- Balm mint
- Japanese peppermint
- Lamb mint
- Our Lady's mint
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Peppermint is used as a remedy for a variety of ailments including irritable bowel syndrome, general gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort, and respiratory difficulties. It has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer in humans.
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, applied topically as a counter-irritant for aches and cold symptoms, and its essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Peppermint is also widely used to flavor candies and oral hygiene products. Clinical studies have shown that peppermint is useful for headaches, 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.
Patients with a history of gallstones, gallbladder inflammation, hiatal hernia, or gastroesophageal reflux disease should consult a physician before consuming peppermint.
Colonic and gastric spasms
Clinical studies have demonstrated peppermint’s effectiveness in reducing colonic/gastric spasms.
Peppermint was shown effective in reducing dyspepsia and general GI discomfort.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Peppermint has been reported beneficial for alleviating the symptoms associated with IBS.
Do Not Take If
- You are taking felodipine: Peppermint oil has been reported to increase bioavailability and can increase side effects of this drug. Clinical significance is not known.
- 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. Clinical significance is not known.
- You use topical 5-fluorouracil: Peppermint can increase absorption of 5-fluorouracil.
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, applied topically as a counter-irritant for aches and cold symptoms, and its essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Peppermint is also widely used to flavor candies and oral hygiene products. Both extracts and essential oil derived from peppermint demonstrated antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant (35), antibacterial (36) (37), antifungal (38), antidiabetic (47) and antifibrotic (48) effects in preclinical studies.
Clinical data indicate effectiveness of topical peppermint oil for alleviating headaches (1); oral peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome (4) (5); and oral peppermint oil, tea, and extracts for dyspepsia, gastric spasm, and general gastrointestinal discomfort (7) (33) (39). Pre-treatment with peppermint oil capsules was also found effective in decreasing pain and in reducing colonic spasms in patients during colonoscopy (34); and conclusions from a meta analysis indicate peppermint oil to be safe and effective against pain and global symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (40). Preliminary data suggest benefits of oral peppermint oil in modulating cognitive performance (43).
Inhaling peppermint oil may also confer benefits. In a study of postoperative cardiac surgery patients, it was reported useful in controlling nausea (41), but conflicting findings suggest aromatherapy to be only as effective as a placebo for relief of postoperative nausea (45); and for nausea and vomiting in pregnant women (46). An exhaustive systematic review revealed low-quality evidence to support use of peppermint for postoperative nausea and vomiting (42).
Peppermint has also been studied for possible anticancer effects. A significant anti-tumorigenic potential was observed against several human cancer cell lines (10) (11). Studies in animal models indicate peppermint’s effectiveness against radiation-induced testicular damage (12); benzo[a]pyrene-induced lung carcinogenicity (13) (14); and preventive effects against tobacco-induced carcinogenesis (15).
An herbal mouthwash containing chamomile and peppermint was shown to alleviate complications and symptoms associated with oral mucositis in patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (44). Further research is warranted.
Mechanism of Action
Peppermint oil relieves gastrointestinal symptoms likely by regulating calcium channel-dependent processes within the gastric, intestinal, and colonic systems. Both peppermint oil and menthol, a major ingredient in peppermint, produce antispasmodic effects in these systems by diminishing calcium influx (6) (8) (18). Studies using murine models have shown that menthol improves body weight gain, mean macroscopic and microscopic ulcer scores, attenuates lipid peroxidation, oxidative stress and inflammation in acetic acid-induced colitis (49); essential oil of peppermint demonstrated antidiabetic effects in streptozotocin-nicotinamide-induced type 2 diabetes by upregulating the expression of Bcl-2 and insulin (47), along with attenuating hepatic fibrosis by improving the redox status, suppressing p53 and modulating TGF-beta1 and SMAD3 protein expression (48).
Flavonoids in peppermint have antioxidant activity that may protect cells from radiation damage (12). Menthol has also been reported to induce PC-3 prostate cancer cell death by activating c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) (19).
- Felodipine: Peppermint oil has been reported to increase bioavailability of felodipine (Plendil) (28). Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.
- 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). Clinical relevance is not known.
- 5-fluorouracil: Peppermint oil, when applied externally, can increase dermal absorption of 5-fluorouracil (32). Clinical significance is not known.