Nutrition  

Peppermint – Vital for Joint Health

Written by M. Macdonald

Updated May 16, 2023

You’ve surely heard of a herb called peppermint, and you have probably used it and consumed it quite frequently in your lifetime. Peppermint is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the mint family and has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various health concerns such as digestive issues, headaches, respiratory problems, muscle aches, as well as low energy, and its use can even be traced back to 1000 B.C. after peppermint oil was found in several Egyptian pyramids.

You can find peppermint in numerous forms, including fresh leaves, dried leaves, essential oil, spray and tablets. Peppermint essential oil, which is gathered by carbon dioxide or cold extraction of the fresh aerial parts of the plant, has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its numerous health benefits, its versatility – it can be used aromatically, topically and internally – and its active compounds which include menthol and menthone.

For people who suffer from joint pain, peppermint oil can offer a natural and effective alternative to conventional treatments. This article will explore the health benefits of peppermint oil, the evidence behind these claims, how to use it, potential side effects, and recommendations for use.

Health Benefits of Peppermint

Relieving muscle and joint pain:
Peppermint oil has analgesic properties and can be a very effective natural pain killer and muscle relaxant, making it a great solution to help relieve pain caused by conditions such as arthritis. Peppermint also has cooling, invigorating and antispasmodic properties, which makes it great for relieving headaches.

One study published in Reactions by B. Kligler, Sapna Chaudhary has shown that peppermint oil performs just as well as common over the counter pain killers, like paracetamol and ibuprofen.
Another study from the Indian Journal of Anaesthesia concluded that peppermint oil applied topically can relieve pain associated with fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome.

To benefit from peppermint’s pain relieving properties, you can apply two or three drops of essential oil topically to the affected area 3 times a day, or add five drops to a warm bath with some Epsom salts, or have a go at making a homemade muscle rub with some other oils and carrier oils.

Respiratory benefits:
When used in aromatherapy, peppermint oil is amazing for relieving cold and flu symptoms like inflamed sinuses, a sore throat or a cough, as it can help clear airways and act as an expectorant and reduce congestion by clearing excess mucus. This is due to the presence of antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant compounds, that help fight infections present in the respiratory tract.

A study from the Wiley Public Health Emergency Collection overviews peppermint’s ability to treat respiratory infections due to its antibacterial and anti inflammatory abilities.
Another study from the European Journal of Medical Research found that peppermint can even help relieve short term and long term allergic rhinitis and asthma.

Mix peppermint oil with coconut oil and eucalyptus oil to make a homemade chest rub. You can also diffuse five drops of peppermint oil or apply two to three drops topically to your temples, chest and back of neck. Take care to avoid the eyes!

Digestive benefits:
Whether it be in tea or infusion form, essential oil form or aromatherapy, peppermint has shown to alleviate digestive discomfort like indigestion, nausea, colic and IBS symptoms (spasms, bloating, gassiness, diarrhoea, constipation…).

A placebo-controlled, randomised clinical trial published in the British Medical Journal found a 50 percent reduction in IBS symptoms with 75 percent of patients who used peppermint oil twice a day.
According to a crossover study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, using peppermint oil is equally effective as the drug Simethicone for treating infantile colic, without the side effects that prescribed drugs may have.

To help relieve IBS symptoms, try taking one to two drops of peppermint oil internally with a glass of water or adding it to a capsule before meals. You can also apply two to three drops topically to your abdomen, or drink peppermint infused tea (fresh to reap the most benefits) to soothe indigestion or heartburn.

Cognitive function and energy:
Looking for a natural way to increase energy levels and stimulate your mind without resorting to caffeine? Take a few whiffs of peppermint oil! Research even suggests that it helps with memory and alertness, and enhances physical performance.

In the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, you can read about an experiment where peppermint oil showed to increase grip force, standing vertical jump and standing long jump in athletes, and enhanced physical performance levels.
An International Journal of Neuroscience article also explains how a study done on 144 people revealed significant increase in memory, in alertness and in calmness.

To boost your energy levels and improve concentration, take one to two drops internally with a glass of water, or apply two to three drops topically to your temples and back of neck.

On top of its many health benefits, peppermint can also have several beauty benefits, including:

Promoting hair growth and reducing dandruff:
Because it increases blood flow to the scalp, peppermint oil can help stimulate the scalp and can be a great natural treatment for thinning and brittle hair. Also, because of peppermint’s menthol which is a powerful antiseptic, it does great in removing germs and build up responsible for creating dandruff. That is surely why it is used in a lot of anti-dandruff shampoos.

A study published in Toxicological Research concluded that peppermint oil promotes hair growth and hair density by increasing dermal thickness, hair follicle number and depth, and even proving to be more effective that a medication that is used for regrowth.

To use peppermint for hair and scalp growth and nourishing, simply add two to three drops to your shampoo and conditioner.

Soothing skin and promoting skin health:
Peppermint oil has calming, softening, toning and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin when it’s used topically because of its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.

A review of essential oils as antimicrobials to treat skin diseases published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that peppermint oil is effective for things like blackheads, greasy skin, dermatitis, itchiness, sunburn, and more.

