Peppermint Essential Oil
Ahhh, peppermint. The festive artificial flavor will soon be supplanting pumpkin as the seasonal darling in baked-good-and-beverage establishments nationwide. It is a permanent resident in your toothpaste, mouthwash, and gum all year long.
Artificial flavorings and "food grade" peppermint oil may taste minty, but they are usually cocktails of synthetic chemicals and/or petroleum-based solvents.
Real peppermint, the therapeutic grade oil, is made from real peppermint plants, and it takes one whole pound of plant material to create one bottle of oil. It's about 4 times more concentrated than an alcohol-based peppermint "extract."
But beyond its refreshing taste, did you know that real peppermint oil has multitudes of therapeutic and practical uses?
This profile post on Peppermint Essential Oil will cover just a few of its uses in the following areas:
- Exercise, Performance and Deep Breathing
- Skin Soothing
- Head Tension Relief
- Digestive System Support
- Weight Management
- Seasonal Shifts/Breathing Support
- Food & Drinks
Exercise, Performance, and Deep Breathing
On an 18 mile bike ride this summer, my quads were BURNING at about the 12th mile. Call me a wimp, but I haven't mounted a bicycle in literally years, so those muscles were being asked to do far more than they were comfortable with. Plus, we were all sweating buckets in the 95 degree, 75% Florida humidity, and no matter how much we drank, it just felt like we were all on the verge of cramping.
"Necessity is the mother of invention," they say. And in my world I like to say, "Hindrances are the impetus for experimenting with oils." I remembered that I'd heard about a study on peppermint oil helping with deep breathing and exercise performance, so I grabbed my little sample-sized bottle of peppermint out of my Mary Poppins bag and put a drop in my water bottle.
I kid you not - within just a minute of sipping that blast of minty freshness, I was able to breathe more deeply, and the aching/burning of my under-used quad muscles was gone. Whenever I started to feel any aching starting up again, I rehydrated with my mint water, and it vanished. Naturally, I wanted to share my findings with the whole crew. "It's all in your head," my dear sibling called as I whizzed past.
WRONG. It's all in the science!
Oxygen & Endurance
Peppermint oil has the ability to help open the airways, enabling you to breathe more deeply. This helps oxygen get not only to your brain but also to your muscles, enabling them to do what they need to do without becoming fatigued as easily.
A 2014 study published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine titled, "Instant effects of peppermint essential oil on the physiological parameters and exercise performance" revealed that a drop of peppermint oil on the tongue was associated with an increase of 36% in the experimental group's grip strength, 7% in their standing vertical jump, and 6% in their standing long jump. Even their peak inspiratory flow rate increased by 66.4%. Their PIF remained high even an hour after taking the peppermint oil! The placebo group experienced no significant fluctuations.
When your muscles have enough oxygen, they break down glucose (sugar) for energy, converting it into pyruvate, which is then broken down further for more energy.
But without enough oxygen, that pyruvate is converted into lactate (aka, lactic acid) which results in the burning sensation you feel the moment you push your muscles too far. This substance actually slows down the muscles ability to produce energy. Enough oxygen=less burning, whether you're running a marathon, hiking in elevated altitudes, or leisurely riding a bike.
is Post-workout, peppermint is great for soothing discomfort or irritation that comes from over-using those muscles. It's in Young Living's Ortho Ease and Ortho Sport massage oils, as well as the oil blends PanAway, Deep Relief, and their Cool Azul Pain Relief cream.
Peppermint is also amazing for circulation, also an important factor in physical activity.
How can one who is an athlete, one who aspires to become an athlete (or even just one who has body that needs oxygen and exercise) use Peppermint to help improve breathing, focus, and endurance?
- Put a drop of Peppermint Vitality in your water before your workouts, runs, or games
- Put a drop of Peppermint in some solid or liquid coconut oil (or any other carrier oil) and massage tired or over-worked muscles
- Put a drop of Peppermint in a few drops of carrier oil and rub on your chest to support your respiratory system and healthy breathing. Inhale the oil from your hands - just don't touch your eyes unless you want to experience a concentrated arctic blast!
You know what I hear my athlete/coach husband lamenting far more than his players' physical capabilities or endurance? Their FOCUS. Alertness and reaction time is usually far more critical in a game than the ability to perform repetitive muscle movements. Again...peppermint can help with this!
In the study above, peppermint also decreased the experimental group's visual and audio reaction time by 11% and 20%, respectively, even one full hour after exposure! This means they were able to respond much quicker after taking peppermint orally than they did before they had the peppermint. The placebo group experienced no significant changes.
It is believed that the scent of peppermint has stimulating effects on the brain's reticular activating system, the areas which are responsible for mental alertness.
Not an athlete having to make split-second decisions to defeat your opponent? My guess is you would still enjoy the benefits of increased focus.
- Diffuse 3-4 drops of Peppermint at the office, during homework, or any other time you're feeling mentally fuzzy.
- Rub a drop on temples (diluted 1:4 if your skin is sensitive) before working out or during a game, and breathe it in from your hands to help with concentration and alertness
Peppermint is wonderfully cooling. I can't get enough of it in the summer.
I use it for any sort of insect-related irritation, sun-related irritation, or blessed Kansas heat-and-humidity-related irritation. (The latter being irritation of the emotional sort of course. Peppermint becomes my husband's best friend in our A/C-less car outings during those months. ;)
Skin-soothing Peppermint uses:
- Peppermint Cooling Spray. Nothing is as refreshing in the dog days of summer as spritzing your face and neck with a blast of icy refreshment. There's a delayed effect that's activated by the breeze, and it's awe-inspiring. I call it my A/C in a Bottle.
