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Peppermint

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What other names is Peppermint known by?

Black Peppermint, Brandy Mint, Extract of Mentha Piperita, Extract of Peppermint, Extract of Peppermint Leaves, Extract of Peppermint Leaves, Extrait de Feuilles de Menthe de Poivrée, Extrait de Mentha Piperita, Extrait de Menthe Poivrée, Feuille de Menthe Poivrée, Field Mint, Herba Menthae, Huile de Mentha Piperita, Huile de Menthe Poivrée, Huile Essentielle de Menthe Poivrée, Lamb Mint, Menta Piperita, Mentha arvensis, Mentha halpocalyx, Mentha lavanduliodora, Mentha Oil, Mentha Piperita, Mentha Piperita Extract, Mentha Piperita Oil, Mentha x piperita, Menthae Piperitae Aetheroleum, Menthae Piperitae Folium, Menthe, Menthe Poivrée, Menthol, Mint, Mint Balm, Oil of Peppermint, Paparaminta, Peppermint Essential Oil, Peppermint Extract, Peppermint Leaf, Peppermint Leaf Extract, Peppermint Oil, Western Peppermint.

What is Peppermint?

Peppermint is a plant. 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 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, upset stomach, diarrhea, bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, and gas.

Some people also use peppermint for menstrual problems, liver and gallbladder complaints, preventing spasms during endoscopy procedures, and as a stimulant.

Peppermint oil is applied to the skin for headache, muscle pain, nerve pain, toothache, inflammation of the mouth, joint conditions, itchiness, allergic rash, bacterial and viral infections, relaxing the colon during barium enemas, and for repelling mosquitoes.

Some people inhale peppermint oil for treating symptoms of cough and colds, and as a painkiller.

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.

Likely Effective for...

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Although some older studies suggest that peppermint oil does not affect IBS, most research shows that taking peppermint oil by mouth reduces stomach pain, bloating, gas, and bowel movements in people with IBS.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Relaxing the colon during medical exams, including barium enemas. Using peppermint oil as an ingredient in enemas seems to relax the colon during barium enema examinations. Also, taking peppermint oil by mouth before the start of a barium enema also seems to decrease spasms.
  • Breastfeeding discomfort. Research suggests that breastfeeding women who apply peppermint oil on their skin have less cracked skin and pain in the nipple area.
  • Heartburn (dyspepsia). Taking peppermint oil by mouth together with caraway oil seems to reduce feelings of fullness and stomach spasms. A specific combination product containing peppermint (Iberogast, Medical Futures, Inc) also seems to improve symptoms of heartburn, including severity of acid reflux, stomach pain, cramping, nausea, and vomiting. The combination includes peppermint leaf plus clown's mustard plant, German chamomile, caraway, licorice, milk thistle, angelica, celandine, and lemon balm.
  • Spasms caused by endoscopy. Research shows that peppermint oil can reduce pain and spasms in people undergoing endoscopy, a procedure used to see within the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Migraine headache. Applying a peppermint solution to the skin at the start of a migraine and again 30 minutes later seems to increase the percentage of patients who experience headache resolution.
  • Tension headache. Applying peppermint oil to the skin seems to help relieve tension headaches.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Nausea following surgery. Inhaling peppermint might relieve nausea by improving breathing patterns after surgery. However, inhaling peppermint oil does not seem to be more effective than inhaling alcohol or saline for reducing nausea after surgery.
  • Recovery following surgery. One study shows that taking a specific peppermint product (Copermin) three times daily for five days after surgery does not affect stomach bloating or heartburn. Another study shows that taking peppermint oil capsules does not relieve bloating or stomach pain following surgery.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Mental function. Early evidence suggests that peppermint slightly improves memory and performance on mental tasks, but does not improve attention and speed of completing tasks.
  • Dental plaque. Early evidence shows that peppermint oil or extract combined with other herbs reduces dental plaque. However, peppermint does not seem to be better than standard treatments.
  • Bad breath. Early research shows that a specific combination of tea tree oil, peppermint, and lemon oil can improve breath smell when used for 3 minutes.
  • Spasm in the esophagus. Early evidence shows that drinking water containing five drops of peppermint oil stops spasms in the esophagus.
  • Hot flashes. Early evidence suggests that a combination peppermint and neroli hydrolat spray might relieve hot flashes in women receiving chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.
  • Relieving pain caused by shingles. Early information suggests that applying peppermint oil to the skin might provide some relief for lingering pain caused by shingles.
  • Itchy skin (pruritus). Early evidence suggests that applying a specific product containing the peppermint constituent, menthol, along with camphor and phenol, can reduce scalp itching.
  • Stress. Early research shows that peppermint aromatherapy can reduce stress.
  • Tuberculosis. Early research suggests that inhaling peppermint for 20 minutes for 2 months improves the effectiveness of typical drug therapy for tuberculosis.
  • Toothaches.
  • Infections.
  • Morning sickness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Painful menstrual periods.
  • Bacteria overgrowth in the intestines.
  • Lung infections.
  • Cough and symptoms of cold.
  • Inflammation of mouth and respiratory tract lining.
  • Muscle or nerve pain.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate peppermint for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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