Precautions

In some people, peppermint can relax the muscles that help keep stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus, leading to heartburn.

This effect may be worse in people who already have heartburn. Avoid taking peppermint at bedtime, as lying down increases the chance of acid reflux.

Peppermint oil is extremely concentrated and should be kept out of the reach of children. Overdose can cause severe nerve problems including seizures, especially in children. It is also flammable.

Peppermint oil should not be taken in pregnancy. Peppermint tea is generally safe for pregnant women or children, but discontinue use if it causes heartburn.

Peppermint is familiar because it is widely used as a flavoring in foods, beverages, and over-the-counter products. But this herb also is believed to possess some healing elements for several illnesses when used properly. Here's how this alternative medicine works:

Healing Properties

Most people have heard about the benefits of peppermint leaf tea for relief of an upset stomach. Peppermint's reputation is due in large part to its volatile oil compounds that relax the smooth muscles that line the digestive tract. When these muscle cells become overactive, they contribute to indigestion, dyspepsia, gallbladder disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Several clinical trials have also shown that peppermint essential oil, a super-concentrated form of the herb, can relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. If IBS symptoms persist despite peppermint use, seek a health care professional's help to be sure you don't have an ulcer or a more serious health problem.

Another series of research studies showed that menthol and closely related compounds from mint oils can actually dissolve gallstones; however, this may take many months to achieve. It is imperative to maintain a low-fat diet, lose weight, and exercise regularly to help the peppermint oil work best.

Preparation and Dosage

Peppermint leaf tea is an excellent and safe way to use peppermint for occasional indigestion, mild IBS, or early stages of gallbladder disease. Steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of the herb or two tea bags in 1 cup of hot water, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. You should see a layer of oil on the top of the water when the tea is done. If you don't cover the tea while steeping, the oil -- and the medicinal benefits -- will escape into the air. Drink 1 cup of tea (with the oil) a few minutes before each meal.

As an alternative, you can take 1 to 3 drops of peppermint essential oil three times per day. The oil can be purchased in a bottle or in capsules. Place the drops directly under the tongue.

Another effective alternative is enteric-coated peppermint oil supplements. These deliver more of the essential oil to the intestines, where it is needed, and may help you avoid heartburn. Take 1 to 2 capsules (each of which should provide 0.2 mL menthol) three times per day.

Storage

Store dried peppermint leaf in an airtight container in a dark, dry, cool place to prolong its potency. Do the same for peppermint oil to prevent it from becoming oxidized and losing its effects.

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.