Peppermint essential oil is one of the most common oils you’ll find on the market. It has some widely reputed uses, like headache relief, but it also some little-known benefits that are backed by research.
Peppermint essential oil is unique in that it can not only be used aromatically, but also topically and (with great caution) internally to address health concerns, to promote vitality, and to manage topical conditions.
Peppermint oil has both antimicrobial and antiviral properties, and it functions internally as an antioxidant, while one of the active ingredients—menthol—has widely reputed abilities to improve congestion and certain breathing problems.
It’s no surprise then why peppermint essential oil is perhaps the most common and popular essential oil in the world, and why just about everyone could benefit from having some in their home.
The use of peppermint oil dates back not only to old European medical practice, but much farther back to ancient Japan and China, and even ancient Greek mythology. References to peppermint oil have even been found in the Egyptian pyramids as far back as 1,000 B.C.
In the modern world, peppermint oil hasn’t lost a step and is still used for many reasons. Let’s explore 15 of the most popular, scientifically-backed reasons to use it and how to put it to use in your own life.
15 Health Benefits and Uses of Peppermint Essential Oil
Not sure how to get started with using peppermint essential oil? Try these tried and true methods for these 15 health reasons. Even if you’re an avid user of peppermint oil, perhaps you’ll find new ways to utilize it throughout your home and your lifestyle.
1. Sinus and Respiratory Benefits
Getting a cold and being so congested you can barely breathe is miserable, but enter peppermint oil! Inhaling it straight from the bottle is just one way that peppermint essential oil can come to the rescue.
Peppermint EO can help to open sinus pathways and provide relief not only from congestion but also the discomfort of a scratchy throat and labored breathing. This is due to the fact that peppermint is an expectorant, meaning that it opens airways and helps to get that stuffed up mucus moving.
It is widely used for cold, flu, bronchitis, and other infections, as well as conditions like asthma, sinusitis, and other respiratory problems. Peppermint oil is antimicrobial, so not only can it help provide relief from symptoms, but it can also fight the infection at its root.
You can also mix with water for an antimicrobial cleaning solution that will fight germs while making your home smell minty fresh.
Beyond inhaling straight from the bottle, you can also diffuse it with eucalyptus and lemon essential oils for a lung-supportive blend, or you can add drops to the corners of your shower and let the oil with the steam action get to work on your stuffy nose or chest congestion.
You can also mix with a carrier oil and apply to temples, chest, back of neck, under ears, and under the nose.
2. Provide Headache Relief
Peppermint oil is perhaps most well-known for the ability to provide headache relief as well or better than internal pain medications. It is especially effective against tension headaches.
This works because it helps to improve circulation and blood flow, which can provide relief from that literal pain in the neck feeling.
Not only can peppermint ease head pain, but it can also have a brain-boosting effect by increasing cognitive performance, and providing a stress-relieving feeling while also increasing mental alertness.
For headache or even stress relief, mix peppermint with a carrier oil and pair with eucalyptus and lavender, applying to temples, forehead, and back of the neck. Use three or four times a day, or as needed.
3. Improve Exercise and Overall Physical Stamina
Need to step up your game when it comes to exercise, sports, or personal best times? Try peppermint oil. Research shows that when peppermint oil is ingested internally, it can boost things like grip force and standing or vertical jump.
It can also improve breathing and the ability to take in and expel more oxygen.
To achieve these benefits, add one or two drops to a glass of water and drink before exercise, however, a note of caution is warranted: while peppermint is probably the safest oil to take internally, since it is also used as a food flavoring, certain people can be more sensitive to this than others.
It can also interact with medications, so before you try this, it’s best to check with your practitioner.
4. Naturally Repel Bugs and Pests
Even though peppermint is a soothing scent for most humans, it is repellent to pests of many kinds, including spiders and mice, but also ants, cockroaches, mosquitos, and potentially even lice.
For pests like mosquitos, peppermint oil can work as an active repellent for two and a half hours, but then needs reapplied. For ants and spiders, depending on the volume of infestation or present, it should be applied either daily or a few times per week around the floorboards or wherever else the pests appear.
It should be noted that peppermint oil repels but doesn’t harm or kill, so if you already have pests present in your house, you will need to get rid of them first, and then use peppermint oil to help prevent them from reentering.
5. Relieve Muscle and Joint Aches and Pain
As effective as peppermint oil is for head pain, it is equally as effective for joint and muscle pain. It works as a natural painkiller and can help to relax tense muscles.
It can even help with chronic pain conditions, like fibromyalgia, when massaged into the painful tissue. For pain relief, use two to four drops with a carrier oil on the area of pain, or add five to seven drops to a bath or foot soak.
6. Promotes Good Dental and Oral Health
There’s a reason why so many toothpaste and dental products are pepperminty—it helps to keep the mouth healthy. Not only can it freshen breath, it can help to kill bacteria in the mouth that lead to issues like gingivitis or periodontal disease.
When used in conjunction with tea tree oil and eucalyptus, it can make a germ-killing mouthwash.
Make your own toothpaste by pairing a tablespoon or coconut oil, half tablespoon of baking soda, and five drops of peppermint oil, or a mouthwash using two cups of purified water with seven drops of peppermint, five drops of eucalyptus, and three drops of tea tree oil. Swish in the morning and evening, as well as after meals.
