A few weeks ago I began a new series about aromatherapy by sharing some interesting uses for lavender. Today I am going to share the next installment by talking about peppermint.
Peppermint is one of my favorite oils to use. It is very versatile and most people either like it, or at least don't dislike it. I use it all the time around the house, and it is one of the oils that I always make sure to keep in my birth bag for doula clients. Let's learn a little bit more about peppermint, how it can be used, and how you can benefit from it.
Peppermint oil is a great addition to any natural first aid kit. It can be used for many ailments, and doesn't need to be diluted. Most peppermint oils are safe to apply undiluted to the skin, and to ingest. However, I feel compelled to warn you that although it is safe to put on your skin, you want to use it in moderation. Peppermint is one of those oils where a little bit goes a long way. You should only ever need to use one or two drops.
Indigestion/Nausea: Try rubbing a drop or two of peppermint oil on your belly to relieve indigestion, bloating, or nausea. Smelling or diffusing peppermint oil is also a great way to relieve nausea. When working with laboring mamas, I always keep some peppermint on hand for women who are vomiting. Try using it topically or internally to deal with digestive cramps. If you are having trouble with acid reflux or heartburn, try drinking a cup or water or tea with a drop of peppermint oil in it. You can also try drinking peppermint tea. A few drops on your belly or chest can also help to relieve symptoms of motion sickness.
Headaches: Peppermint is a great way to relieve pain from headaches. Try diffusing it in a room, inhaling the aroma, or putting a drop on your temples, forehead, and/or the base of your skull/neck. You can also dab some around your sinuses for a sinus headache, but be careful to not get it in your eyes as it will irritate them and make them burn.
Skin irritations: Peppermint is a great way to treat skin irritations from poison oak or poison ivy. It can also be used on itchy skin. Be careful to only use on skin that is unbroken. If applied to a cut or scrape it can cause a burning sensation.
Breathing: If you have allergies or congestion from a cold, try diffusing or inhaling the aroma of peppermint oil. It helps to open up mucus membranes and help you to breath. You can also try putting a few drops in a basin of hot water, and putting your face near the water with a towel over your head and the bowl to allow the steam and aroma to open up your nasal passages. Another trick is to place 1 drop of peppermint oil on your tongue and hold the bottle under your nose. Inhale deeply to relieve congestion. Putting a drop of oil on your tongue is also a cheaper alternative to breath mints, and doesn't have any of the other chemicals that are put in them.
Heat/Fevers: Peppermint is very cooling. When I go to births I keep a bottle of peppermint water in my birth bag for mamas who get really hot. If you live someplace where the climate is hot, try taking a bath with no more than 3-4 drops of peppermint oil, or showering with peppermint soap. If you like, you can buy unscented shampoo, conditioner, and/or shower gel and add a few drops of peppermint oil. This is also a great idea if you are prone to headaches. You can also try misting yourself with peppermint water. Buy an empty spray bottle and fill it with water, then add 10-15 drops of peppermint essential oil. Take it with you when you will be in the heat and mist yourself with it to help you keep cool. Try rubbing a couple of drops on your feet or spine to reduce a fever. You can also rub a couple of drops on the back of your neck to relieve hot flashes
Pain Relief: Sore feet? Try soaking your feet in a foot bath with epsom salt and peppermint oil. You may want to keep a sweater or blanket nearby if you tend to get cold. You can also find or make natural foot scrubs with peppermint oil in them. Peppermint oil applied directly to the affected joint can also help to relieve pain from arthritis or tendonitis. Try rubbing a drop on sore gums to relieve pain from a toothache.
Constipation: We all get it, but no one likes to talk about it. If you are having trouble with constipation or trouble urinating, try putting a drop or two of peppermint oil in the toilet bowl. If you have just given birth or have any open wounds down there, be extra careful to avoid getting the oil directly onto your skin. The best way to do this is to stand up to drop the oil in. This works the same way as it does to relieve congestion. The anus, vagina, and urethra all have mucus membranes. As we learned earlier, peppermint helps to open mucus membranes. Thus, a drop or two in the toilet will open everything up. It will also leave a fresher smell in the room when you are done.
Overeating/Hunger: Peppermint oil is a great natural appetite suppressant. If you have trouble with overeating or needlessly snacking throughout the day, it can help to stop you from feeling hungry. It will also help you to feel full faster when inhaled during a meal, making it a great way to help with overeating.
Emotional Health: Peppermint is a great pick me up, and can help you to feel more vibrant and awake. It is also a great tool to supplement treatment for depression. Peppermint oil is also a great way to destress and help make you feel happier and more uplifted. Try using peppermint oil or tea in the morning if you have trouble waking up. Diffuse peppermint oil while working or studying to help increase concentration. Have a big test coming up? Try diffusing peppermint while you study, then take a bottle with you to smell during the test. This technique has been shown to help with memory recall.
Pest repellent: I know many of you probably hate spiders. Well, spiders hate peppermint. So do ants, cockroaches, mice, raccoons, and many other insects, arachnids, and rodents. If you are having problems with them in your home, try putting a couple drops of the oil on a cotton ball or round and place it in an area where the pests are getting in, or where you frequently see them. You can also use peppermint water in a spray bottle to spray around the house, or wherever you want to deter the pests. If you have trouble with aphids in your garden, try misting your plants with peppermint water to repel them. Peppermint oil is also great to use on ticks. Put a drop or two on a Q-tip and dab on the tick and it should withdraw it's head. Remove it from your skin with a pair of tweezers. You can also add peppermint to your shampoo to get rid of lice.
Room Freshener: Try diffusing or spraying peppermint around your home to help clean the air and get rid of any nasty odors. If the smell of paint fumes bothers you, try adding a 15ml bottle of peppermint oil to a 5 gallon bucket of paint and mixing it in to dispel the fumes. Try using peppermint around the trash cans. It will help get rid of odors and repel pests.
Cleaning: Peppermint oil is a great addition to homemade cleaners. It is anti-septic and anti-bacterial. Try adding a few drops to some water and vinegar to make a nice all purpose cleaner.
Food: Most of us are most familiar with peppermint as something you eat. We get a lot of peppermint in winter as a seasonal treat. We eat it in our ice cream, add it to hot chocolate, eat it in baked goods, etc. Peppermint is great to cook with and can give an interesting flavor to many dishes.
Peppermint is a very versatile plant. I hope that you have learned a couple of fun uses for it that you didn't already know about. Do you have any favorite uses for peppermint that I didn't mention? Leave your suggestions in the comments.
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.