Peppermint oil Health Benefits, Uses, Quality & Best Products Compared

Author: Dr. Michael Tyler
Date: 01.10.2020
Reading time: 10:20 min

Peppermint oil is extracted from common peppermint (also Mentha piperita). Peppermint is native to the entire northern hemisphere. However, its high demand has resulted in its spread all over the world.

Name Peppermint
Lat. Name Mentha × piperita
Synonyms Mint, Peppermint
Origin USA, Bulgaria, Italy
Price per 10ml 2,99

Peppermint is an ancient plant, with potent medicinal benefits that were known to our ancestors. The oil has traditionally been used to treat various ailments. To date, the oil is very popular and a common ingredient in cough drops and other herbal remedies. Peppermint and its distinct, strong peppery smell is one of the most famous spices in the world.

Psychological impact

The menthol contained in peppermint is functionally similar to lime. It is refreshing and invigorating, but also soothing. Peppermint oil should be able to improve the ability to concentrate and sharpen the ability to think. Due to its mentally stimulating effect, it is especially suitable to combat haziness and fatigue.

Physical effect

The effect of peppermint oil on the body is extremely complex and it has broad applications suitable for many ailments.

Complexion

Owing to peppermint oil’s very high menthol content, it is a mild antibiotic and antifungal. As a result, it can be used successfully to treat acne or other inflammatory skin diseases.

Airways

One of menthol’s most sought after properties is its expectorant effect, which is why peppermint oil works very well to alleviate symptoms of colds. There are numerous products available for this effect, especially ointments. Peppermint oil ointments are rubbed on the chest or under the nose for this purpose, allowing the menthol contained to be inhaled.

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This immediately makes breathing easier. Due to its antibacterial effect, menthol also acts directly against the bacteria that further complicate colds, causing pneumonia. This is why Peppermint oil helps to shorten the course of the disease.

Bad breath and mouth sores

Peppermint oil is a common ingredient in high quality toothpaste. Due to its high menthol content, peppermint oil masks bad odour and simoultaneously fights bacteria which trigger bad breath or lead to inflammation of the gums.

Stomach problems

Peppermint oil is therapeutic in cases of irritable bowel syndrome. In this illness, the muscles in the intestine cramp, which leads to severe pain. As treatment, gastro-resistant capsules - preventing digestion of the oil in the stomach - containing peppermint oil carry the oil to the site of pain - the intestine. In the intestine, peppermint oil blocks calcium channels in smooth muscle which relaxes the intestinal muscles.

Nausea

Peppermint oil also combats nausea - if its source is gastritis. Because bacteria are a component of gastritis, Menthol’s antibacterial effect kills these unwanted bacteria and reduces nausea.

As an appetizer

Peppermint oil promotes blood circulation, with its active ingredient Menthone. When taken orally, the blood flow to the stomach wall increases, which stimulates it to produce more gastric juices. This allows the stomach to break down food more efficiently. In addition, the increased blood flow to the stomach wall (and gastro-intestinal tract) also means that nutrients from the stomach can quickly pass into the bloodstream, which increases appetite, and allows for better digestion.

Tension headache

One of the most common types of headaches today is the ‘tension headache’, which originates from a multitude of factors, primarily including stress and persistent emotional tension.

A clinical trial conducted by Dr. Hartmut Göbel at the University of Kiel was able to prove that peppermint oil has a similar effect to taking 1 g of aspirin. Affected patients had peppermint oil massaged onto their temples, and after 15 minutes there was a significant alleviation of their suffering.

Peppermint oil works in different ways. On the one hand, the formation of serotonin, which is responsible for pain sensation, is inhibited. This reduces the sensation of pain. On the other hand, the vasodilatory (circulation-promoting) effect of peppermint oil also increases the oxygen supply of the brain, which many researches believe may aid in pain relief. This herbal oil is very suitable for people who need to avoid more artificial medication. For pregnant women, or hypersensitive individuals, peppermint oil is a good alternative to chemical headache medications.

Insect bites

Peppermint oil is able to mitigate the effects of an insect bite. It has a cooling effect on the skin because it stimulates receptors on the nerves that are responsible for the sensation of cold. After an insect bite, the area around the puncture site usually inflames, causing the poison - usually insect saliva - to be absorbed faster. Peppermint oil counteracts this effect and the poison’s absorption is reduced. This ultimately reduces swelling and itching.

Detoxification

Since peppermint oil is also said to be a diuretic, it can be used in detoxification therapies. Furthermore, the oil can also be used to as a preservative because of its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.

Side effects

Due to the highly irritant properties of peppermint oil, you should ensure to prevent direct into contact with mucous membranes: gums, nose, and eyes. A high concentration of menthol in the air - for example if you use the oil as a fragrance oil in closed rooms - can also cause severe eye irritation. You should never apply peppermint oil to open wounds, as the irritation can impair the healing process. In small children, too much peppermint oil can lead to severe shortness of breath or even respiratory arrest.

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Application

Peppermint is has a wide spectrum of use. Its ingredients are used in a large number of cosmetic and medical products. For medical use, it is necessary to increase the active ingredient concentration, since it is not high enough in the natural plant to become pharmaceutically active. Therefore, peppermint oil and not the natural plant should always be used for therapeutic use. It also serves as a fragrance and flavour enhancement in the culinary world

Peppermint oil can be used both externally and digested. It is very popular as a classic fragrance oil, where it can be heated neat in a fragrance lamp or a diffuser. Rosemary oil, lavender oil and eucalyptus oil go particularly well with the scent of peppermint..

