Peppermint is a hybrid plant that stems from spearmint and water mint. Its origins can be traced back to ancient Rome, Egypt, and Greece, with its medicinal application also reaching far back into history. Aristotle recorded his uses of peppermint, but it didn’t become widely used in medicinal practices until the mid-18th century in Europe. Originally, practitioners gave peppermint to address stomach ailments, including preventing gas and alleviating diarrhea. It was also used to treat the flu and colds.
Today, peppermint oil is still widely used to treat stomach ailments. In particular, individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) use peppermint oil as a dietary supplement to control the condition’s symptoms which may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas and bloating, and constipation. A review of 12 trials shows that peppermint oil capsules are more effective for treating IBS than placebos. It’s believed that the herbal remedy could help by relaxing the muscles within the gastrointestinal tract, promoting an anti-inflammatory effect, decreasing pain sensation, and positively affecting gut bacteria.
Some other uses include treatment for nausea and symptoms of the common cold. Peppermint oil also has several benefits when applied topically, including:
- Relief for muscle aches
- Anti-itch properties
- Relief for migraines and tension headaches
- Promotion of hair growth
- Improved dental hygiene
While it’s always a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider before introducing a new supplement into your regimen, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that peppermint oil appears to be safe when taken orally in the commonly used doses.