Peppermint essential oil usage as an herbal medicine can be traced back thousands of years and has been used by virtually all of the great civilizations throughout history. It is generally recognized as safe by the FDA and has numerous health benefits. Peppermint, or Mentha piperita, is a hybrid plant created from watermint and spearmint, and although it is thought to originate in Europe, it is now widely cultivated throughout the world. Despite having several benefits to many it is considered an invasive plant in some areas. It grows and reproduces by spreading its rhizomes and can quickly take over a lawn if not contained properly (a word of caution to those thinking of growing it at home).
How is Peppermint Essential Oil Made?
The concentrated oil itself is often separated from the plant using steam distillation. Growers harvest the tops of the plants at just the right time when the oil is thought to be at its peak. Water and plant are heated to produce steam, which is then collected into a container and distilled again, if needed, to produce the final product.
Oil of Peppermint Health Benefits
• Respiratory Benefits: Because of the abundance of menthol (35-45%) contained in peppermint oil it has always been seen as a good way to treat problems with the respiratory system. Many over the counter cold remedies use it in their product because it helps relieve nasal congestion and cough almost immediately. Because of its cooling effect it also helps reduce fever.
• Dental Health: There is a reason that a lot of toothpastes, chewing gum and mouthwashes make use of peppermint essential oil. It not only helps to get rid of bad breath but also helps to kill bacteria in your mouth that may damage your teeth.
• Healthy Hair: Peppermint oil when diluted with water (1-2 drops of oil vs. 4 ounces of water) can help remove dandruff and lice, make your hair smell better and has been known to promote hair growth. It can also help control oily hair by regulating its production.
• Healthy Skin: Because of its antiseptic, antibacterial and cooling properties peppermint oil can help relieve a wide range of skin conditions (sunburn, bug bites, poison ivy, acne, etc.). Just remember to dilute the essence with a carrier oil such as almond, olive, or grape seed before you massage it in.
• Digestion Problems: Peppermint essential oil is known to help with several digestive problems, some of which include irritable bowel syndrome, low appetite, heartburn, motion sickness and upset stomach. It also helps keep your urinary tract healthy by preventing infections. Many people will drink a glass of water with a few drops of oil in it after a meal to decrease the possibility of gas.
• Headache and Pain Relief: Because of its ability to produce a simultaneous cooling and warming effect to the skin, the oil obtained from peppermint can help with even the toughest headaches. You can dilute the oil and massage on forehead or in some cases just inhaling the extract can help.
• Immune System: Peppermint essential oil can help boost one’s immune system due to its antioxidant properties.
• Stress and Mental Fatigue: The oil is used quite a bit in aromatherapy to improve concentration and mental accuracy as well as relieving stress and anxiety. Some people actually inhale the oil before exercising for increased focus and an overall boost in mood.
How to Use Peppermint Essential Oil
Below you’ll find some suggestions on use, but you should always try to go by the directions of where the oil was purchased as they should be able to guide you better on their own product than any article could.
• Blend the oil for use in massage or dilute it in your bath water.
• Does blend well with several other essential oils (eucalyptus, lemon, rosemary, marjoram, lavender, etc.). It can overpower other oils if used excessively in the blend.
• Add a few drops to tea, coffee, water, etc. Always use sparingly, though.
• Inhalation, diffusion, using burners or vaporizers and misting.
• Can be mixed with existing lotions or creams.
• In capsule form (on an empty stomach is usually best).
Peppermint Oil Warnings and Side Effects
• Because peppermint essential oil has a stimulative effect on the mind its use is not recommended right before going to bed.
• Dilution is highly encouraged for both internal and external use (a little goes a long way).
• Avoid using on children under 5 years of age.
• Use with caution when pregnant. Might be best to consult doctor.
• Can cause skin irritation in concentrated form. Always dilute.
• Avoid direct contact with eyes, fresh cuts, inside of nose or burns (especially in concentrated form).
Other Misc. Uses and Benefits of Peppermint Essential Oil
• When inhaled, it is said to improve a person’s sense of taste.
• Tick removal; just apply a drop directly to the tick to get it to unlatch.
• Peppermint oil is said to help naturally repel insects particularly well. Dilute some with water to make a spray and use around outside of house or on clothes.
• Mice can be discouraged to enter a home by putting oil of peppermint on cotton balls and placing them in areas where the rodents usually enter.
This article shouldn’t be used to treat or diagnose medical conditions, but instead be used as a base for further research. Keep in mind that all conclusions made regarding peppermint essential oil are of the writer’s own opinion gleaned from hours of research and it might be wise to consult an herbal practitioner or similar authority before use.
Photo by Sten Porse/Wikimedia Commons
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