If it feels like peppermint is essentially everywhere in your life, that’s because it is. One of the most versatile essential oils, peppermint has been used for thousands of years to spicy foods and drinks, help relieve aches and pains, clear the mind, and improve memory and our focus—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Even more impressive is the fact that peppermint is one of the oldest herbs to be used as an all-natural healing agent. Throughout history, the ancient Japanese, Chinese, and Greeks took advantage of the healing properties of peppermint. The residue of peppermint oil has even been found in Egyptian pyramids—including buried with some of the most famous mummies of all time like King Tut.
Today, peppermint and peppermint essential oils are a backbone of aromatherapy and other all-natural healing solutions.
The History of Peppermint
Some of the earliest written records of the use of peppermint date back to the Roman scientist and historian Pliny, a man that spent a considerable portion of his life studying natural medicines and recording his experiments with them.1
He left behind records of how the ancient Greeks and Romans used peppermint essential oil not only to flavor individual dishes—and their wine—but also as a medicine and in spiritual and religious ceremonies. As mentioned above, both the ancient Japanese and Chinese used plants similar to modern peppermint as natural healing agents, in religious and spiritual rituals, as well as for flavoring in dishes and beverages.2
It wasn’t until the late 1600s, though, that legitimate hybridization of mint plants came to create the modern peppermint that we know today. The creation of a hybrid between Mentha spicata and Mentha aquatica by English researcher John Ray created the form of peppermint we know today. However, commercial peppermint production didn’t take off until about 1750.3
Commercial peppermint production began in the United States in the early 1800s, based predominantly out of Wayne County in New York. Around 1870, however, individuals began cultivating peppermint in the Kalamazoo, Michigan area, and by the 1920s, 90 percent of the “pure” peppermint and spearmint essential oils in the world were being produced in southwestern Michigan.4
While a variety of different biochemicals help establish the composition of peppermint essential oil, none is more impactful than menthol, especially because it makes up 38.6 percent, and sometimes more, of the terpene composition of this oil.
It’s the menthol that gives peppermint its minty flavor, its immediately recognizable aroma, as well as its powerful cooling properties. It’s also menthol that gives its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-candidal, carminative, and antipyretic benefits.5
Menthone is another major compound constituent of peppermint essential oils making up, on average, 25 percent of the terpene composition. It provides analgesic and antiseptic benefits, as well as acts as a natural stimulant to improve cognitive function.6
Chemistry Behind the Essential Oil
These biochemicals offer anti-perspiration and disinfecting benefits and antiviral benefits, in addition to a variety of other health benefits.
Uses for Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil is used to treat a variety of different conditions:
- Alleviating stomach discomfort and digestive issues
- Freshening up breath and improving oral hygiene
- Relieving headaches and migraines
- Boosting overall cognitive function and focus
- Clearing the respiratory tract
- Relaxing tense muscles
Health Benefits Offered
Relaxes Worn Out, Tired, or Injured Muscles
Peppermint has been used throughout history as a powerful, all-natural painkiller, as well as a muscle relaxant. Our ancestors commonly used peppermint oils to soothe aching backs or sore and tired muscles.
Recent research suggests that when applied topically, it can provide significant pain relief. Combining it with eucalyptus, extra menthol, capsaicin, and lavender oil has also been proven to be effective combinations for pain relief.7
Remedies Sinus Issues While Clearing the Respiratory Tract
Because of the menthol concentration in peppermint essential oil, it can be used to clear and soothe the sinuses while also working as an expectorant to alleviate respiratory tract issues.
The menthol acts almost immediately because of its bioavailability—rapid absorption by the body—especially when used in a vaporizer, room diffuser, or portable essential oil diffuser.
Relieves Headaches and Migraines While Improving Circulation
Peppermint essential oil has always been used to help calm the mind, not only in spiritual and religious practices but also by those looking for relief from headaches and migraines. The oil not only works to improve circulation but also delivers a variety of analgesic—pain-relieving—effects.
This essential oil can be used to relieve some of the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Research conducted within the last decade shows that over 75 percent of peppermint essential oil users were able to reduce IBS symptoms by more than 50 percent. The longer these individuals used it to relieve digestive issues IBS symptoms, the more impactful the effects of peppermint essential oil were.9
Not only does this essential oil work to relax the muscles of the intestines, but it also helps reduce bloating gas, and even spasms in the colon.
Safety and Precautions
While peppermint is always safe to be taken internally when used as an ingredient in food or beverages, avoid ingesting peppermint essential oils directly. Two of the most powerful biochemicals in peppermint include menthol and 1,8 cineole. Both of them can have fantastic health benefits but can prove damaging when ingested in large amounts over a period of time internally.10
Instead, use peppermint essential oil topically when diluted with a carrier oil or use it aromatically in a vaporizer or diffuser. Always perform a patch skin test before applying the oil solution to larger areas of the body during topical use.
As with all essential oils, use of this one is discouraged for women who are pregnant or nursing.
Potent and powerful, you really can’t go wrong with all that this essential oil brings to the table. Peppermint has been and continues to be is a big part of the world of all natural remedies and can prove beneficial in your daily routine whether when used topically or used in a vaporizer, room diffuser, or portable aromatherapy diffusers like Vibrant, Forest, Mountain, or Ocean MONQ.