- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: peppermint oil
Other Names: aetheroleum, balm mint, black peppermint, brandy mint, curled mint, feuilles de menthe, mentha piperita, menthe poivree, Our Lady's mint, white peppermint
Drug Class: Herbals
What is peppermint oil, and what is it used for?
Peppermint oil is the essential oil extracted from the stem, leaves and flowers of the plant Mentha piperita, native to Europe and North America and a natural hybrid of water mint and spearmint.
Peppermint oil has been historically used orally and topically to treat a variety of conditions such as digestive disorders, cough, and other upper respiratory symptoms. Peppermint oil is available over the counter (OTC) as oil or enteric coated capsules.
Most available studies of peppermint oil are on its use in relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Oral peppermint oil is antispasmodic and it relaxes the intestinal smooth muscles reducing IBS symptoms. It also increases bile production and improves digestion. Applied topically, peppermint oil acts as a counter-irritant and relieves minor skin irritations, muscle and joint pains and tension headaches.
Peppermint oil is used for inhalation in aromatherapy, promoted to treat common colds and cough, to reduce stress and improve mental function. Peppermint leaves are used as flavoring agents in food and beverages, and brewed as tea. Peppermint oil is also used as fragrance in skin care products and cosmetics.
The therapeutic effects of peppermint oil are from menthol, its main active ingredient, although it contains many other substances including volatile oils, flavonoids and pulegone, a carcinogenic compound. Menthol reduces intestinal muscle spasms by reducing the influx of calcium ions in the nerve cells that activate muscle contraction and inhibiting their action potential. When applied on the skin, it initially stimulates the nerve endings, but continued exposure desensitizes the nerve endings and decreases pain sensitivity.
Suggested uses of peppermint oil include:
- Do not administer peppermint oil to infants and children.
- Peppermint oil capsules are enteric coated to prevent being broken down in the acidic environment of the stomach, which may lead to heartburn. Do not use enteric coated peppermint oil capsules in patients who do not produce gastric hydrochloric acid due to any condition or medication.
- Use with caution in patients with hiatal hernia.
What are the side effects of peppermint oil?
Common side effects of peppermint oil include:
- Contact dermatitis
- Skin irritation
- Bronchospasm in children
- Voice box spasm (laryngospasm) in children
- Respiratory collapse
- Inflammation in the kidney (interstitial nephritis)
- Acute kidney failure
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:
- Serious heart symptoms include fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness;
- Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady;
- Severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, and feeling like you might pass out; or
- Serious eye symptoms include blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of peppermint oil?
There isn’t an established dosage for peppermint oil, check the manufacturer’s label.
- 0.2-0.4 ml orally three times a day between meals
Inhaled for Postoperative Nausea
- 0.2 mL in 2 mL of isotonic saline
Topical for Tension Headaches
- Apply topically as needed every 15-30 minutes
- Peppermint oil overdose may cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms, nausea diarrhea, rectal ulceration, kidney failure, epileptic convulsions, loss of consciousness, respiratory depression or arrest, disturbances in cardiac rhythms and impairment of balance and coordination. There is one report of near fatal overdose with low heart rate and coma.
- Treatment may include stomach emptying and symptomatic care.
What drugs interact with peppermint oil?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Peppermint oil has no known severe, or serious interactions with other drugs.
- Moderate interactions of peppermint oil include:
- Peppermint oil has no known mild interactions with other drugs.
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Avoid use of oral peppermint oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. There is no reliable information on the safety of peppermint oil use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Peppermint leaf consumed in small amounts in food is possibly safe.
- Topical application of peppermint oil may be safe, however, if applied to the breast area, clean thoroughly before breastfeeding your infant.
- Always check with your healthcare provider before using any supplements or herbal products.
What else should I know about peppermint oil?
- Peppermint oil is possibly safe for most adults when topically applied or taken orally in recommended amounts for a short period.
- Check with your healthcare provider before using any OTC supplement, including peppermint oil.
- Take peppermint oil capsules exactly as per label instructions.
- Herbal supplements often contain many ingredients. Check labels for the components in the peppermint oil product you choose.
- Peppermint oil supplements are marketed as herbal supplements and are not regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths, and labels may not always match contents; exercise caution in choosing your product.
- Store safely out of reach of children.
- In case of overdose, report to Poison Control.
Peppermint oil is the essential oil that has been historically used orally and topically to treat a variety of conditions such as digestive disorders, cough, and other upper respiratory symptoms. Do not administer peppermint oil to infants and children. Common side effects of peppermint oil include diarrhea, heartburn, mouth ulcers, burning mouth syndrome, allergic reactions, flushing, and headache. Avoid use of oral peppermint oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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