- After-Sun Soothing Spray. The naturally occurring constituent menthol is responsible for so much of peppermint oil's magic. It reduces the body's freak-out response to irritation, leaving you far more comfortable. I put peppermint in this DIY After-Sun spray, but if you're not into DIYing, it's also in Young Living's sunburn/itch/rash LavaDerm Spray.
- Bites from Bugs: I mix a drop of peppermint with a drop of lavender to affected area. Depending on who did the biting, I might add a bit of Tea Tree or Frankincense. One friend of mine who does NOT react well to mosquitoes developed a mountain on her ankle while sitting on my patio. Feeling that "hostess-guilt" responsibility to redeem her visit, I grabbed my toolkit, dabbed the special concoction there. In a matter of minutes it was flat as Kansas again, and no need to scratch.
A Note on Using Peppermint Topically
Remember that peppermint oil is extremely strong. One drop of oil has the strength of 27 cups of peppermint tea! Make sure you don't touch your fingers to your eyes afterwards, or it will be like icy-hot intensity in your eyeballs!
If you DO get it in your eyes (and yes, I've done it before, multiple times) don't freak out. This is all-natural stuff here...no need to call Poison Control or to flush for 10 minutes with water like everything else in your bathroom and kitchen cabinet.
In fact - do NOT use water!! Just do this: get a dab of coconut oil (solid or liquid) and rub your eye with it. Coconut totally dilutes any hot oil, eliminating the intensity.
That being said, sensitive skin probably needs to have the peppermint diluted with a carrier oil with a ratio of 1:4 before applying topically... and if you do have delicate fairy skin and it is too minty for you, do the same thing - rub some coconut oil on top and then wipe it off.
(Also...random fact: for nursing moms, lots of peppermint oil might decrease milk supply. But never fear!! Fennel oil can help to increase it...do some research into that if that's your stage of life.)
Head Tension Relief
Do a Lavender & Peppermint halo. That's it. This is the simplest solution ever for relieving tension in your temples (or sinuses, or forehead or wherever).
Just add a couple drops of carrier oil to a drop of Lavender in the palm of your hand. Use your other finger to trace your hairline, all the way around (or focus on the areas of discomfort). Then add a drop of Peppermint to the mixture, and trace over your lavender in the same way.
Drink a full glass of water for good measure, and Voila!
You can make your own portable roller with 10 drops Lavender, 10 drops Peppermint, and 40 drops carrier oil.
For heavy-duty head discomfort: Add 5 drops Copaiba and 5 drops Frankincense to the blend. What's awesome is that these are all Starter Kit oils, which means you can get them at a reduced price with a bunch of other multi-use oils in the Premium Starter Kit.
Digestive System Support
Peppermint oil is a key component of DiGize, the digestive support oil blend that also comes in the Starter Kit.
Get this! Peppermint oil, applied topically or ingested, can help you:
- digest your food after meals
- relieve any symptoms of poor food digestion (bloating, burning, stuffed feeling)
- relieve queasiness (whether due to morning sickness, traveling, or digestive upsets)
- calm spasms in the colon
- relieve abdominal aches, and more.
Peppermint oil can help stimulate your stomach to do what its supposed to do (secrete gastric juices, move the food along, etc.) and to calm any irritation. There are SO many clinical studies out there on peppermint oil for all things digestive system-related.
To use for digestive support:
- Hot tea: Dab some Peppermint Vitality oil on the string of your tea bag while steeping and then submerge it (boiling water will vaporize the oil quickly, so wait for it to cool down a bit before adding)
- Or - if you want more peppermint action, mix an entire drop into some honey, and add to your warm tea
- Water: Add a drop to your glass or stainless steel water bottle, shake well, and sip after meals.
- Apply topically: Mix a drop of Peppermint with several drops of carrier oil and rub on your stomach in a clockwise motion after meals or if you feel discomfort.
Besides the multitude of internal benefits that Peppermint can have on our digestive systems to improve our breakdown of food, another wonderful effect is an appetite supressant. A 2008 study showed that inhaling peppermint oil can reduce feelings of hunger, which then was correlated with a reduction in the calories consumed...to the tune of 2,000 calories a week on average!
Seasonal Shifts (Sinus Support)
Click here for my post on "Seasonal Breathing"... how to use Peppermint with Lemon and Lavender to support proper respiratory function when things get a little pollen-y!
Food & Drinks
Besides putting a drop of Peppermint Vitality to your water and hot tea (and by the way, Young Living's Vitality oil are the same oils that are in the regularly labeled bottles... the FDA just recognizes the white Vitality labeled oils as supplements), here are a few of my favorite ways to use it in food:
- Brownies: Add 4-5 drops to a store-bought gluten free brownie mix (even if you're a brownie-hater like I was, this just might convert you!)
- Iced Tea: Add a 2-3 drops to a quart of iced tea with the juice of half a lemon.
- Hot Chocolate: For lighter mint flavor, dip a toothpick into the area where the oil wells up in the stopper, then swirl the toothpick in your cup. For stronger flavor, put a whole drop into your cup!
- Peppermint Chocolate Bark: In a double boiler (or a pyrex glass cup inside a saucepan with an inch of simmering water) melt 1/3 c of dark chocolate chips or a dark chocolate bar. Mix in 1-2 drops of Peppermint Vitality, and use a spatula to pour onto parchment paper. Let harden at room temperature and break into pieces.
- Dairy-Free Mint Chocolate Mousse: Click here for the recipe!
I use Peppermint in my DIY toothpaste, mouthwash, Xylitol breath spray, and more. Stay tuned for a post exclusively on how to use your essential oils to take care of your pearly whites!
Peppermint really is a must-have when it comes to your essential oil toolkit.
Get it! Your muscles/airways/stomach/brain/palate will thank you.