Peppermint is antispasmodic, carminative, choleretic, diaphoretic, aromatic, nervine, antiemetic, peripheral vasodilator with a paradoxical cooling effect, cholagogue, bitter. It is indicated for intestinal colic, vomiting of pregnancy, flatulent dyspepsia, biliary disorders, common cold, dysmenorrhoea. Peppermint is specifically indicated in flatulent digestive pains, Mentha has a notable action on the lower bowel. It reduces nausea and is helpful in travel sickness. It promotes sweating in fevers and influenza. As a nervine it acts as a tonic, easing anxiety, tension and hysteria. In dysmenorrhoea it relieves the pain and associated tension. (1)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Peppermint is known as Bo He 薄荷. Bo He is pungent, aromatic and cool and enters the Lung and Liver channels. Bo He expel Wind-Heat to treat fever, headache, and cough, clears head and eyes and aids throat, sore throat, red eyes, headache, clears rashes and moves Liver Qi stagnation to alleviate emotional, gynaecological disorders. (2)
The pharmacological actions of Mentha are largely due to the volatile oil, which is carminative and a potent spasmolytic, acting locally to produce visceral muscle relaxation. The volatile oil acts as a mild anaesthetic to the mucous membrane of the stomach, relieving nausea and the desire to vomit. It reduces the tone of the cardiac sphincter and relaxes the gastroesophageal sphincter, allowing expulsion of air in flatulent dyspepsia. It relieves colonic spasm and bowel irritability and is specific for IBS. Chronic disease of the pancreas also responds well to peppermint, as do abnormal fermentation processes in the intestine, for example, when the bowel flora is abnormal.
Menthol in peppermint is anti-inflammatory (3) bactericidal (4) antifungal (5) and anti-parasitic (3)
The flavonoids in peppermint contribute to the spasmolytic activity, and flavonoids and phenolic acids to the choleretic activity - it promotes liver and gallbladder function. (6)
Peppermint oil is more effective than placebo in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. (7)
A study concluded topical application of peppermint was found to induces a rapid anagen stage and could be used for a practical agent for hair growth. Alkaline phosphatise (ALP) activity and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) expression also significantly increased in the peppermint group. (8)
Peppermint oil targets headache pathophysiology in multiple ways. The efficacy is comparable to that of acetylsalicylic acid or paracetamol. (9)
1. PFAF. Mentha x piperita officinalis. 2019.
2. Healing WRIo. Mint (Bo He) 2019.
3. Zaia MG, Cagnazzo TdO, Feitosa KA, Soares EG, Faccioli LH, Allegretti SM, et al. Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Menthol and Menthone in Schistosoma mansoni Infection. Frontiers in pharmacology. 2016;7:170-.
4. Chouhan S, Sharma K, Guleria S. Antimicrobial Activity of Some Essential Oils-Present Status and Future Perspectives. Medicines (Basel, Switzerland). 2017;4(3):58.
5. Pattnaik S, Subramanyam VR, Kole C. Antibacterial and antifungal activity of ten essential oils in vitro. Microbios. 1996;86(349):237-46.
6. ZONG L, QU Y, LUO DX, ZHU ZY, ZHANG S, SU Z, et al. Preliminary experimental research on the mechanism of liver bile secretion stimulated by peppermint oil. 2011;12(4):295-301.
7. Ford AC, Talley NJ, Spiegel BMR, Foxx-Orenstein AE, Schiller L, Quigley EMM, et al. Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ (Clinical research ed). 2008;337:a2313-a.
8. Oh JY, Park MA, Kim YC. Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs. Toxicological research. 2014;30(4):297-304.
9. Gobel H, Heinze A, Heinze-Kuhn K, Gobel A, Gobel C. [Peppermint oil in the acute treatment of tension-type headache]. Schmerz (Berlin, Germany). 2016;30(3):295-310.