Herbal Academy


Download the Peppermint Monograph as a PDF

Common, Botanical, & Family Names


Spanish: hierba buena, menta negra; French: menthe poivrée; Portuguese: hortelã-pimenta; German: pfefferminze; Italian: menta piperina; Dutch: pepermunt; Swedish: pepparmynta (CABI, 2021)

Mentha x piperita


Botanical Description

There are twenty species of true mints, and peppermint is considered to be a hybrid mint (Foster, 1993). Peppermint is a perennial herb and is a spreader (Bebeau, 2013). All mints, including peppermint, have square stems (although not all plants with square stems are mints). Peppermint’s leaves are toothed, broad, deep-dark green with reddish veins, opposite, and smooth. They have a great scent. Peppermint typically grows between 1-3 feet high, at times it can be up to 5 feet.  Many small flowers make up the flowering heads which are dense whorl-like cylindrical terminal spikes. Flower color ranges from pink to purple, with five white fused petals with two major lips. Likes rich soil and partial sun to full sun, but will grow anywhere (Bebeau, 2013).

Part of Plant Used

Aerial parts (leaf, flower)

Types of Preparations

Infusion, tincture, food, enteric-coated capsules, glycerite, essential oil, ointment, vinegar, oxymel, infused honey, capsule, infused oil

Harvesting Guidelines and Sustainability Issues

Harvest the top ⅓ of aerial parts of plants that are just beginning to bud or any time prior to flowering, and remove from stems. Cut the node just above the leaves below where you want to harvest, this will allow the plant to keep growing (Cech, 2016). Dry quickly without heat to preserve volatile oils.  No known sustainability issues.

Chemical Constituents

Peppermint contains 2% volatile oils (Hoffmann, 1992), including menthol, menthone, isomenthone, menthyl acetate, and limone. Peppermint also contains flavonoids, including luteolin, rutin, hesperidin, and eriocitrin, phenolic acids (e.g., rosmarinic acid) (Kuhn & Winston, 2008), triterpenes (e.g., ursolic and oleanolic acids), coumarins (e.g., aesculetin), biogenic amines (e.g., choline, betaine) (Skenderi, 2003), protein, and vitamins and minerals including magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, niacin, potassium, sodium, selenium, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and vitamins A and C (Edwards, 2000).


Analgesic, antipruritic, antiseptic (Bastyr, 2003); anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, nervine, antiemetic (Hoffmann, 2003), mild astringent, choleretic, cholagogue, stomachic (Skenderi, 2003), antimicrobial, antitussive, sedative, spasmolytic (Bastyr, 2003).

Taste & Energetics

Pungent, stimulating (Wood, 2008); first warming, then cooling (McIntyre, 1996; Wood, 2008); sweet (Holmes, 1997)


Historical Use

  • Used from ancient times by Egyptians, Chinese, Japanese, Greeks, and Romans for food, medicine, and adornment; used during feasts in ancient Greek and Rome, worn as crowns, and added to foods, medicine, and perfumes (McIntyre, 1996)
  • Used in Jewish tradition as a strewing herb on the floors of the synagogue (McIntyre, 1996)
  • Historically used for:
    • Flatulent colic, dyspepsia, stomach cramps and spasms, nausea and vomiting, and morning sickness
    • Dysmenorrhea
    • Coughs associated with bronchitis and pneumonia
    • Inducing perspiration during the early phase of a cold as a steam inhalant.
    • Fresh herb poultices were applied over the bowel to allay stomach upset and over the forehead to support headaches (Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine, n.d.).


  • Used extensively in cooking and as a flavoring agent for candy and gum (Foster, 1993)
  • Leaf used in smoothies, summer salads, pestos, desserts, garnishes, and for flavoring
  • Peppermint essential oil used widely for culinary and flavoring purposes
  • Water-based extractions are best to benefit from peppermint’s minerals and vitamins

Respiratory System

  • Used as a steam inhalant to address nasal congestion (Hoffmann, 1992)
  • Used as a respiratory antispasmodic; in a human in vitro study, peppermint tea was found to inhibit interleukin-13, an inflammatory cytokine, and this may be partially responsible for peppermint’s inhibitory effect on bronchospasm (Hijighasemi, 2011). 
  • Much of peppermint’s effect on the respiratory system is attributed to its volatile oil menthol, which gives peppermint a cooling, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and decongestant effect. Studies on menthol have shown that:
    • Menthol lozenges caused significant positive changes in nasal airflow and the subjective sensation of decongestion within 10 minutes of administration (Eccles et al., 1990)
    • Inhalation of menthol eased breathing effort, breathing discomfort, and anxiety in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (Kanezaki et al., 2020)
    • Over the course of 4 weeks, inhalation of menthol vapor improved hyper-responsiveness in individuals with asthma, allowing a decrease in bronchodilator drug dose (Tamaoki et al., 1995) 

