- Balm mint
- Japanese peppermint
- Lamb mint
- Our Lady's mint
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Peppermint is used as a remedy for a number of different ailments including irritable bowel syndrome, general gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort, and respiratory difficulties. It has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer in humans.
Many studies have implicated peppermint as a remedy for general pain, especially muscle pain and headaches, breathing difficulties, irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia, and colonic/gastric spasms. Studies done in the lab and in animals have shown that peppermint has anticancer properties, but human data are lacking.
- Colonic and gastric spasms
A number of clinical trials have demonstrated peppermint’s effectiveness in reducing colonic/gastric spasms.
- GI discomfort
Many studies have indicated that peppermint effectively reduces dyspepsia and general GI discomfort.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Peppermint has been reported in many trials to have a significant effect in diminishing the symptoms associated with IBS.
- Respiratory problems
Multiple studies have suggested that peppermint is useful in improving breathing.
Do Not Take If
- You are taking felodipine: Peppermint oil has been reported to increase bioavailability and can increase its side effects of this drug.
- You are taking cyclosporine: Peppermint oil increases the bioavailability of cyclosporine in rats. Human studies have not been conducted.
- You are taking cytochrome P450 substrates: Peppermint oil was shown to inhibit CYP1A2/2C8/2C9/2C19/2D6 and 3A4 enzymes and may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.
- You use topical 5-fluorouracil: Peppermint can increase absorption of 5-fluorouracil.
- You are pregnant, or have a history of gallstones, gallbladder inflammation, hiatal hernia, or gastroesophageal reflux disease: Patients with these conditions should consult a physician before consuming peppermint.
- Heartburn, nausea, and vomiting among patients with IBS.
- Dermatitis with external application of peppermint oil.
- Toxicity: Acute lung injury has been reported following IV injection of peppermint oil.
- One study found that orally administered peppermint oil at 40 and 100 mg/kg doses produced histopathological changes in rat cerebellum.
- May decrease sperm production.
For Healthcare Professionals
Peppermint is an herb prevalent in Europe and North America and has been used as medicine for several centuries. It is taken orally as a carminative to treat digestive problems and applied topically as a counter-irritant for aches and cold symptoms. Peppermint is also widely used as flavoring in candies and oral hygiene products.
Current evidence indicates effectiveness of peppermint in alleviating headaches (1) (2), respiratory problems (3), irritable bowel syndrome (4) (5), dyspepsia, gastric spasm, and general gastrointestinal discomfort (6) (7) (8) (9) (33). Pretreatment with peppermint oil capsules was also found effective in decreasing pain and in reducing colonic spasms in patients during colonoscopy (34).
More recently, studies have suggested a role for peppermint in cancer treatment. A significant anti-tumorigenic potential against several human cancer cell lines has been reported in vitro (10) (11). Animal studies also indicate peppermint’s effectiveness against radiation-induced testicular damage (12), benzo[a]pyrene-induced lung carcinogenicity (13) (14) in mice, and its preventive effects against carcinogenesis induced by tobacco products in hamsters (15). Future research is needed to confirm these findings in humans.
Mechanism of Action
The alleviation of GI symptoms by peppermint oil may be due to its role in regulating calcium channel-dependent processes within the gastric, intestinal, and colonic systems. Specifically, peppermint oil and menthol produce an antispasmodic effect in these systems by diminishing calcium influx (6) (8) (18).
Flavonoids in peppermint have antioxidant activity that may protect cells from radiation damage (12).
Menthol has been reported to induce PC-3 prostate cancer cell death in vitro by activating c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) (19).
- Patients with and those who have a history of cholelithiasis, cholecystitis, hiatal hernia, or gastroesophageal reflux disease should consult a physician before consuming peppermint (2).
- Women who are pregnant should avoid excessive use of peppermint oil.
- Heartburn, nausea, and vomiting were reported by patients with IBS (4) .
- Dermatitis was reported following external application of peppermint oil (9) (22) (23) (24).
- Toxicity: Acute lung injury was observed following IV injection of peppermint oil (25).
- Orally administered peppermint oil at doses of 40 and 100 mg/kg produced histopathological changes in rat cerebellum (26).
- Another animal study found that peppermint tea can affect sperm maturation (27).
- Felodipine: Peppermint oil has been reported to increase bioavailability of felodipine (Plendil) (28).
- Cyclosporine: Peppermint oil increases the bioavailability of cyclosporine in rats (29). However, a patient with renal transplant had decreased cyclosporine level after consumption of herbal tea containing peppermint (30).
- Cytochrome P450 substrates: Peppermint oil was shown to inhibit CYP1A2/2C8/2C9/2C19/2D6 and 3A4 enzymes and can affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes (28) (31). (2)
- 5-fluorouracil: Peppermint oil, when applied externally, can increase dermal absorption of 5-fluorouracil (32).