Peppermint: Herbal Remedies


©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Peppermint can be used as an herbal remedy to relieve gas and nausea due to indigestion.

Although there are more than 30 species of mint, peppermint is one of the most popular, with its purple-laced stems and bright green leaves.

According to Greek mythology, a furious Persephone turned the nymph Mentha into mint. Although myth claims it was born out of anger, peppermint actually has calming effects. This popular candy flavor can be used as an herbal remedy for stomach upset and other indigestion issues.

Uses for Peppermint

Peppermint is widely used as a food, flavoring, and disinfectant. As a medicine, peppermint is most well known for its effects on the stomach and intestines. Perhaps you've tried the various "tummy teas" available for stomach upset. Peppermint is a tasty way to relieve gas, nausea, and stomach pain due to an irritable bowel, intestinal cramps, or indigestion.

Peppermint is a carminative -- an agent that dispels gas and bloating in the digestive system -- and an antispasmodic capable of relieving stomach and intestinal cramps. Peppermint can be used for too much stomach acid (hyperacidity) and gastroenteritis (nausea and stomach upset that we sometimes call stomach flu), and it is safe for infants with colic.

When treating a baby with tummy cramps, you can give a teaspoon of peppermint tea if the baby will take it, or put a cloth soaked in warm peppermint tea on the infant's belly.

Peppermint also is used topically for the cooling and relaxing effect it has on the skin. Various muscle rubs and "ices" contain peppermint oil to reduce pain, burning, and inflammation. Like other volatile oils, peppermint oil is absorbed fairly well and can have a temporary pain-relieving effect on muscles and organs that are cramped and in spasm. As with all essential oils, dilute this oil before putting it directly on your skin.

Peppermint also allays itching temporarily. Rub a drop of diluted peppermint oil onto insect bites, eczema, and other itching lesions, including the rash of poison ivy. Peppermint can help relieve some headaches, and you can rub peppermint oil onto the temples or scalp for a comforting therapy.

Menthol, the essential oil in peppermint, is credited with the herb's analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, decongestant, and cooling effects. Menthol also helps subdue many disease-producing bacteria, fungi, and viruses, but because stronger herbal antimicrobials are available, peppermint usually is not the first choice of herbalists to treat serious infections.

Peppermint tea can be used as a mouthwash for babies with thrush (yeast in the mouth) or for pregnant women who wish to avoid stronger herbs and medications.

In the next section, you will learn how to prepare peppermint for herbal remedies and some of the potentially dangerous side effects.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

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.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Peppermint Preparations and Dosage

Peppermint is a popular herbal remedy to calm an upset stomach, but there are some things to keep in mind when taking it. Below are some potential side effects and precautions that can help you use peppermint safely.

Peppermint Preparations and Dosage

Peppermint products and preparations abound. It is used commercially in toothpaste, mouthwash, breath mints, chewing tobacco substitutes, candy, and numerous other products.

You can make peppermint tea with fresh leaves or commercial tea bags. Tea is the preferred choice to treat nausea and bowel complaints because the liquid comes in direct contact with the stomach and intestinal lining. Peppermint also may relieve morning sickness and is considered safe for use during pregnancy.

Peppermint oil capsules have been used to reduce the cramping that occurs with such medical procedures as sigmoidoscopy, in which a physician inserts a scope into the rectum and lower bowel to visualize possible ulcers, polyps, or cancers.

This procedure is understandably uncomfortable, and peppermint oil -- given in specially coated capsules before the procedure -- helps reduce cramping in the intestines and makes such diagnostic procedures easier on the patient.

Peppermint Precautions and Warnings

If you have a hiatal hernia or GERD, peppermint could worsen the conditions. Use with caution if you have gallbladder inflammation or obstruction or advanced liver disease.

Some health professionals believe peppermint may relax the bile ducts and promote bile flow; others have reported peppermint as helpful in gallbladder disease, dissolving gallstones when combined with bile acid therapy.

Nursing women should consume peppermint in moderation only, as it may decrease milk production. As with all essential oils, keep peppermint oil out of the eyes and open wounds.

of Peppermint

Peppermint is generally recognized as safe, but a number of people show allergies to the seemingly innocent peppermint plant. The most common reactions are headaches, stomach upset, and skin rashes.

Due to the marked antispasmodic effect, peppermint can relax the esophageal sphincter in some individuals. The esophageal sphincter is a stricture at the base of the esophagus that opens briefly to allow food to enter the stomach, and then closes again to prevent acid from the stomach from moving upward into the throat.

With the sphincter relaxed, stomach acid may reflux back into the esophagus, causing inflammation and, when chronic, possibly ulceration and perforation of the esophagus. This chronic condition is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

If you have GERD or a hiatal hernia, or if you experience frequent episodes of heartburn, avoid large doses of peppermint and do not ingest pure essential oil of peppermint.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.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.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.