To help relieve itching or other skin concerns, apply two to three drops topically, or add five to 10 drops to a warm water bath. If you have sensitive skin, combine it with equal parts carrier oil before topical application. You can also mix it into a lotion or cream in place of the carrier oil, or combine peppermint with lavender oil for itch relief, as lavender has soothing properties.

Sunburn protection and relief:
Not only can peppermint oil help soothe sunburn, but it can also be used to prevent it!

You can read about a study in Pharmacognosy Research which concluded that peppermint oil has a higher sun protection factor (or SPF) than most other oils.

To promote healing after sun exposure and help protect yourself from sunburn, mix two to three drops of peppermint oil with a half-teaspoon of coconut oil, and apply it directly to area.

Potential Side Effects

Peppermint oil is generally safe when used safely and in small amounts. When you are using it on sensitive areas, always dilute it with a carrier oil (like coconut oil) first. If you’re new to using it, it’s a good idea to try a patch test on a small area before applying peppermint oil to larger surfaces, as some people may experience side effects such as allergic reactions, heartburn, and skin irritation. It is not recommended to use it on the face of infants or young children and always speak with your doctor before introducing anything new if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s also a good idea if ingesting peppermint oil to not take any medications or prescription drugs at the same time, as this could cause heartburn.

Conclusion

Peppermint is a versatile herb that has been used for medicinal purposes for millenia. Its benefits include relief from digestive issues, headaches, and respiratory problems, as well as improved focus and energy levels. We love that it has proven to be very effective in relieving joint and muscle pain, just as well, or even better than some prescription drugs. Peppermint can be consumed in various forms, including tea, essential oil, and capsules.

To best utilise the benefits of peppermint, it is recommended to use it in moderation and to consult with a healthcare professional before use, especially for those with pre-existing medical conditions or taking medication. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the peppermint product is of high quality and free from additives or contaminants. Overall, peppermint can be a valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle and a natural way to support physical and mental well-being.

Sources

Kligler, Benjamin and Sapna Chaudhary. “Peppermint oil.” Reactions 178 (2007): 9.

Chandola HC, Chakraborty A. Fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome-a dilemma. Indian J Anaesth. 2009 Oct;53(5):575-81. PMID: 20640108; PMCID: PMC2900090.

Mohammadifar, Mojgan et al. “Anti-osteoarthritis potential of peppermint and rosemary essential oils in a nanoemulsion form: behavioral, biochemical, and histopathological evidence.” BMC complementary medicine and therapies vol. 21,1 57. 9 Feb. 2021, doi:10.1186/s12906-021-03236-y

Hunter AM, Grigson C, Wade A. INFLUENCE OF TOPICALLY APPLIED MENTHOL COOLING GEL ON SOFT TISSUE THERMODYNAMICS AND ARTERIAL AND CUTANEOUS BLOOD FLOW AT REST. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2018;13(3):483-492.

McKay DL, Blumberg JB. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytother Res. 2006 Aug;20(8):619-33. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1936. PMID: 16767798.

Horváth G, Ács K. Essential oils in the treatment of respiratory tract diseases highlighting their role in bacterial infections and their anti-inflammatory action: a review. Flavour Fragr J. 2015 Sep;30(5):331-341. doi: 10.1002/ffj.3252. Epub 2015 May 26. PMID: 32313366; PMCID: PMC7163989.

Juergens UR, Stöber M, Vetter H. The anti-inflammatory activity of L-menthol compared to mint oil in human monocytes in vitro: a novel perspective for its therapeutic use in inflammatory diseases. Eur J Med Res. 1998 Dec 16;3(12):539-45. PMID: 9889172.

Cappello G, Spezzaferro M, Grossi L, Manzoli L, Marzio L. Peppermint oil (Mintoil) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Dig Liver Dis. 2007 Jun;39(6):530-6. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2007.02.006. Epub 2007 Apr 8. PMID: 17420159.

Ford AC, Talley NJ, Spiegel BM, Foxx-Orenstein AE, Schiller L, Quigley EM, Moayyedi P. Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2008 Nov 13;337:a2313. doi: 10.1136/bmj.a2313. Erratum in: BMJ.2009;338:b1881. PMID: 19008265; PMCID: PMC2583392.

Briggs P, Hawrylack H, Mooney R. Inhaled peppermint oil for postop nausea in patients undergoing cardiac surgery. Nursing. 2016 Jul;46(7):61-7. doi: 10.1097/01.NURSE.0000482882.38607.5c. PMID: 27333231.

Moss M, Hewitt S, Moss L, Wesnes K. Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. Int J Neurosci. 2008 Jan;118(1):59-77. doi: 10.1080/00207450601042094. PMID: 18041606.

Meamarbashi A. Instant effects of peppermint essential oil on the physiological parameters and exercise performance. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014 Jan;4(1):72-8. PMID: 25050303; PMCID: PMC4103722.

Oh JY, Park MA, Kim YC. Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs. Toxicol Res. 2014 Dec;30(4):297-304. doi: 10.5487/TR.2014.30.4.297. PMID: 25584150; PMCID: PMC4289931.

Orchard A, van Vuuren S. Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4517971. doi: 10.1155/2017/4517971. Epub 2017 May 4. PMID: 28546822; PMCID: PMC5435909.

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