Peppermint essential oil: The cooling oil - The essential oils collection [Oils101]

Our sense of smell is strongly connected to our emotions and memories as our scent receptors are located next to the emotional centers in our brain, the amygdala and hippocampus. That is one of the reasons why aromatherapy is so powerful – using oils can trigger the body’s own healing process to begin, as well as soothe and calm your mind to actually allow the process to take place.  Essential oils can also interact with certain hormones, neurotransmitters, or enzymes, resulting in a specific change to our bodies’ chemistry. Oils are powerful, and they have little or no side effects.

Peppermint Essential Oil

One of the most popular essential oils, peppermint essential oil is widely used. No wonder if you consider that the scent and aroma of peppermint is familiar and pleasant to most people. The essential oil is very intense since it is more concentrated than most other steam distilled oils. When used in low dilutions, it is fresh, minty and uplifting.

The smell can easily conjure up images of the festive season, where it is associated with minty candy canes or other festive treats, or of slow summer days where you can use the oil to help cool you down. Not only in mojitos, but in a diffuser or even body mist. The oil contains menthol, which induces a cooling sensation which in turn can help cool you down and feel refreshed. One of the most versatile essential oils out there, it can be used aromatically, topically, in a diffuser and also internally (under the prescription and supervision of a medical doctor).

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Peppermint essential oil is one of the oldest European herbs used for medicinal purposes. Widely used in ancient Japanese and Chinese traditional medicine, it is also mentioned in Greek mythology and have been found in several Egyptian pyramids.

The oil is derived from the peppermint plant, an herb hybrid between spearmint and water mint. The essential oil is gathered by steam distillation from the leaves and stems of the plant. The most active phytochemicals include menthol (50-50%) and menthone (10-30%), as well as menthofuran, menthyl acetate, 1.8-cineole, pulegone, perillyl alcohol, limonene, beta-pinene and beta-caryophyllene. Peppermint also contains flavonoids, the most important ones being eriocitrin, luteolin, and hesperidin.

Today, the oil is prized for its anti-nausea, cooling and soothing effects. It can help relieve sore muscles, making it perfect for the use in topical lotions, and its antimicrobial properties makes it suited for use in toothpaste and mouthwash.

Benefits and uses include treatment of the symptoms of asthma, colic, exhaustion, flu, flatulence, headache, nausea, scabies, sinusitis, vertigo.

[Refer to the safety information mentioned below.]

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Character of the oil

Botanical name

Mentha piperita

Common method of extraction

Steam distilled

Plant part typically used

Leaves and flowers/buds

Colour

Clear with a yellow tinge

Consistency

Thin

Perfumery note

Top

Strength of initial aroma

Strong

Aromatic description

Minty, like the smell of peppermint candies, but more concentrated. More fragrant than spearmint.

Benefits and uses

Essential oil uses

1.    Sunburn protection and relief

Peppermint essential oil can help to hydrate burnt skin, relieving the pain associated with sunburns. To support your skin’s healing process after getting sunburnt, mix 2-3 drops of the oil with 2.5ml coconut oil and apply topically to the areas that were burnt.

2.   Healthy skin

When used topically, the oil has a calming, softening, toning and anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. It is also antiseptic and has antimicrobial properties, making it effective for the treatment of blackheads, the symptoms of chicken pox, oily skin, itchy skin, ringworm and dermatitis inflammation.

3.   Fever

Peppermint essential oil can be used to reduce a fever. Simply dab a few drops of diluted oil on the soles of the feet.

4.   Improve the symptoms of colic

According to studies, peppermint essential oil is as effective as prescribed drugs in the treatment of infantile colic, with no side effects as are normally associated with prescribed medication. The oil eases colic symptoms by relieving gassiness, bloating and stomach discomfort. Before trying this yourself, speak to your doctor.

5.    Reduce nausea 

Inhaling the scent has been found to relieve or lower nausea levels. The oil can also be applied topically to the back of the neck and behind the ears.

6.       Natural bug repellent

Most of the most annoying insects loathe the smell of peppermint, making the oil effective in repelling these bugs, including cockroaches, mosquitos, mice, ants, spiders, and possibly even lice. Other oils that can be used in conjunction with peppermint include lemongrass, pine, cedar, thyme, patchouli and clove.  For effective mosquito protection, rub diluted oil onto your arms, but reapply every 2 hours to ensure efficacy.

7.       Reduce dandruff and promote hair growth

The oil can naturally thicken and nourish damaged, dry hair. It helps to stimulate the scalp, which can be a natural treatment for thinning hair.

8.       Weight loss

Inhaling the scent can help curb cravings. The oil affects the satiety center in the hypothalamus, making you feel fuller for longer.

9.       Improves stomach and other gastro-intestinal discomfort

Shown to be effective in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), peppermint essential oil is able to reduce spasms in the colon, which relaxes the intestines and thus helps to reduce bloating and gassiness. The oil can also be used to improve other symptoms such as abdominal bleeding, pain or discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation.

