Peppermint Oil – A Powerful Healer

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 in Health & Wellness

Not just a delicious flavor and an herbal remedy, peppermint essential oil has powerful healing properties when applied directly to the skin.

Peppermint has long been a favorite food flavor, especially in sweets such as ice cream and candy canes. It’s a great breath freshener, which is why it’s a staple of toothpaste and chewing gum. Many people also know it as a stomach-soothing herb when taken in capsule or tea form.

But a little-known fact about peppermint essential oil: it’s equally soothing (if not more so) when applied topically. This is because the vapors of the oil can actually penetrate the outer layers of the body and directly affect the internal organs, and have a particularly relaxing effect on smooth muscle tissue. As a result, it’s potent for soothing stomachaches and other issues in the digestive system such as bloating, constipation and indigestion. It’s also a great for those affected by chronic bladder and urinary tract issues, and can be a temporary relief for general pain and burning sensations in the body. It’s even been known to tame tension headaches and morning sickness.

The primary effect and sensation of peppermint oil is one of cooling. Its tingly effect is similar to that of Icy Hot®, BENGAY® and Tiger Balm (not surprising since a main ingredient of each is menthol derived from mint). This can take some getting used to, but can also be a great distraction from pain and discomfort in the body.

When the vapors are inhaled, peppermint oil has a stimulating, stuffiness-clearing effect that relieves respiratory congestion. Vicks® VapoRub® takes advantage of this property (in combination with another great congestion-clearer, eucalyptus) in its wildly popular topical cold remedy.

(As a side note, in a diluted form, many body care products such as shampoos, conditioners and soaps take advantage of the tingly sensation that peppermint oil produces because it seems so clean and fresh.)

Where to Buy Peppermint Oil

You can buy small vials of peppermint oil at local natural foods stores and alternative pharmacies. (A little goes a long way, and it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other, more exotic essential oils.)

Aura Cacia is a reputable brand that sells high quality peppermint oil. But even generic brands and bulk oils will do the trick.

If you happen to already have peppermint oil capsules lying around, you can also simply break them open to extract the oil.

How to Use Peppermint Oil Topically

For stomachaches, bladder pain or any other sort of internal organ dysfunction, shake a few drops of the oil onto the palm of your hand and rub it in a circular motion over the skin. You won’t feel anything right away; it takes a moment for the oil to penetrate the skin and incite sensation.

Because of this delay, make sure to start with just a few drops at a time, and increase the dose as needed. A good measure is to wait at least 10-15 minutes before applying a second coat.

The aroma of peppermint oil will linger on clothes and other porous materials until they are washed, so be careful what you let it touch.

And be aware that some housecats are attracted to the scent of peppermint because it’s a distant relative of the catnip plant!

Why Use it Topically

For digestive system issues specifically, using peppermint oil topically rather than ingested capsules can be a quicker fix. This is because most peppermint oil pills have to be enteric-coated and time-released in order to avoid irritating the stomach.

Skin is a bit thicker than our stomach lining, when it comes to peppermint oil at least, and can take higher doses more immediately. It also takes less time for this essential oil to soak through skin to internal muscle tissue, because it doesn’t require a trip through the digestive system. Therefore, the effect is more immediate.

Contraindications and Adverse Effects

  • It’s definitely not advised to apply peppermint oil to babies, small children or pets. And be sure to wash your hands long before you get them near your eyes, mouth or any other sensitive part of your body.
  • In both eastern and western medicine, peppermint oil is contraindicated during pregnancy because of its potential to trigger menstruation.
  • According to Medscape, those with hiatal hernia, severe gastroesophageal reflux, and gallbladder disorders are also advised to avoid its use.
  • American Family Physician lists the following potential adverse effects to look out for: allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, blurred vision. Interstitial nephritis and acute renal failure are rare.
  • As with any essential oil, it can be toxic in high doses.

 The health benefits of peppermint oil include the following:

 
  • Indigestion: Peppermint oil is very helpful in digestion. Often people put a few drops of peppermint oil in a glass of water and drink it after their meal due to its digestive properties. It is carminative and therefore helps in removing gas. Peppermint oil is a good tonic for those who have a low appetite. It also helps during motion sickness and upset stomach. Preliminary research has proved that peppermint oil in the combination of caraway oil can be used for treating heartburns.
  • Dental Care: Peppermint oil, due to its antiseptic properties, is useful for dental care. It removes bad breath and helps teeth and gums deal with germs. No wonder, it is added in numerous toothpastes. It is also useful for treating toothaches.
  • Respiratory Problems: Menthol, which is present in abundance in peppermint oil, helps in clearing the respiratory tract. It is an effective expectorant and therefore provides instantaneous, though temporary, relief in numerous respiratory problems including nasal congestion, sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis, cold and cough. As a result, it is used in numerous cold rubs. When these cold rubs are rubbed on the chest, they remove nasal and respiratory congestion immediately.
  • Nausea and Headache: Peppermint oil is a good home remedy for nausea and headache. Applying peppermint oil in diluted form on the forehead is known to remove headache.
  • Stress: Like most other essential oils, peppermint is able to provide relief from stress, depression and mental exhaustion due to its refreshing nature. It is also effective against anxiety and restlessness.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The muscle relaxing property of peppermint oil has been found to ease irritable bowel syndrome. This has been validated through preliminary scientific research though the exact mechanism is still unknown.
  • Antispasmodic: Peppermint oil is very effective for gastroscopy, colonoscopy and during double-contrast barium enema. It is applied intraluminally. Further benefits of peppermint oil due to its antispasmodic properties are being studied.
  • Urinary Tract Infection: Peppermint oil can be used for treating urinary tract infection (UTI). However, thorough scientific studies are yet to be conducted to confirm this.
  • Pain Relief: Peppermint oil can be used externally for providing relief from pain. It is believed that the presence of calcium antagonism in peppermint oil aids in removing pain. It is cooling in nature and therefore helps reduce fever.
  • Immune System: Peppermint oil increases your immunity to diseases and therefore helps you in preventing a number of diseases.
  • Blood Circulation: It also improves blood circulation.
  • Hair Care: Peppermint oil is very useful for hair care as it gives a cooling effect to the head, and removes dandruff and lice.
  • Skin Care: Peppermint oil contains Menthol, which is good for skin. It gives a cooling effect. Further it nourishes dull skin and improves oily skin.

It is further believed that peppermint oil is useful for treating cancer and tuberculosis. Peppermint blends well with various other essential oils including eucalyptus, rosemary, lemon, marjoram, etc.

Source: Joslyn Hamilton – Suite101 and Organicfacts.com