Digestive System

  • Well known as a digestive, bitter, antispasmodic, and carminative helpful for all kinds of digestive disorders (gas, colic, cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.) (Kuhn & Winston, 2008; McIntyre, 1996)
  • Its bitter and pungent taste may account for some of its stimulating action on the digestive organs (Holmes, 1997; McIntyre, 1996)
  • The volatile oil menthol is antispasmodic and anodyne and has a direct effect on the visceral muscles by relaxing them, which helps to ease flatulence, colic, dyspepsia, and some gastrointestinal pain (Hoffmann, 1992; Kuhn & Winston, 2008)
  • As an antiemetic, peppermint  can quell nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy, motion sickness, stress-induced gastrointestinal disturbance, and dyspepsia (Hoffmann, 1992; Kuhn & Winston, 2008); this may be due to the analgesic effect of peppermint’s volatile oils on the stomach wall (Hoffmann, 1992); a clinical trial found that smelling peppermint spirits reduced postoperative nausea levels within 2 minutes of delivery (Lane et al., 2012).  
  • In a review of the scientific literature, Grigoleit & Grigoleit (2005) found that 8 out of 12 studies analyzed concluded that the use of enteric-coated peppermint essential oil acted as a smooth muscle relaxant and eased symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Circulatory System

  • Hot peppermint tea is used for its diaphoretic action, especially when there is a combination of heat or fever with chills; this may be because of the action of menthol, which is known to be analgesic and antispasmodic and increases circulation through the opening of pores; these actions contribute to peppermint’s cooling effect. 
  • Often combined with yarrow and elderflower for diaphoretic use. 
  • Has the ability to move fluids, which can also increase circulation (Wood, 2008)

Musculoskeletal System (Topical Use)

  • Can lessen pain by improving blood flow to an area (Bastyr, 2003)
  • Has a cooling effect when applied to skin or aching muscles (McIntyre, 1996)
  • Infused oil can be used topically for itchy, irritable skin conditions (Bastyr, 2003)
  • The Commission E has approved peppermint for use in myalgia and neuralgia (Bastyr, 2003)
  • Peppermint’s muscle relaxant properties may be due to its menthol content; menthol blocks the influx of calcium into muscle cells, which causes muscle relaxation (Oz et al., 2017)

Nervous System

  • A nervine that both relaxes and stimulates the nervous system; relaxant action calms anxiety and eases tension, while stimulant action can be used as a pick-me-up to recharge energy (McIntyre, 1996)
  • Increases mental clarity and aids concentration (McIntyre, 1996)
  • Its powerful analgesic action makes it helpful for headaches, toothaches, earaches, and muscle aches both internally and topically (Bastyr, 2003; McIntyre, 1996)
  • A clinical trial on the effect of peppermint and/or eucalyptus essential oil found that peppermint essential oil mixed with ethanol and applied to the forehead and temples has “significant analgesic effect with a reduction in sensitivity to headache” and the authors theorize that this may be as effective as aspirin or acetaminophen (Göbel et al., 1995) 

Immune System

  • Used to support fever, cold, and the flu (Hoffmann, 2003) due to its diaphoretic, antimicrobial, and analgesic actions
  • Can be useful in a variety of infections, including urinary tract infections, cystitis, gastroenteritis, herpes simplex, shingles, and prostatitis (Holmes, 1997)


Tea: 1 heaping teaspoon of dried herb in 8 ounces of water, steep covered for 15-20 minutes (Hoffmann, 2003).  It can be steeped 2 hours to overnight for a stronger infusion. 

Tincture: 1-2 mL (1:5, 50%) 3x/day (dried plant) (Hoffmann, 2003), fresh plant tincture prepared 1:2, up to 100% alcohol, glycerite of fresh plant prepared 1:2, 100% glycerine (Cech, 2000).

Topical: Essential oil can be used with proper dilution. Tincture can be applied topically. Care should be taken to keep topical applications away from the eyes and mucous membranes. 


People with gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) and hiatal hernia should avoid peppermint as it may worsen symptoms (Kuhn & Winston  2008). Use with caution in cases of gastrointestinal (GI) ulcers or significant GI inflammation (Mills & Bone, 2005). 

Large or frequent doses of peppermint should be avoided in epilepsy (Holmes, 1997). 

