Common Names

  • Balm mint
  • Japanese peppermint
  • Lamb mint
  • Our Lady's mint

For Patients & Caregivers

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.
  • 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.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Mentha piperita L.

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.

Peppermint is used as flavoring agent in food preparations and in candies.

  • Colonic and gastric spasm
  • Dyspepsia/general GI discomfort
  • Headache
  • Inflammation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory problems

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).

  1. Gobel H, Schmidt G, Soyka D. Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters. Cephalalgia. Jun 1994;14(3):228-234; discussion 182.

  2. Kligler B, Chaudhary S. Peppermint oil. Am Fam Physician. Apr 1 2007;75(7):1027-1030.

  3. Eccles R, Griffiths DH, Newton CG, Tolley NS. The effects of menthol isomers on nasal sensation of airflow. Clin Otolaryngol Allied Sci. Feb 1988;13(1):25-29.

  4. Pittler MH, Ernst E. Peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome: a critical review and metaanalysis.Am J Gastroenterol. Jul 1998;93(7):1131-1135.

  5. Merat S, Khalili S, Mostajabi P, et al. The effect of enteric-coated, delayed-release peppermint oil on irritable bowel syndrome. Dig Dis Sci. May 2010;55(5):1385-1390.

  6. Baliga MS, Rao S. Radioprotective potential of mint: a brief review.J Cancer Res Ther. Jul-Sep 2010;6(3):255-262.

  7. Hiki N, Kurosaka H, Tatsutomi Y, et al. Peppermint oil reduces gastric spasm during upper endoscopy: a randomized, double-blind, double-dummy controlled trial. Gastrointest Endosc. Apr 2003;57(4):475-482.

  8. Jain D, Pathak N, Khan S, et al. Evaluation of cytotoxicity and anticarcinogenic potential of Mentha leaf extracts. Int J Toxicol. Mar 2011;30(2):225-236.

  9. Samarth RM, Samarth M. Protection against radiation-induced testicular damage in Swiss albino mice by Mentha piperita (Linn.).Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. Apr 2009;104(4):329-334.

  10. Samman MA, Bowen ID, Taiba K, Antonius J, Hannan MA. Mint prevents shamma-induced carcinogenesis in hamster cheek pouch.Carcinogenesis. Oct 1998;19(10):1795-1801.

  11. Grigoleit HG, Grigoleit P. Pharmacology and preclinical pharmacokinetics of peppermint oil.Phytomedicine. Aug 2005;12(8):612-616.

  12. Hussain AI, Anwar F, Nigam PS, Ashraf M, Gilani AH. Seasonal variation in content, chemical composition and antimicrobial and cytotoxic activities of essential oils from four Mentha species. J Sci Food Agric. Aug 30 2010;90(11):1827-1836.

  13. Hawthorn M, Ferrante J, Luchowski E, et al. The actions of peppermint oil and menthol on calcium channel dependent processes in intestinal, neuronal and cardiac preparations.Aliment Pharmacol Ther. Apr 1988;2(2):101-118.

  14. Kim SH, Nam JH, Park EJ, et al. Menthol regulates TRPM8-independent processes in PC-3 prostate cancer cells. Biochim Biophys Acta. Jan 2009;1792(1):33-38.

  15. Santucci B, Cristaudo A, Cannistraci C, Picardo M. Contact dermatitis to fragrances.Contact Dermatitis. Feb 1987;16(2):93-95.

  16. Tran A, Pratt M, DeKoven J. Acute allergic contact dermatitis of the lips from peppermint oil in a lip balm. Dermatitis. Apr 2010;21(2):111-115.

  17. Eccles R.Menthol and related cooling compounds. J Pharm Pharmacol. Aug 1994;46(8):618-630.

  18. Behrends M, Beiderlinden M, Peters J. Acute lung injury after peppermint oil injection.Anesth Analg. Oct 2005;101(4):1160-1162.

  19. Thorup I, Wurtzen G, Carstensen J, Olsen P. Short term toxicity study in rats dosed with peppermint oil.Toxicol Lett. Dec 1983;19(3):211-215.

  20. Dresser GK, Wacher V, Wong S, Wong HT, Bailey DG. Evaluation of peppermint oil and ascorbyl palmitate as inhibitors of cytochrome P4503A4 activity in vitro and in vivo. Clin Pharmacol Ther. Sep 2002;72(3):247-255.

  21. Nowack R, Nowak B. Herbal teas interfere with cyclosporin levels in renal transplant patients. Nephrol Dial Transplant. Nov 2005;20(11):2554-2556.

  22. Abdullah D, Ping QN, Liu GJ. Enhancing effect of essential oils on the penetration of 5-fluorouracil through rat skin. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1996;31(3):214-221.

  23. Shavakhi A, Ardestani SK, Taki M, et al. Premedication with peppermint oil capsules in colonoscopy: a double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial study. Acta Gastroenterol Belg. 2012 Sep;75(3):349-53.

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