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.
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:
- For an overview of all of our herbal remedies, go to the main Herbal Remedies page.
- To learn more about treating medical conditions at home, visit our main Home Remedies page.
- One of the best things you can do for your health and well being is to make sure you are getting enough of the vital nutrients your body needs. Visit our Vitamins page to learn more.
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.