Medically reviewed on Jun 7, 2018
What is Peppermint?
This well-known perennial herb is a typical member of the mint family with a square purple-green stem with purple and lilac-colored flowers. The plant usually spreads by means of runners. A variety of types of peppermint exist, which are cultivated worldwide. Pharmaceutical oil is derived from 2 varieties, white (light-green leaves) and black (dark-green leaves) peppermint. This is not to be confused with Japanese peppermint oil, which has a similar odor but comes from a different species.
Mentha x piperita. Peppermint is a hybrid of Mentha spicata (spearmint) and Mentha aquatica.
What is it used for?
First described in England in 1696, peppermint and its oil have been used in Eastern and Western traditional medicine for its aroma, for cramps, and for infections. It has also been used in treating cancers, colds, indigestion, nausea, sore throat, and toothaches. Today, the oil is used widely as a flavoring for chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, cigarettes, and drugs. It also is used as an ingredient in cough and cold preparations, and in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The constituent menthol is used in many antiseptic, anti-itch, and local anesthetic preparations.
Menthol is available in many preparations for the treatment of colds and cough and for its cooling and warming action on skin to relieve pain. However, there is limited clinical information supporting its use for these conditions.
What is the recommended dosage?
Peppermint oil has been used to treat indigestion at doses of 0.1 to 0.24 mL. Up to 1,200 mg of the oil in enteric-coated tablets has been used to treat IBS. Peppermint oil (40 mL) has been added to barium suspensions and also administered (8 mL) during colonoscopy to relax the gut muscles.
Peppermint oil should not be used in patients with gastric reflux or active stomach ulcers. Do not apply peppermint oil to the face, especially under the nose of a child or infant. Enteric-coated preparations are not recommended for use in children younger than 8 years.
Documented adverse effects. Stimulates menstrual flow.
Peppermint oil may influence metabolism of certain drugs (including felodipine and simvastatin), and increases adverse reactions. Absorption of caffeine may be delayed by menthol.
Peppermint oil may cause allergic reactions characterized by skin reaction, flushing, and headache, and worsen the symptoms of hiatal hernias, heartburn, and stomach ulcers.
Peppermint generally is recognized as safe in amounts used in seasoning or flavoring, although medicinal uses of the plant may cause adverse reactions.