The aroma is instantly familiar. The taste is distinctive. The combination is unmistakable. It’s peppermint.
Countless everyday products feature the cool, crisp and piquant character of peppermint. But peppermint is so much more than the familiar flavor of your toothpaste or that breath mint in your pocket or purse.
It’s not only one of the most popular and ubiquitous scents and flavor agents in the world, it’s also one of the oldest. Its uses are many and its therapeutic properties are well known and well loved. It’s used to promote health and wellness in numerous ways in, around and on the body.
Small wonder that pure peppermint oil is considered one of the “must have” essentials for every fan of essential oils. Let’s find out what makes Peppermint Essential Oil so special.
What is Peppermint?
The scientific name for peppermint is Mentha Piperita, but the chances you will hear it called that are pretty much non-existent. The plant is a perennial herb from the mint family with arrowhead-shaped leaves and bursts of small purple or white flowers.
Peppermint is a hybrid, a cross mixture of Watermint and Spearmint. It grows in northern climates to about three feet in height and can be aggressive, quickly taking over any uninhabited ground.
While peppermint’s history dates back thousands of years to the land of the Pharaohs and ancient Romans, it wasn’t until the mid 18th century that peppermint was cultivated for its medicinal properties in England and Western Europe.
The commercial history of peppermint in the United States appears to have begun in the late 19th century in upstate New York. Cultivation quickly spread to other states and territories.
What part of the plant does Peppermint Oil come from?
Peppermint oil is extracted from the cells on the underside of peppermint leaves.
How is Peppermint Oil extracted?
There are two main methods for extracting peppermint oil.
- Steam distillation. (the most widely used) Steam is forced through fresh or slightly dried peppermint leaves.
- Solvent. A food-grade solvent, usually alcohol based, is used to separate oil from plant material.
Physical characteristics of Peppermint Oil
- Appearance: clear or pale yellow
- Viscosity: watery
- Fragrance: fresh, sharp smell
- Aroma notes (top and middle): Pine, sage, ravensara and petitgrain (among others)
- Menthol. Analgesic known for reducing pain.
- Menthone. Analgesic and antiseptic.
- Eucalyptol or 1,8-Cineole. Major flavor component.
- Menthyl acetate. Contributes to the taste and smell of peppermint.
- Isovalerate. A fruity odor and flavor component.
- Pinene. A fragrant compound that smells like pine trees. May improve memory.
- Limonene. A major component in citrus fruit peel oil.
Therapeutic properties and uses of Peppermint Oil
- Indigestion. Peppermint can calm the stomach muscles and improve the flow of bile.
- Relieve muscle and joint pain. Peppermint essential oil is a natural painkiller and muscle relaxant.
- Relive headache pain. Peppermint oil can be particularly effective in calming a tension headache.
- Sinus and respiratory treatment. Diffused essential peppermint oil can help relieve congested sinuses. It also acts as a natural expectorant that can promote open airways and help clear mucus. It’s a go-to remedy for the symptoms of flu, colds, asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.
- Seasonal allergy relief. Because it can relax muscles in your nasal cavities, Peppermint Oil can help relieve season allergies like hay fever. It also has expectorant and anti-inflammatory properties
- Increase energy and improve exercise performance. If you’re among the growing number of health-conscious people turning their backs on dangerous energy drinks riddled with caffeine and other artificial stimulants, essential Peppermint Oil is good news. Inhaling a few deep breaths of Peppermint oils can boost energy levels and help sustain you through your exercise routine or on long trips and making it through that all-nighter.
- Other benefits. Among the other benefits reported by essential oil users are relief from symptoms of asthma, chronic fatigue, diarrhea, heartburn, joint and back pain, morning sickness, neuralgia and poor concentration.
Best Peppermint essential oil blends
Peppermint oil blends well with several other essential oils including:
- Oregano (immune booster, coughs and colds)
- Marjoram (headaches)
- Cypress (respiratory problems)
- Eucalyptus (nasal congestion, asthma, insect repellant)
- Geranium (mood enhancement, inflammation reduction)
- Grapefruit (skin cleansing, massage)
- Juniper Berry (calming, air purification, kidney function support)
- Lavender (antifungal, anti-inflammatory, soothing)
- Lemon (detoxifying, antiseptic)
- Rosemary (headache relief, aromatherapy)
- Malaleuca (skin care, cold and flu, antibacterial)
How to use Peppermint Essential Oil
All the uses for peppermint oil are far too numerous to describe here, but following are among the most widely used and popular.
- Headache relief. Massage a couple of drops on your temples, sinuses and neck to help relief the discomfort of persistent headache pain.
- Allergy relief. Used alone or with lemon oil can help clear airways during allergy season when diffused. Breathe deeply.
- Instant energy. Inhale out of the bottle or put a drop or two in your cupped hands and breathe deeply for an immediate boost to your concentration and mental acuity.
- Toothache pain. Menthol, a major component of Peppermint Oil, possesses a well-known ability to reduce pain and even relax muscles. Apply a drop or two directly to the tooth and gums.
- Indigestion or a grumbly stomach. Just rub a few drops on your abdomen for some quick relief.
- Natural Cleaner. Peppermint oil contains antifungal, antibacterial and antiseptic properties that make it an effective natural cleansing agent. Use it by itself or add it to your favorite cleaners.
- Freshen your breath. A tiny drop on the tip of your tongue or a peppermint beadlette will freshen your breath and liven your step.
- Calm motion sickness. What to do about that bumpy plane ride or other nausea causing motion? Rub some peppermint oil on your stomach.
Safety considerations when using Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is generally considered safe for internal and external use. Always use caution to avoid ingesting too much as heartburn, anal burning (if suffering from diarrhea) or mouth sores could occur.
You may want to use a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, when using topically, especially if you have sensitive skin or applying to young children.
Interesting fact about Peppermint
Peppermint reportedly gets its name from Greek mythology. According to legend, Hades, god of the underworld, had an affair with a nymph named Minthe. When the wife of Hades found out, she angrily transformed Minthe into a plant that would be trampled upon. Hades added the recognizable aroma to peppermint to remind all the world of her presence.