The Benefits of Peppermint

peppermint leaf
Potted peppermint. Ursula Alter/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a plant used for medicinal purposes. The plant's oil is often taken in dietary supplement form, while peppermint leaf is frequently used to make herbal tea. One of the most common uses of peppermint is to ease digestive troubles.

When taken in dietary supplement form, peppermint oil usually comes in enteric-coated capsules. Enteric coating is used to prevent peppermint oil from being released in the stomach and causing such side effects as digestive upset.

Uses for Peppermint

In alternative medicine, peppermint is said to aid in the treatment of the following health problems:

Peppermint oil is also said to act as a carminative agent (a type of substance used to eliminate excess gas in the intestines).

In addition, peppermint is purported to improve mental function.

When applied topically (i.e., directly to the skin), essential oil of peppermint is said to alleviate pain and soothe such ailments as tension headache and migraine.

The Health Benefits of Peppermint

Here's a look at some key findings from the available research on peppermint and its potential health benefits:

1) IBS 

Peppermint oil may be a safe and effective short-term treatment for IBS, according to report published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in 2014.

For the report, researchers analyzed nine previously published studies (with a total of 726 participants) evaluating peppermint oil's effects in IBS patients. When compared to placebo, peppermint oil was found to be superior in the improvement of IBS symptoms and abdominal pain. The most commonly reported side effect of peppermint oil was heartburn.

It's thought that peppermint oil may help alleviate IBS symptoms in part by reducing muscle spasms.

2) Indigestion

A study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics in 2000 indicates that a combination of peppermint oil and caraway oil may help soothe symptoms of indigestion.

The study involved 96 patients with functional dyspepsia, which is a type of indigestion thought to be associated with abnormalities in the actions of the stomach muscle as it receives, digests, and moves food into the small intestine. For 28 days, participants received either a placebo or enteric-coated capsules containing 90 mg peppermint oil and 50 mg caraway oil.

At the study's end, patients treated with the peppermint/caraway oil supplement showed a greater reduction in the intensity of their pain and in symptoms like pressure, heaviness, and fullness (in comparison to those given the placebo).

3) Colonoscopy

Peppermint oil may be of some benefit to people undergoing colonoscopy (a screening exam typically used to look for colorectal cancer).

That's the finding of a study published in the Belgian journal Acta Gastro-Enterologica Belgica in 2012, which involved 65 colonoscopy patients.

In the study, researchers focused on the problem of colonic spasm (an issue known to cause pain in patients as well as interfere with colonoscopy by hindering insertion of the colonoscope).

Four hours before undergoing colonoscopy, patients were treated with either enteric-coated peppermint oil or a placebo. Study results revealed that peppermint oil was more effective in reducing colonic spasm, decreasing pain, and shortening total procedure time. What's more, those treated with peppermint oil said they were more willing to repeat colonoscopy in the future (compared to those given the placebo).

Related: Natural Approach to Colon Cancer Prevention

4) Migraine

Topical use of peppermint oil may help relieve migraine headaches, suggests a study published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice in 2010. 

For the study, 35 migraine patients were treated with either a peppermint-oil-based solution or a placebo during a migraine attack. Compared to the placebo, the peppermint-oil-based solution was more effective in relieving pain, nausea/vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or sound.

In the study, both treatments were applied to the forehead and to the area around the temples. 

Side Effects and Safety Concerns

Peppermint may trigger a range of side effects, including heartburn and allergic reactions such as headache and mouth sores.

Additionally, enteric-coated peppermint oil should be used with caution by people with gallstones, heartburn, hiatal hernia, severe liver damage, gallbladder inflammation, or bile duct obstruction. 

If you're considering the topical use of peppermint essential oil, it's crucial to learn about the safety issues associated with aromatherapy. For example, essential oils must be combined with a carrier oil prior to being applied to the skin.

You can learn more about using essential oils safely here.

Where to Find It

Enteric-coated peppermint oil, peppermint essential oil, and peppermint tea can be found in many stores, including natural-foods stores and drugstores. You can also purchase peppermint products online.


Borhani Haghighi A1, Motazedian S, Rezaii R, Mohammadi F, Salarian L, Pourmokhtari M, Khodaei S, Vossoughi M, Miri R. "Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossed-over study." Int J Clin Pract. 2010 Mar;64(4):451-6.

Ford AC1, Talley NJ, Spiegel BM, Foxx-Orenstein AE, Schiller L, Quigley EM, Moayyedi P. "Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis." BMJ. 2008 Nov 13;337:a2313.

Khanna R1, MacDonald JK, Levesque BG. "Peppermint oil for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis." J Clin Gastroenterol. 2014 Jul;48(6):505-12.

May B1, Köhler S, Schneider B. "Efficacy and tolerability of a fixed combination of peppermint oil and caraway oil in patients suffering from functional dyspepsia." Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Dec;14(12):1671-7.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Indigestion." NIH Publication No. 09–4549. October 2013.

Shavakhi A1, Ardestani SK, Taki M, Goli M, Keshteli AH. "Premedication with peppermint oil capsules in colonoscopy: a double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial study." Acta Gastroenterol Belg. 2012 Sep;75(3):349-53.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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