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What is Peppermint Essential Oil?

Sara Schmidt
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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The sharp, sweet scent of peppermint essential oil is a favorite of many people. An herbal elixir made from the peppermint plant, peppermint oil is often associated with winter holidays. Strongly scented with a minty aroma, peppermint essential oil is a popular additive to lip balms, lotions, and many other personal care products.

Botanically named Mentha × piperita, peppermint essential oil is extracted through steam distillation. Also known as brandy mint or balm mint, peppermint is a member of the Labiatae family. It is a thin, clear-colored fluid with a slight yellow cast.

One of many calming essential oils, peppermint can be used for a number of purposes. Refreshing and cooling, peppermint has been used to help curb nausea, particularly if due to morning sickness during pregnancy. A physician, however, should be consulted prior to using any essential oil blends during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or childhood.

Many people use peppermint essential oil to help provide mental clarity and stimulation. Some claim that the sharp, menthol-scented oil can help increase one's mental agility and focus. It has also been used to help cool the skin, making it popular in products such as lotions, lip balms, astringents, and bath products. Peppermint oil in personal care products may also help in reducing irritation, redness, and itchiness of the skin, as well as sunburn.

Migraines and other headaches have been known to be alleviated with the scent of peppermint oil. Sinus issues, such as chest congestion, may also be treated through the aromatherapy remedy. Some people use balm mint essential oil to alleviate symptoms of a spastic colon or to stimulate their digestive systems. Other ailments the remedy has been associated with relieving include flatulence, colic, vertigo, fatigue, bronchitis, depression, and scabies.

Native to the Mediterranean region, peppermint is now grown in many areas of the world and peppermint oil is produced in Japan, Italy, the United States of America, and Great Britain. Use of the herb has been traced back to Egypt from 1,000 BC. Chemically, peppermint oil contains menthol, methyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, germacrene-d, pulegone, b-pinene, menthone, methofuran, limonene, trans-sabinene hydrate, a-pinene, and isomenthone.

People with fever, heart problems, and epilepsy should refrain from using peppermint essential oil. The liquid can cause mucus membrane irritation and should be kept away from the eyes. It can be toxic to the nervous system as well. When properly diluted with aromatherapy supplies, such as a carrier oil, the oil is typically nontoxic. A medical professional should be consulted prior to using this or any other types of essential oils.

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Sara Schmidt
By Sara Schmidt , Writer
With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for WiseGeek, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.

Discussion Comments

By shell4life — On Jul 02, 2012

Using peppermint essential oil benefits me greatly when I have a congested nose. When even allergy and cold medications fail to open up my sinuses, peppermint oil rescues me.

If I am just a little bit congested, an antihistamine will usually do the trick. However, if I am majorly stuffed up, I will rub a bit of diluted peppermint oil under my nose. I keep breathing it in, and it really opens up my sinuses.

I recently got a salve with peppermint oil in it, and this is a bit more gentle on my skin. The diluted oil did make me itch and break out a little, but the salve works just as well without the side effects.

By seag47 — On Jul 01, 2012

I had been suffering from nausea due to stress at work. I had a friend who was all into herbal remedies, so I asked her where to buy peppermint essential oil, because I had always heard that it was great at relieving nausea.

She directed me to this site that sells a kind that you can put in your tea and coffee. The instructions said to add just one drop, though, because the stuff is powerful.

I put a drop in my coffee that I drink before work, and on my morning commute, I already felt better. I started taking a cup of tea with peppermint oil in it to drink about midway through the morning, and this cured the nausea that usually set in once I got into the day's work.

By kylee07drg — On Jul 01, 2012

@cloudel – I've read that essential oil of peppermint can relieve joint pain, so it isn't just for the scent. I'm sure it does help make the cream less stinky, but it has some medical function, as well.

Every arthritis cream I have ever used has contained peppermint oil. I don't mind this at all, because the smell reminds me of Christmas time and happy memories with friends and family.

I find the scent soothing. Perhaps this mental trick speeds up the delivery of relief to my joints. I know that some people are bothered by the strength of the smell, but it has a good effect on my body.

By cloudel — On Jun 30, 2012

Does anyone know why pure peppermint essential oil is used in arthritis creams? I know that it can be soothing to the skin, but it's the joints that we are trying to offer relief to with the cream.

The only thing I can figure is that it must be to mask the smell of the cream. Peppermint oil is very strong, so it can cover the unpleasant smell of just about anything else.

My mother uses arthritis cream, and I can always tell when she has applied it, because the room will smell like peppermint. It's overpowering, but she says that it relieves her pain.

Sara Schmidt

Sara Schmidt

Writer

With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for WiseGeek, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.
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