Peppermint use while Breastfeeding
Medically reviewed on April 11, 2017.
Peppermint Levels and Effects while Breastfeeding
Summary of Use during Lactation
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) contains menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate as major ingredients. Minor ingredients include 1,8-cineole, pulegone, bitter substances, caffeic acid, flavonoids, and tannins. Peppermint is a purported galactogogue; however, no scientifically valid clinical trials support this use. Galactogogues should never replace evaluation and counseling on modifiable factors that affect milk production. Topical peppermint gel and solutions have been studied for the prevention of pain and cracked nipples and areolas in nursing women. The peppermint preparations were more effective than placebo and expressed breastmilk, and about as effective as lanolin, although a meta-analysis concluded that application of nothing or breastmilk may be superior to lanolin, but good studies are lacking. Menthol is excreted into breastmilk in small quantities; the excretion of other components have not been studied. Peppermint is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) as a food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Large doses can cause heartburn, nausea and vomiting. Allergic reactions, including headache, have been reported to menthol. If peppermint is used on the nipples, it should be used after nursing and wiped off before the next nursing.
Dietary supplements do not require extensive pre-marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Manufacturers are responsible to ensure the safety, but do not need to prove the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements before they are marketed. Dietary supplements may contain multiple ingredients, and differences are often found between labeled and actual ingredients or their amounts. A manufacturer may contract with an independent organization to verify the quality of a product or its ingredients, but that does not certify the safety or effectiveness of a product. Because of the above issues, clinical testing results on one product may not be applicable to other products. More detailed information about dietary supplements is available elsewhere on the LactMed Web site.
The flavor of peppermint comes primarily from its menthol content, but 1,8-cineol (eucalyptol) is also present.
Maternal Levels. Eighteen lactating women were given 100 mg of l-menthol in a capsule on 3 test days. Milk samples were collected every 2 hours for 8 hours starting at the time of ingestion. Menthol was detected in milk at all collection times, with the average concentrations of 2.1 mcg/L at 0 hours, 4.9 mcg/L at 2 hours, 5.9 mcg/L at 4 hours, 5.8 mcg/L at 6 hours and 4.1 mcg/L at 8 hours after the dose. The average peak menthol concentration in milk was 8 mcg/L. Only small amounts of menthol glucuronide metabolites were present in the milk samples.
Maternal Levels. Twelve nursing mothers who were19 weeks to 19 months postpartum ingested 100 mg of 1,8 cineole (eucalyptol) in the form of delayed-release capsules (Soledum-Klosterfrau Vertriebs GmbH, Germany) that release the drug in the intestine. Then they pumped 1 to 4 milk samples at the time they perceived the smell of eucalyptus on their breath which had been previously shown to be approximately concurrent. A total of 21 milk samples were obtained. Odor was rated by a panel of 3 to 5 experts as either smelling like eucalyptus or not. Fourteen of the samples had a distinct eucalyptus-like odor. Chemical analysis of the positive odor tests found 1,8-cineole in concentrations from 70 to about 2090 mcg/kg of milk, most in the range of 100 to 500 mcg/kg of milk. Samples with negative odor tests contained concentrations in the range of 0.98 to about 20.23 mcg/kg of milk. In one woman who donated 3 samples, the highest concentration of 71 mcg/kg occurred at 1.5 hours after ingestion, with concentrations of 1 mcg/kg before ingestion and 15 mcg/kg at 9.5 hours after ingestion. Eight women had their milk analyzed for 1,8-cineole metabolites. Ten metabolites and several enantiomers of these metabolites were detected.
Infant Levels. Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.
Effects in Breastfed Infants
Nursing mothers who were participating in an experiment on the excretion of 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol) in breastmilk took a 100 mg capsule of 1,8-cineole orally. Although instructed not to, 12 mothers breastfed their infants during the experiment. Mothers reported that none of their infants refused their milk or breastfed less than usual. Two mothers felt that their infants were more agitated a few hours after breastfeeding. A third mother reported that the infant stopped nursing from time to time and "looked puzzled", but resumed nursing. Upon repeating the experiment 6 weeks later, the infant did not react in an unusual way during breastfeeding.
Effects on Lactation and Breastmilk
Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.
1. Yarnell E. Botanical medicine in pregnancy and lactation. Altern Complement Ther. 1997;3 (April):93-100.
2. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. ABM clinical protocol #9: use of galactogogues in initiating or augmenting the rate of maternal milk secretion (First revision January 2011). Breastfeed Med. 2011;6:41-9. PMID: 21332371
3. Sayyah Melli M, Rashidi MR, Delazar A et al. Effect of peppermint water on prevention of nipple cracks in lactating primiparous women: A randomized controlled trial. Int Breastfeed J. 2007;2:7. PMID: 17442122
4. Sayyah Melli M, Rashidi MR, Nokhoodchi A et al. A randomized trial of peppermint gel, lanolin ointment, and placebo gel to prevent nipple crack in primiparous breastfeeding women. Med Sci Monit. 2007;13:CR406-11. PMID: 17767120
5. Akbari SA, Alamolhoda SH, Baghban AA, Mirabi P. Effects of menthol essence and breast milk on the improvement of nipple fissures in breastfeeding women. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19:629-33. PMID: 25364362
6. Shanazi M, Farshbaf Khalili A, Kamalifard M et al. Comparison of the effects of lanolin, peppermint, and dexpanthenol creams on treatment of traumatic nipples in breastfeeding mothers. J Caring Sci. 2015;4:297-307. PMID: 26744729
7. Dennis CL, Jackson K, Watson J. Interventions for treating painful nipples among breastfeeding women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;12: CD007366. PMID: 25506813
8. Hausner H, Bredie WL, Molgaard C et al. Differential transfer of dietary flavour compounds into human breast milk. Physiol Behav. 2008;95:118-24. PMID: 18571209
9. Kirsch F, Beauchamp J, Buettner A. Time-dependent aroma changes in breast milk after oral intake of a pharmacological preparation containing 1,8-cineole. Clin Nutr. 2012;31:682-92. PMID: 22405404
10. Kirsch F, Buettner A. Characterisation of the metabolites of 1,8-cineole transferred into human milk: Concentrations and ratio of enantiomers. Metabolites. 2013;3:47-71. DOI: doi:10.3390/metabo3010047
11. Kirsch F, Horst K, Rohrig W et al. Tracing metabolite profiles in human milk: studies on the odorant 1,8-cineole transferred into breast milk after oral intake. Metabolomics. 2013;9:483-96. DOI: doi:10.1007/s11306-012-0466-9
Mentha x piperita
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