10.   Supports oral health

Peppermint essential oil’s antimicrobial properties means that it kills bacteria and fungus, which when present in the mouth can lead to cavities and infection. The menthol leaves your mouth feeling fresh, with breath to follow.

11.   Headache relief

The oil has the ability to improve circulation and to relax tense muscles, which in turn helps to relieve headaches.

12.   Energizing

The scent of peppermint essential oil has been found to boost your energy levels. It may also help to improve memory and alertness when inhaled.

13.   Relief from seasonal allergies

The oil is able to relax the muscles in the nasal passages, this helping to clear out the pollen from your respiratory tract.  It is also an expectorant, anti-inflammatory and has invigorating properties, making it effective in the treatment of allergic rhinitis, colitis, and bronchial asthma.

14.   Respiratory benefits, including sinus care

Inhaling peppermint essential oil can help to unclog your sinuses and give you relief from a sore scratchy throat. It is also an expectorant, meaning the oil can help to open airways, clear mucus and reduce congestions. This makes peppermint oil one of the best essential oils for use with the flu, sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis, colds, coughs and other respiratory conditions. Because the oil is also antiviral, it can help fight infections in the respiratory tract.

15.   Muscle and joint pain

Because the oil is a topical analgesic, it is a very effective natural pain killer and muscle relaxant. Especially effective to relief the pain associated with fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome and other types of arthritis.

Other peppermint oil uses and how to use peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is incredibly versatile, and although it is generally thought of as being safe enough to use internally as well as externally, I would not recommend using any essential oil internally without the prescription and supervision of a medical doctor. The oil is also thought of being safe to use undiluted. Again, I would rather err on the side of caution and always use diluted.  If you want to use peppermint essential oil, here are some ways that you can incorporate it into your daily life:

Diffuse it. Add about 5 drops of peppermint oil to an essential oil diffuser for an energizing scent.

Cook with it. Add a few drops to your next recipe that calls for fresh mint, or mint essence.

Bath with it. Make a relaxing bath salt by following my recipe below.

Create a massage oil with it. Since peppermint oil soothes, cools and invigorates, it’s the perfect ingredient for massage oil. Dilute several drops in almond or avocado oil. For bonus relaxation, add lavender and eucalyptus.

Other uses include toothpaste, mouthwash, toning body lotions and conditioning bars, hairsprays, lip balms and more.

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 Major constituents:

Menthol

Menthone

Menthyl acetate

Neomenthol

1,8-Cineole

Menthofuran

Blending tips:

Blends for benefits

Tips on using this essential oil safely:

Peppermint essential oil can be a mucous membrane irritant. It is choleretic and can cause neurotoxicity. Avoid in the case of cardiac fibrillation and by those with a G6PD deficiency. Do not apply on or near the chest and face of infants or young children as it can cause skin irritations.

Some prescription medications and over-the-counter medications may adversely interact with peppermint oil. Enteric-coated peppermint oil supplements may cause rapid dissolving, leading to heartburn, nausea and rapid absorption of some medications.

General safety information

Because essential oils are highly concentrated they should always be used with caution. Essential oils should not be used undiluted, and should never be applied to the eyes or mucous membranes. Toxicity can occur if too much of the oil is absorbed, hence always dilute. A skin patch test is always recommended prior to using any new essential oil, or after first time use after a long break. Although most essential oils have been proven by science to work as efficiently, or even more, as allopathic drugs, they are not a substitute for medical care. Chronic conditions should not be self-treated, and you should never avoid or delay getting standard medical care. Always consult with your doctor first. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult with their doctor before using any natural or alternative treatment, and also speak to your doctor first before using oils on your kids. People who are epileptic, have liver damage or issues, have cancer, are diabetic, or have any other medical problem, or who suspect they might have any of these conditions, should definitely consult with their doctor first.

Shelf life and care:

Although pure essential oils do not go rancid, they do gradually lose their therapeutic value and aroma as a result of oxidation. The lifespan varies according to the botanical, distillation process, storage and care as well as manufacturer and supplier. To maximize the shelf life, store the oils in dark glass bottles, tightly closed, in a cool and dry place. Keep out of the sun. If the aroma, thickness or colour has changed, discard.

Important information about essential oils:

The essential oil information provided on A life lead simply is intended for educational purposes only. The references to safety information, constituents and percentages is generalized information. The data is not necessary complete and is not guaranteed to be accurate. The essential oil photos are intended to represent the typical and approximate colour of each essential oil. However, essential oil colour can vary based on harvesting, distillation, age of the essential oil and other factors.

Essential oil book suggestions:

Wilson, R. 2002. Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Vibrant Health and Beauty. This book covers the extraction of Essential oils.

Lawless, J. 2013. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health and Well Being. San Francisco: Conari Press.

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