Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to relieve the symptoms of all sorts ailments, long before pharmaceuticals ever came into the picture. The natural, highly concentrated oils are extracted from sources like plants, seeds, flowers and tree bark, each with own unique properties, and peppermint essential oil is considered one of the best, thanks to its wide-ranging uses.
Just about everyone is familiar with peppermint and its wonderful aroma. While it’s often associated with candy canes and toothpaste, the essential oil itself is something that everyone should have a bottle of. With so many great uses, you’ll quickly understand why.
Boosting Memory and Alertness
A study, conducted out of the University of Cincinnati in 2012, “The Effect of Peppermint on Memory Performance,” revealed that inhaling this fragrant oil can improve mental accuracy by as much as 28 percent. An earlier study from the U.K. enjoyed similar findings when measuring the effects of peppermint aroma on cognitive performances. The researchers compared a group who inhaled the scent of peppermint to a group who took in the ylang-ylang aroma, while the third group received no exposure to an aroma at all. The experts found that peppermint increased both alertness and memory, while ylang-ylang appeared to impair both.
Enhancing Exercise Performance
A study from the University of Mohaghegh Ardabili, Ardabil’s Physical Education and Sports Sciences Department in 2013, showed that peppermint essential oil offered immediate positive effects on exercise performance. The research involved participants who jogged on treadmills while a variety of fragrances were pumped into the exercise rooms. Athletes who worked on in the peppermint room experienced enhanced performance overall, with a reduction in feelings of fatigue.
As the experts wanted to find out if it was a psychological effect or if smelling peppermint oil did actually offer the benefit of improved performance, they performed more research that measured performance this time. They concluded that the exercises were able to perform an extra push-up and shaved nearly two seconds off a quarter-mile dash when they ran with an adhesive strip that contained peppermint oil stuck to their upper lip. In addition to running faster and doing more push-ups, there was a general trend toward stronger grip strength, they said.
Peppermint is well-known to help take the edge off of nausea, making it an ideal remedy for morning or motion sickness. In fact, it’s often recommended for its anti-nausea benefits and soothing effects on the gastric lining and colon, due to its ability to lessen muscle spasms. One recent study published in the Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases found that it managed to reduce nausea that was induced by chemotherapy even better than standard medical treatment. The experts noted that the “use of aromatherapy with peppermint in acute phase lead to decreased of nausea and vomiting without any complications.” In the conclusion, they wrote: “Aromatherapy with peppermint in breast cancer patients could decrease nausea and vomiting in the acute phase after chemotherapy. It is suggested that nurses use this aromatherapy as a complementary therapy.”
This is one of the few essential oils that can be taken internally to relieve nausea, but keep in mind that a very tiny amount goes a long way. All you need is a drop or two – stir it into water or herbal tea. Alternatively, you can add it to a diffuser or add a couple of drops behind your ears.
Treat Respiratory Problems
Peppermint essential oil has the ability to open your airways and act as a decongestant, which makes it great for treating respiratory problems, as it contains menthol. Menthol works as an antispasmodic and expectorant to provide relief for colds, asthma, allergies, and bronchitis. Unlike medications sold over-the-counter to relieve congestion, it won’t cause drowsiness, but can even boost energy levels and mental focus.
In a 2011 Israelis study, the researchers created a spray using peppermint essential oil, with the results showing that it brought immediate improvement to upper respiratory conditions for the volunteers. Other research found that nearly 90% of study participants reported improved nasal breathing after menthol inhalation.
You can put peppermint oil in a diffuser and inhale the aroma, or mix a few drops with some coconut oil and eucalyptus essential oil to make a great homemade vapor rub, rubbing it onto your chest to decrease symptoms.
Freshen Your Breath and Support Good Oral Health
There’s a reason why toothpaste so often contains peppermint oil. It’s something that’s been used for well over 1,000 years to naturally freshen one’s breath. In fact, studies have found that the oil is actually more effective than a chemical-filled mouthwash – not only for freshening breath but for fighting against oral pathogens and reducing cavities too. You can make your own homemade mouthwash by combining five drops of peppermint essential oil with five drops tea tree essential oil and two cups filtered water in a bottle. Shake it up to mix well, take a small sip and swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds or so before spitting out, just like you would any other mouthwash.
Improving Indigestion and Bloat
Many studies have shown that peppermint oil is a highly effective natural alternative to medications for reducing colon spasms, bloat and indigestion as it works to relax the intestinal muscles. Peppermint calms the muscles in the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. As a result, food is able to pass through the stomach more quickly, as the University of Maryland Medical Center reports. Additionally, peppermint relaxes the muscles that allow painful digestive gas to pass.
Peppermint oil may even help treat the painful symptoms of IBS that include gas, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea. The U of M Medical Center notes that one study with people diagnosed with IBS found that those who took peppermint experienced a 75% reduction in IBS symptoms. Another study which peppermint to a placebo in children with IBS found that after 2 weeks, three-quarters of those treated had reduced symptoms.
Adding one drop of peppermint essential oil to an 8-ounce glass of water and drinking it before each meal is a great way to help prevent bloating, gas and indigestion before it starts.
Easing a Headache
Peppermint oil is known for its ability to relax tense muscles – as tense muscles can lead to migraines or tension headaches, it makes a great natural remedy for those problems as well. In fact, research from Germany’s Neurological Clinic at the University of Kiel found that using a blend of oils that included peppermint, offered significant analgesic effects to reduce sensitivity to headaches.