Peppermint & Your Health: Benefits, Side Effects & Drug Interactions

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Peppermint is a natural alternative therapy that’s used to treat a variety of health issues, including headaches, hair loss, digestive issues and pain.

Have a look at the science underlying peppermint’s healthy reputation and what research reveals about peppermint’s potential health benefits, side effects, drug interactions and safety profile.

What is peppermint?

Peppermint is an herb that’s a cross between spearmint and water mint plants. It grows naturally in North America and Europe, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Records reveal that it has been used medicinally for thousands of years.

Peppermint leaves can be brewed into tea and peppermint essential oil can be extracted from both flowers and leaves of the plant.

Potential health benefits of peppermint

A review of peppermint essential oil published in the journal Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy highlights its numerous health-enhancing properties, including:

  • Antibacterial

  • Antioxidant

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Nerve-protecting

  • Antitumor

  • Antiviral

  • Immune system-regulating

  • Fatigue-reducing

  • Pain-relieving

Because of these qualities, the Cleveland Clinic says peppermint tea has many benefits, especially during cold and flu season.

It may help boost your immunity, fight off viruses and bacteria, relieve congestion, improve indigestion and relax your muscles if you have a sore throat.

Peppermint oil, meanwhile, can promote hair growth after hair loss. It enhances growth by helping blood vessels form in the hair follicles, according to the research review.

Megan Hilbert, a registered dietician at the nutrition coaching service Top Nutrition Coaching, said many of the benefits of peppermint oil come from a key ingredient called menthol.

“Due to the effects of menthol … research has shown that peppermint can enhance cognition,” she said. “In those with IBS [irritable bowel syndrome], peppermint has also [been] shown to help with symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating, again due to the numbing effects of menthol. Some studies also show that inhaling peppermint oil through aromatherapy can help with symptoms like nausea and vomiting.”

Other research has shown that peppermint relieves menstrual discomfort and may help reduce headaches and migraines, Hilbert added.

A study by Iran’s Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences revealed that treatments with a peppermint oil nose drop “significantly” reduced migraine headache pain and frequency.

Safety of peppermint

While peppermint tea, oil and extract are generally considered safe, be aware of some concerns.

“They may worsen certain medical conditions like kidney stones, acid reflux, [and] GERD [gastroesophageal reflux disease],” Hilbert said.

“Little is also known if peppermint oil is safe to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding,” she added.

Be aware that menthol can cause breathing problems in infants and young children, according to the NCCIH. For this reason, peppermint oil should never be used on or around them.

If you use peppermint oil to ease nipple pain from breastfeeding, be sure to wipe it off completely before the next feeding.

Side effects of peppermint

While peppermint oil has many benefits, Hilbert and the NCCIH point to some potential side effects of taking it orally, including:

  • Nausea

  • Heartburn

  • Abdominal pain

  • Dry mouth

If you apply peppermint essential oil to your skin, you may experience:

  • Skin rashes

  • Skin irritation

Potential drug interactions of peppermint

“Peppermint can interact with medications like antibiotics, anti-fungal or anti-seizure mediations,” Hilbert noted. Ask your doctor if it is OK to use.

In addition, be aware that taking antacids alongside peppermint oil capsules may cause a heartburn-preventing coating on the capsules to break down too fast.


As with other herbs, Hilbert noted that your dosage of peppermint will vary based on what you’re treating.

“For IBS, 0.2 to 0.4 mL of peppermint oil taken up to three times a day has been shown to improve GI [gastrointestinal] symptoms like bloating. Other research shows a dosage of 180 mg taken up to three times daily to be effective as well,” Hilbert said.

“For conditions like headaches or migraines, 1.5% peppermint oil applied intranasally [through the nose] has been shown to be helpful, according to research,” she continued. “For menstrual discomfort, 187 mg of peppermint oil for three days was shown to decrease pain in one small study.”

What a dietician says

Which peppermint benefits are firmly backed by science?

“There is plenty of great research on the … benefits of peppermint oil on many conditions, especially lower GI conditions and conditions that impact our brain [such as] headaches, migraines [and] cognition,” Hilbert said.

Bottom line

If you’d like to maximize the benefits of peppermint oil and minimize your risks, Hilbert recommended one key step before starting a peppermint dosing plan.

“Consult your physician before introducing anything new into your supplement regimen, especially higher concentrations of peppermint supplements like oil,” she advised.

SOURCE: Megan Hilbert, MS, RDN, registered dietician, Top Nutrition Coaching, Madison, Wisc.


National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Peppermint Oil

Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy Journal: Peppermint essential oil: its phytochemistry, biological activity, pharmacological effect and application

Cleveland Clinic: The Best Teas to Drink for Your Health

Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences: Comparing the Effect of Intranasal Lidocaine 4% with Peppermint Essential Oil Drop 1.5% on Migraine Attacks: A Double-Blind Clinical Trial

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