Peppermint oil is extracted from Mentha piperita of the Labiatae family and is also known as brandy mint and balm mint.
This cooling and refreshing essential oil is used in aromatherapy to stimulate the mind, increase mental agility and to increase focus, while cooling the skin, reducing redness and calming irritation and itchiness. It furthermore helps to ease spastic colon, migraine, headaches, sinus and chest congestion and boosts the digestive system.
Peppermint oil has a fresh, sharp, menthol smell, is clear to pale yellow in color and watery in viscosity.
Origin of Peppermint Oil
It is a native of the Mediterranean, but is now also cultivated in Italy, USA, Japan and Great Britain. It is a perennial herb that grows up to 1 meter (3 feet) high and has slightly hairy serrated leaves with pinkish-mauve flowers arranged in a long conical shape.
It has underground runners by which it easily propagates. This herb has many species, and peppermint piperita is a hybrid of watermint (M. aquatica) and spearmint (M. spicata).
According to Greek mythology the nymph Mentha was hotly pursued by Pluto, whose jealous wife Persephone, trod her ferociously into the ground, whereupon Pluto then turned her into a herb, knowing that people would appreciate her for years to come.
It has been cultivated since ancient times in Japan and China. Evidence of use was found in Egypt in a tomb dating back from 1000 BC.
Peppermint oil is extracted from the whole plant above ground just before flowering. The oil is extracted by steam distillation from the fresh or partly dried plant and the yield is 0.1 – 1.0 %.
The chemical components of peppermint oil are menthol, menthone, 1,8-cineole, methyl acetate, methofuran, isomenthone, limonene, b-pinene, a-pinene, germacrene-d, trans-sabinene hydrate and pulegone.
Peppermint oil is non-toxic and non-irritant in low dilutions, but sensitization may be a problem due to the menthol content.
It can cause irritation to the skin and mucus membranes and should be kept well away from the eyes. It should be avoided during pregnancy and should not be used on children under seven.
The therapeutic properties of peppermint oil are analgesic, anesthetic, antiseptic, antigalactagogue, antiphlogistic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cephalic, cholagogue, cordial, decongestant, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, hepatic, nervine, stimulant, stomachic, sudorific, vasoconstrictor and vermifuge.
Peppermint oil is excellent for mental fatigue and depression, refreshing the spirit and stimulating mental agility and improving concentration. It helps for apathy, shock, headache, migraine, nervous stress, vertigo and faintness and in general respiratory disorders, as well as dry coughs, sinus congestion, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis and cholera.
For the digestive system, peppermint oil is effective for a range of ailments, as it stimulates the gall bladder and the secretion of bile. It is used for colic, cramps, dyspepsia, spastic colon, flatulence and nausea and can relieve pain in cases of toothache, aching feet, rheumatism, neuralgia, muscular pains and painful periods.
On the skin, peppermint oil is used to relieve skin irritation and itchiness and also helps to reduce skin redness, where inflammation is present. It is used for dermatitis, acne, ringworm, scabies and pruritus and also relieves itching, sunburn and inflammation of the skin, while at the same time having a cooling action.
Peppermint oil can assist in nervous disorders and is dramatically effective in stimulating the mind and focusing concentration, for treating the respiratory tract, muscular aches and pains and for some skin problems.
- Burners and vaporizers
- In vapor therapy, peppermint oil can help to increase concentration and to stimulate the mind, as well as sorting out coughs, headaches, nausea and also has value as an insect repellant.
- Blended oil or in the bath
- As a blended massage oil or diluted in the bath, peppermint oil can assist with colic, cramps, back pain, inflamed bowel disorders, spastic colon, catarrh, colitis, circulation, constipation, coughs, diarrhea, sweaty and tired feet, flatulence, headaches, muscular pains, cramps and spasms, neuralgia, nausea, rheumatism and mental fatigue, skin that is red, irritated and itchy, as well as other inflammatory conditions.
- A mouthwash with peppermint oil included can help with bad breath and gum infections.
- Cream or lotion
- When included in a cream or lotion, it will help to ease the sting of sunburn, reduce redness of inflamed skin, reduce itchiness and cools down the skin with its vasoconstrictor properties.