to relax the colon during barium enemas.

Some people inhale peppermint oil for treating symptoms of cough and colds, as a painkiller, to improve mental function, and to reduce stress.

In foods and beverages, peppermint is a common flavoring agent.

In manufacturing, peppermint oil is used as a fragrance in soaps and cosmetics, and as a flavoring agent in pharmaceuticals.

In 1990, the FDA banned the sale of peppermint oil as an over-the-counter drug for use as a digestive aid because its effectiveness had not been proven. Today, peppermint is sold as a dietary supplement. Unlike over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements do not have to be proven effective to the satisfaction of the FDA in order to be marketed. Also, unlike over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements are not allowed to claim that they prevent or treat illness.

How does it work?

Peppermint oil seems to reduce spasms in the digestive tract. When applied to the skin, it can cause surface warmth, which relieves pain beneath the skin.

Traditionally used for

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Relaxing the colon during medical exams, including barium enemas.
Breastfeeding discomfort.
Heartburn (dyspepsia).
Spasms caused by endoscopy.
Tension headache.
Mental function.
Dental plaque.
Spasm in the esophagus.
Bad breath.
Itchy skin during pregnancy.
Relieving pain caused by shingles.
Nausea and vomiting following surgery.
Bacteria overgrowth in the intestines.
Cough and symptoms of cold.
Inflammation of mouth and respiratory tract lining.
Lung infections.
Morning sickness.
Muscle or nerve pain.
Nausea and vomiting.
Painful menstrual periods.


By Mouth:

For irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): one to two enteric-coated capsules each providing 0.2 mL or 180-225 mg of peppermint oil three times daily has been used. Most trials have used specific peppermint oil products (Colpermin by Tillotts Pharma; Mintoil by Cadigroup).
For spasms during endoscopy: Enteric-coated capsules containing 187 mg of 0.2 mL of peppermint oil have been taken 4 hours before a colonoscopy.

For upset stomach: A specific product containing 90 mg of peppermint oil and 50 mg of caraway oil (Enteroplant by Dr Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals), taken two or three times daily for up to 4 weeks. A specific combination product containing peppermint leaf and several other herbs (Iberogast by Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerk GmbH) has been used in a dose of 1 mL three times daily. A similar herbal preparation containing extracts from clown's mustard, German chamomile flower, peppermint leaves, caraway, licorice root, and lemon balm (STW 5-II by Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerk GmbH), 1 mL taken three times daily for up to 8 weeks, has been used.

Applied to the Skin:

For nipple discomfort due to breastfeeding: Peppermint oil gel (0.2% v/w concentration of peppermint oil) applied daily for 2 weeks. Also, solution containing peppermint oil has been applied after every breastfeeding for 2 weeks.

For spasms during endoscopy: 20 mL of spray containing 0.4-1.6% peppermint oil applied to the antrum during endoscopy. Also 16-40 mL of solution containing peppermint oil has been applied into the lumen during endoscopy.

For tension headaches: 10% peppermint oil in ethanol solution applied across the forehead and temples, repeated after 15 and 30 minutes, has been used.

By Enema:

For decreasing colonic spasms during barium enema: 8 mL of peppermint oil was added to 100 mL water along with a surface active agent, Tween 80. The insoluble fraction was removed, then 30 mL of the remaining peppermint solution was added to 300 mL of the barium solution. Also, 16 mL of peppermint oil and 0.4 mL of polysorbate was diluted in 2 liters of purified water, then 30 mL of the peppermint solution was added to barium paste suspended in 370 mL of water in an enema bag, and 10 mL of the peppermint solution was added to the enema tubing (6739).


By Mouth:

For irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): One or two enteric-coated capsules containing 0.2 mL of peppermint oil per capsule (Colpermin by Tillotts Pharma) has been taken three times daily for 2 weeks by children aged 8 years and older.

Possible Side Effects

Peppermint and peppermint oil are SAFE when by mouth, applied to the skin, or used rectally. The peppermint leaf is SAFE when taken by mouth short-term. The safety of using peppermint leaf longer than 8-weeks is unknown.

Peppermint can cause some side effects including heartburn, and allergic reactions including flushing, headache, and mouth sores.

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is SAFE to take peppermint in amounts normally found in food during pregnancy and breast-feeding. However, not enough is known about the safety of taking larger amounts used for medicine. It's best not to take these larger amounts if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Children and infants: Peppermint is SAFE when taken by mouth in food amounts. Peppermint oil, when taken by mouth in pills with a special (enteric) coating to prevent contact with the stomach, is SAFE for children 8 years of age and older.

A stomach condition in which the stomach is not producing hydrochloric acid (achlorhydria): Don't use enteric-coated peppermint oil if you have this condition. The enteric coating might dissolve too early in the digestive process.

Diarrhea: Enteric-coated peppermint oil could cause anal burning, if you have diarrhea.

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