What is Peppermint Extract?
How many of you can vividly recall your grandparents, older relatives or neighbors always having peppermint in some form on hand in their homes, gardens, purses, medicine cabinets or candy jars? There’s a reason for that. It’s a remedy for just about everything.
How is it commonly used nowadays? Well, it provides flavor, fragrance and function to teas, toothpaste and gum. It’s also a dietary supplement that can help relieve digestive troubles, headaches and fatigue.
Since holistic health is all about bringing a “back to basics” approach to wellness, it makes sense that peppermint extract supplements and products are trending. Here, we’ll talk about its health benefits.
What is Peppermint Extract?
Do you own a hybrid car or dream of owning one? Then think of peppermint extract as the natural vehicle of the supplement world. Also known as Mentha x piperita, peppermint is a hybrid between watermint and spearmint and grows abundantly throughout Europe and North America.
To make peppermint extract, the chemical components of the leaves and stems are extracted into a fluid like water or alcohol which can be used orally or topically. It has benefits when consumed orally as well as when its active compounds are inhaled or used on the skin.
Is peppermint extract the same as peppermint oil? No. Peppermint essential oil is highly concentrated and made by steam distilling the leaves. However, the extract and oil both contain many of the same active compounds.
The main bioactive chemicals in peppermint are menthol and menthone. These are what give the herb its fresh, minty scent and its cooling action on the skin. Other compounds like rosmarinic acid, 1,8-cineole, terpenoids and flavonoids are present in smaller amounts, but also contribute to peppermint’s beneficial effects (x).
Peppermint Extract Benefits
IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that causes constipation, diarrhea and/or intestinal spasms. Sometimes there are multiple causes for IBS, which makes it hard to treat. Peppermint, however, is a classic remedy that has also been well researched. For example, a review of 15 studies involving a total of 651 people found that enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules were effective in treating the symptoms of IBS compared to placebo. It works by relaxing smooth muscles in the digestive tract (x).
It is also a carminative, meaning it helps reduce bloating and uncomfortable gas (x).
In addition, peppermint helps reduce feelings of nausea when taken as an enteric-coated capsule or when the scent is inhaled. It can reduce vomiting and the need for anti-nausea medication after surgery or chemotherapy (x, x).
Kids also benefit from peppermint’s tummy-soothing properties as long as they only take safe, appropriate doses. It’s best to ask a doctor in this case because too much can be very harmful to kids (x, x).
If you experience muscle soreness and aches, migraines, stiff joints, recurrent headaches, musculo-skeletal pain and/or carpal tunnel syndrome, first reevaluate your digital habits. Then consider peppermint.
Peppermint has mild pain relieving effects. People have known this for a while and research is now catching up with actual studies. Part of its usefulness for IBS, for example, is due to its ability to reduce the sensation of pain in the digestive tract (x, x).
It’s also a game changer for headaches. Studies show that peppermint applied topically to the forehead can significantly reduce tension and migraine headache pain, thanks to the cooling menthol (x, x).
As hay season and pollen kick up five notches, are you ready for relief from sinus pressure and allergies’ annoyances? Peppermint helps here too. The menthol can make you feel like you’re breathing easier (x).
Back Up, Bacteria!
The compounds in peppermint do a number on nasty microbes. As a result, it can help fight infectious germs, prevent bad breath and cavities and help protect against food-borne illness.
In a study, researchers treated hydroxyapatite with peppermint. Hydroxyapatite is a calcium substance that makes up much of tooth enamel and can fill cavities. The peppermint-covered hydroxyapatite had much greater antimicrobial activity (x). And mouthwashes with peppermint don’t just seem to make breath fresher, they actually make the mouth cleaner (x, x).
It was also tested for uses in the food industry (like on chicken farms and during the production of fruit juices) to reduce pathogens that can make people sick. It kills bacteria like E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella (x, x).
Turns out peppermint can help keep you awake during the day and think more clearly. Researchers observed these effects in some small studies. In one, people’s level of tiredness was noted before they were asked to hang out in a dark room. One room smelled of peppermint while the other had no odor. Those in the peppermint room had measurably less tiredness. Another study showed that people performed better on a task after taking the supplement (x, x, x).
Peppermint is chock-full of antioxidants including (x):
- The phenolic acids rosmarinic acid and caffeic acids
- Ascorbic acid
What does this mean for you? It means that peppermint can help reduce the activity of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are molecules that have the potential to damage other cells and contribute to conditions like premature aging, diabetes and cancer. Balanced free radical activity is therefore considered ideal for general health and well-being (x).
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Peppermint Extract Side Effects and Dosage
As a dietary supplement, take 700 mg (about 1/3 tsp) of peppermint extract powder once or twice daily, or as directed by a physician. Pair your peppermint with meals. Don’t go rogue and pummel yourself with it on an empty stomach. While it can soothe some digestive issues, it can also make others worse. Do not take this product if you have gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), hiatal hernia or kidney stones.
Peppermint extracts and oils are dangerous for pregnant women. They can also be fatal for babies and small children. Never put peppermint oil on a baby’s face as it can cause respiratory distress.
Side effects of orally ingested peppermint extract may include (x):
- Hypersensitivity reactions
- Contact dermatitis
- Perianal burning
- Bradycardia (slowing of heart rate)
- Muscle tremor
Like all supplements, don’t consider peppermint extract as a cure for anything. Remember to always discuss with your doctor prior to considering supplementation, especially if you’re taking medications or experience problems with your health.
The Bottom Line
You’d have to go well out of your way to avoid peppermint. It seems to be everywhere, and for good reason. People generations ago knew it helped soothe stomach aches, relieve aches and pains, energize and fight germs. It’s safe and well-tolerated overall in the majority of studies unless used on infants’ and children’s faces or by pregnant women or those with heartburn issues. Peppermint extract supplement offers a blast of benefits, and it can cultivate a “back to the basics” approach for your present holistic health and wellness routine.