When using externally, care should be taken never to use peppermint oil as it is extremely irritating. A variety of ointments are available for external use, most of which contain about 10% peppermint oil. If you have a cold, apply an ointment containing peppermint oil onto the chest or under the nose. If you want to use peppermint oil for a headache, for example, dilute it beforehand with a carrier oil and then gently massage it onto your temples.

Peppermint oil for culinary use

Peppermint oil has found frequent use in the kitchen today. Peppermint oil is particularly popular in Asian cuisine. In India, for example, meatballs in peppermint sauce are very popular. It is part of numerous herbal liqueurs and various other drinks. It can also be processed into syrup and can be found in many desserts, such as ice cream. A common British recipe, now known worldwide, involves lamb cooked in a peppermint sauce for several hours.

Chemical composition

Menthol

With a minimum content of at least 44%, menthol is the main component of peppermint oil. Menthol has a strong disinfectant effect and is used as a fragrance and flavour in a wide variety of products. Menthol is toxic, and a few grams of menthol can lead to cardiac arrhythmia.

The human nervous system even has its own menthol receptor, called TRPM8. The stimulation of this nerve receptor creates a cold sensation. Menthol is also used today as an additive for tobacco products. It increases the bioavailability of nicotine and thus increases tobacco addiction. Menthol may be banned as an additive in tobacco products in many European countries from 2020.

Menthon

Menthon constitutes approx. 15-20% of peppermint oil. Menthon is used today in the perfume industry. Due to its properties, including the enhancement of circulation, it is also used in various medical products. Menthon is also being researched as a potential cancer therapy

Menthofuran

With 0.6-5%, menthofuran has only makes up a small proportion of peppermint oil. Menthofuran is highly toxic and serves as the plants defense against predators. In order to be able to use peppermint oil for medicinal purposes, the menthofuran must first be separated, since it is extremely toxic to the liver. The use of peppermint in plant from is harmless, since it contains only a very small amount of approximately 1.8% peppermint oil.

Cineol

Is mainly used in veterinary medicine, but also helps against various respiratory diseases in humans. In dentistry, it is used, among other things, for the revision of root fillings

Cadinen

Provides enhanced smells and flavours in the food industry. It is also found in many skin rash ointments.

Triterpenes

Triterpenes are different substances from the terpenes group, which are known in medicine today for their antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects.

Peppermint oil also contains menthyl acetate (3-5%), neomenthol (2.3-5%), İsomenthol (3%) and various flavonoids.

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Manufacturing

Like many other essential oils, peppermint oil is made using steam distillation. In contrast to other oils however, there is also a possibility to produce peppermint oil oneself. However, home-made peppermint oil is nowhere near as pure as the oil obtained through hydrogen distillation. It smells and tastes like pure peppermint oil, but it does not have the same therapeutic effect as the oil from distillate

To make the oil, the leaves of the peppermint must be placed in a mason jar. Olive oil is then poured onto the leaves until they are completely covered by the oil. This is important - to avoid mold growth. The mason jar is then placed in a warm and dark place and left to stand for several weeks. The jar should be shaken well once a week to ensure proper mixing of the ingredients. After about 3 weeks, the manufacturing process is complete and you can pour the oil from the mason jar into a normal dark bottle, leaving behind the peppermint leaves.

Storage

Always store peppermint oil in a dark, cool, dry place and out of the reach of small children. If the oil solidifies when stored in lower temperatures, this is not an indication of poor quality, but quite the contrary. High quality and pure oils tend to solidify sooner in colder temperatures. If this happens, heat the oil slightly so that it can then be used normally

History

The mint species and its medicinal properties has been known since ancient times. For thousands of years, people in Africa and ancient Egypt have treated numerous complaints with the oil. Even the Greek doctor Dioskurides used mint seeds to treat symptoms such as excessive urination, bladder stones, hiccups and stomach cramps. For headaches, he recommended that peppermint leaves be attached to the temples. He also treated insect bites with peppermint leaves.

Common peppermint was recorded in the end of the 17th century. In 1696, the biologist John Ray discovered them in an English garden. After its distribution in the Anglo-Saxon areas, peppermint was first commercially grown in Mitcham near London in 1750. There are numerous subspecies of common peppermint, with the '' Mitcham '' variety being the most popular to this day.

Following Great Britain’s conquests, peppermint continued its campaign across the world. In Eichenau, Germany, there is even a peppermint museum and a railway line, also known as the peppermint train.

Botany

As they spread worldwide, numerous peppermint hybrids were created. The correct name of the plant is therefore Menta x piperita. The x stands for the respective variety. “Multimentha” is particularly common in Germany. There are 20-30 species in the mint genus today.

Mint tends to hybridize - this means that the individual types of mint mix with each other, which makes it difficult to distinguish between different types. Peppermint is considered a cross between Bachmint and Waldminze and is sterile, which means that true-to-type propagation is only possible via cuttings.

It is a shallow-rooted, herbaceous and winter-resistant plant that can grow to a height of up to 90 cm. Peppermint flowers are pink to violet in colour and are attached to terminal ears. The flowering period lasts from July to September. For reproductive purposes, it forms numerous above-ground and underground extensions.

Peppermint is a so-called long-day plant. If the days are short it forms foothills, but if the days are long, it grows upwards. It prefers nutrient-rich soils with high contents of potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen. Sandy loam and sunny to partially shady areas provide ideal growth conditions peppermint.

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