7. Works as a Natural Digestive Aid
Peppermint oil can help to alleviate digestive pain by helping to remove excessive gas, which can also alleviate bloating, belching, and intestinal cramps, and can also improve nausea, upset stomach, and even low digestive function. It can even help to address heartburn when paired with caraway oil.
To use it as a digestive aid, add a few drops to a glass of water and drink before or after a meal. Be sure to check with your practitioner before you consume it internally.
8. Natural Stress-Reliever and Mental Refresher
Peppermint is a bright and refreshing scent that also provides an atmosphere of calm. It can help to boost mood and alleviate stress, while also increasing mental clarity and function.
It can even help to bring a stabilizing factor to situational anxiety. To use peppermint for this, inhale directly from the bottle, or use with a carrier oil and apply to temples, forehead, back of neck, and even the inside of the wrists.
9. Supports Natural Immunity
Peppermint oil has antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties, making it a benefit to anyone struggling with a low-functioning immune system.
Note that it’s essential you make sure that taking it internally isn’t contraindicated for you, and doesn’t interact with other supplements or medications.
Even if it does, you can still gain the benefits of diffusing or using to surface clean in your house to help make sure those nasty germs are cleaned and eradicated.
10. Improves Natural Blood Flow
Peppermint can help to stimulate blood flow, one of the reasons why it can help relieve headaches. But this can be true throughout the rest of the body, too.
Even just the vapor of the oil can stimulate this effect by increasing pulse and blood flow.
This effect benefits total body health by increasing oxygen flow throughout the organs, and can have a boosting effect on the metabolism, too.
11. Relieves Feelings of Itching
The menthol found in peppermint can help provide a relief for itching, sometimes so well that people use it as a topical relief for mosquito bites.
To relieve any form of topical itch, mix peppermint oil with a carrier oil and apply to the itchy skin two or three times per day. You can also add six drops to a warm bath.
12. Help with IBS Symptoms
Battling IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, can feel overwhelming and annoying. Some research shows that peppermint oil taken internally can help to reduce intestinal cramping and spasms, which can also help to alleviate bloating and gas pains.
Research has shown that it can cut severity and occurrence of symptoms in half. To use, add one or two drops to a glass or water or take in capsule form.
You can also use peppermint oil and a carrier oil to massage the abdomen to boost blood flow and relieve pain. Make sure to check with your practitioner before taking internally.
13. Promotes Hair Growth and Dandruff Reduction
You’ll find peppermint in many conventional hair products because of its stimulating and nourishing effect. Peppermint oil can help to thicken hair and repair dry and damaged hair.
It can be so effective that it can provide noticeable improvement in people with severe hair loss. This happens as a result of peppermint’s stimulating and blood flow increasing effects on the scalp.
It can also be effective against dandruff, as the primary ingredient in dandruff products is menthol, the active ingredient in peppermint. Peppermint can boost hair growth and thickness in as little as four weeks of regular use.
You can add a few drops to your regular shampoo and conditioner, or considering making your own hair mask by taking a tablespoon of coconut oil mixed with six drops of peppermint oil, massaging into scalp and ends. Rinse after letting it sit for at least 30 minutes.
14. Helps Address and Relieve Nausea
Peppermint is a med-free way to relieve nausea, including morning sickness in pregnancy. It has also been found to be helpful against flu and chemotherapy induced nausea and upset stomach.
The best way to use peppermint essential oil as nausea relief is to inhale directly from the bottle, as often as needed for relief.
15. Supports Vibrant Skin
Peppermint isn’t just great for vibrant hair, it can also support healthy skin. It can help to calm and soothe acne-prone skin, and can address blackheads, greasy skin, eczema, ringworm, dermatitis, itching and rashes, and even sunburn.
To reap these benefits, pair peppermint essential oil with coconut oil and apply to the areas affected. Peppermint oil even has a small SPF, so it can be paired with coconut oil (which is SPF 15), and provide some moderate relief from sun exposure.
If you have very sensitive skin, it’s important to also use additional sun protection.
Risks of Peppermint Essential Oil and When Not To Use
Peppermint essential oil is generally considered to be safe, but there are some basic reasons when it shouldn’t be used.
- Never use internally without doctor permission.
- Never use in large doses, beyond a few drops.
- Discontinue any form of use if sensitivity develops.
- Never use internally in infants or children under age 18.
- Do not use topically on infants or children without the knowledge of your pediatrician. Some children can have strong reactions.
- Do not use if you have gallstones, gallbladder problems or disease, severe acid reflux, or kidney issues.
- Do not use on sensitive or allergic skin.
- Do not use orally when taking any other form of medication or supplements.
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- Kligler B, Chaudhary S. Peppermint oil. American Family Physician. 2007;75(7):1027-1030.
- McKay DL, Blumberg JB. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytotherapy Research. 2006;20(8):619-633.
- Ford AC, Talley NJ, Spiegel BM, et al. Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2008;337:a2313.
Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid problems, infertility, and digestive wellness. She ate her way back to health using a Paleo diet, lost 80 pounds, and had a healthy baby after numerous miscarriages. She focuses on simple nutrition practices that promote long-lasting results.