Enteric-coated capsules may cause skin rash, bradycardia, headaches, heartburn, muscle tremor, and/or ataxia (Mills & Bone, 2000); they may also produce anal burning in patients with diarrhea due to excreted peppermint oil (Mills & Bone, 2013).

Peppermint essential oil or menthol should always be significantly diluted, especially around anyone living with asthma, as peppermint essential oil and menthol have been known to trigger asthma attacks (Szema & Barnett, 2011). Start with a very low dilution diffused into the air. Topical use should also be in dilute form. Not for use with babies and young children. 


Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine. (n.d.). Peppermint oil. https://restorativemedicine.org/library/monographs/peppermint-oil/

Badea, M., Iconaru, S., Groza, A.,  Chifiriuc, M., Beuran, M. & Predoi, D. (2019). Peppermint essential oil-doped hydroxyapatite nanoparticles with antimicrobial properties.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31181843/

Bastyr. (2003). Bastyr Materia Medica. http://docshare02.docshare.tips/files/21346/213462978.pdf

Bebeau, G. (2013). The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.: Peppermint. https://www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org/pages/plants/peppermint.html

Cech, R. (2016). Making plant medicine. Herbal Reads. 

Cech, R. (2000). Making plant medicine. Horizon Herbs

CABI. (2021). Mentha piperita (Peppermint). https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/33376

Eccles, R., Jawad, M., & Morris, S. (1990). The effects of oral administration of (—)-menthol on nasal resistance to airflow and nasal sensation of airflow in subjects suffering from nasal congestion associated with the common cold. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 42(9), 652-654. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.2042-7158.1990.tb06625.x

Edwards, G.F. (2000). Opening our wild hearts to the healing herbs. Ash Tree Publishing.

Foster, S. (1993). Herbal renaissance. Peregrine Smith Books.

Göbel, H., Schmidt, G., Dworschak, M., Stolze, H., & Heuss, D. (1995). Essential plant oils and headache mechanisms. Phytomedicine, 2(2), 93-102. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23196150/

Grigoleit, H.G, & Grigoleit, P. (2005). Peppermint oil in irritable bowel syndrome. Phytomedicine, 12(8), 601-606. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2004.10.005

Hajighasemi, F.  (2011). Suppressive effect of a mint aqueous extract on IL-13 production. European Respiratory Journal, 38, 4092. https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/38/Suppl_55/p4092

Hoffmann, D. (1992). The new holistic herbal. Element Inc.

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Arts Press.

Holmes, P. (1997). The energetics of Western herbs (Vol. 1, Rev. 3rd Ed.). Snow Lotus Press.

Hiki, N., Kaminishi, M., Hasunuma, T., Nakamura, M., Nomura, S., Yahagi, N., Suzuki, H. (2011). A phase I study evaluating tolerability, pharmacokinetics, and preliminary efficacy of L-Menthol in upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. https://doi.org/10.1038/clpt.2011.110

Kanezaki, M., Terada, K., Ebihara, S. (2020). Effect of olfactory stimulation by L-menthol on laboratory-induced dyspnea in COPD. Chest, 157(6), 1455-1465. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chest.2019.12.028. 

Kuhn, M., & Winston, D. (2008). Herbal therapy & supplements. Wolters Kluwer Health. 

Lane, B., Cannella, K., Bowen, C., Copelan, D., Nteff, G., Barnes, K., Poudevigne, M., 

Lawson, J. (2012). Examination of the effectiveness of peppermint aromatherapy on nausea in women post C-section. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 30(2), 90-104. http://doi.org/0.1177/0898010111423419

McIntyre, A. (1996). Flower power. Henry Holt and Company, Inc.

Mills, S. & Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of phytotherapy. Churchill Livingstone.

Mills, S. & Bone, K. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy. Churchill Livingstone.

Oz, M., Eslam, G., Nebrisi, El,. Yang,K., Howarth, F., & Al Kury, L. (2017). Cellular and molecular targets of menthol actions. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 8, 472. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513973/   

Skenderi, G. (2003). Herbal vade mecum. Rutherford, NJ: Herbacy Press.

Szema, A., & Barnett, T. (2011). Allergic reaction to mint leads to asthma. Allergy & Rhinology, 2(1), 43-45. http://doi.org/10.2500/ar.2011.2.0008 

Tamaoki, J., Chiyotani, A., Sakai, A., & Konno, K. (1995). Effect of menthol vapour on airway hyperresponsiveness in patients with mild asthma. Respiratory Medicine, 89(7), 503-504. http://doi.org/10.1016/0954-6111(95)90127-2

Wood, M. (2008). The earthwise herbal (Vol. 1). North Atlantic Books