Peppermint is a relative of numerous wild mint plants, deliberately bred in the late 1600s in England to become the delightful tasting plant so well known today. It is widely used as a beverage tea and as a flavoring or scent in a wide variety of products.
Peppermint tea also has a long history of medicinal use, primarily as a digestive aid and for the symptomatic treatment of cough, colds, and fever. Peppermint oil is used for chest congestion (Vicks VapoRub), as a local anesthetic (Solarcaine, Ben-Gay), and most recently in the treatment of irritable bowel disease, also known as spastic colon.
What Is Peppermint Used for Today?
Peppermint oil has shown promise for a variety of conditions that involve spasm of the intestinal tract. Most studies have involved irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for which peppermint oil has shown considerable promise. Peppermint oil may also be helpful for reducing the pain caused by medical examinations of the colon and stomach, as well for decreasing the intestinal gas pain that frequently follows surgery.
Peppermint oil may also be helpful for dyspepsia (a condition that is similar to IBS, but involves the stomach instead of the intestines).
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Peppermint?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Other Forms of Spasm in the Digestive Tract
Dyspepsia (Minor Indigestion)
Peppermint oil is often used in combination with other essential oils to treat minor indigestion .
The proper dosage of peppermint oil when treating irritable bowel syndrome is 0.2 ml to 0.4 ml three times a day of an enteric-coated capsule. The capsule has to be enteric-coated to prevent stomach distress.
When used in herbal combinations to treat stomach problems, peppermint oil is taken at lower doses, and it is not enteric-coated.
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Excessive doses of peppermint oil can be toxic, causing kidney failure and even death. Very high intake of peppermint oil can also cause nausea, loss of appetite, heart problems, loss of balance, and other nervous system problems.
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established. In particular, peppermint can cause jaundice in newborn babies, so don't try to use it for colic.
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking:
- Cyclosporine : Do not use peppermint oil (or stop using it) except in consultation with your physician.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 00/93/2013 -