Peppermint may be a sweet holiday treat, but in its essential oil form, it’s also a multitasking machine with a plethora of beauty, health and household benefits. There are countless ways to use peppermint oil to treat common ailments, give your beauty routine a boost or help clean your house, and TODAY Style is breaking down some of this powerful essential oil's best benefits.
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Beauty benefits of peppermint oil
Beauty oils are a dime a dozen, but peppermint oil shouldn't be overlooked. This powerful ingredient has a few beauty tricks up its sleeves, and can definitely lend a helping hand to your skin care, hair care and nail care routines.
Peppermint oil for acne
"Peppermint oil naturally cleanses the skin and has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It has a cooling effect which soothes irritation and inflammation due to acne," said Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York City-based dermatologist, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine.
Due to its antimicrobial properties, peppermint oil may help reduce levels of acne causing bacteria on the skin to help treat pimples, but you shouldn't rely on its powers alone.
"I do not recommend using peppermint oil by itself, but it may help along with traditional acne treatments," said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital's department of dermatology.
According to cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos, peppermint oil is comprised of about 30-50 percent menthol - which lends it its cooling sensation - and should be used sparingly.
"Like many essential oils, it can be a skin irritant so care should be taken when using products containing peppermint oil," Dobos said.
Start using the oil every few days as you determine how your skin tolerates it, and stop use/wash off immediately if you develop any redness, burning, stinging or peeling.
Peppermint oil for hair
Normally, we try to avoid an oily scalp at all costs, but a little dab of peppermint oil can actually work wonders on your locks.
"Peppermint oil is great for your hair and scalp. It helps with dryness or itching (which is great for this time of year). It helps with dandruff because it has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps strengthen hair roots which will help with hair loss," said Stephanie Brown, master hair colorist at the Eddie Arthur Salon in New York City.
This multitalented oil can also promote hair growth by stimulating hair follicles and increasing blood circulation, and its strong menthol smell is sometimes used to treat lice (it suffocates them).
Before dousing your scalp in a whole bottle of peppermint, keep in mind that this oil is best used in moderation.
"Putting peppermint oil straight on the scalp may be too intense, so it’s best to put a few drops in your shampoo or maybe make your own mask. Try peppermint oil mixed with coconuts oil or hemp oil or avocado oil," Brown said.
Peppermint oil for nails
Want to make a natural nail or cuticle oil? Peppermint oil may do the trick.
"Peppermint is naturally antifungal, smells clean and has invigorating aromatherapeutic properties," said manicurist Whitney Gibson.
To make your own cuticle oil with peppermint, add the oil to a small bottle with a dropper. Use it alone or dilute it with a base like grape seed oil.
Health benefits of peppermint oil
You don’t necessarily have to head to your local pharmacy to get relief. Peppermint oil can help tackle a few common health woes, including headaches and gastrointestinal issues.
Peppermint oil for headaches
Most of us are used to popping a pill when a beast of a headache rolls around, but next time you’re looking to nip a headache in the bud, it might be worth trying peppermint oil first.
“Peppermint oil is one of the key essential oils that have been proven to help with headaches,” said Dr. Sara Crystal, MD, neurologist and headache specialist and Cove medical advisor.
According to Crystal, peppermint oil’s active ingredient, menthol, can provide pain relief through central and peripheral nervous system effects.
“Menthol desensitizes pain fibers (thus decreasing the sensation of pain), and its cooling effects also provide pain relief,” she said.
In one study posted on the U.S. National Library of Medicine, topical menthol 6 percent gel provided a significant improvement in headache intensity.
Want to see how well peppermint oil can stand up against your headache? Use it in the following ways:
- Inhale peppermint oil directly from the bottle. If it’s a bit strong for you, place a few drops on a tissue and breathe deeply into the tissue instead.
- Run a hot bath and place a few drops in the bath water.
- Place a few drops onto a cold compress and apply it to your forehead.
- Dilute the peppermint oil in a carrier oil, like coconut oil, and massage it into the temples or forehead.
Peppermint oil for IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome is no joke, and for those living with the painful condition, any form of relief is always welcome. As it turns out, peppermint oil just might help tackle some of your gastrointestinal woes.
“Peppermint oil contains L-menthol, which blocks calcium channels in smooth muscle, thus producing antispasmodic effects on the gastrointestinal tract. It possesses antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulating and anesthetic activities, all of which may be relevant for the treatment of IBS,” said Dr. Gerry Mullin, co-director and associate professor of medicine at John Hopkins School of Medicine.
In his recent paper titled “The Impact of Peppermint Oil on the Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Meta-analysis of the Pooled Clinical Data,” Mullin’s team of researchers produced the following conclusion: Enteric-coated peppermint oil is an effective and safe treatment for the relief of abdominal pain and IBS symptoms.
In addition to fighting IBS, peppermint oil can also help with other gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux.
“The benefits in the GI tract are positive, and worth considering. As always, when people ask for help in finding relief from daily aches and pains, I strongly suggest reaching out to a primary care physician for guidance," said Dr. Ena Hennegan, a board-certified, practicing family physician and founder of the hair care line Many Ethnicities.
Household benefits of peppermint oil
Peppermint oil puts the "essential" in essential oil for one main reason: It's a rock star ingredient that can be used in a vast variety of ways, especially in your house.
"Peppermint essential oil is among my household staples. I use it in my cleaning recipes (it smells nice, fights bacteria, and may repel insects), add it to smoothies (it can help with digestive issues), and I find it helpful to soothe certain sunburns and mosquito bites," said Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of "A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures" and creator of Home Detox 101.
With its antibacterial properties, peppermint oil can kill common household bacteria - without potentially dangerous chemicals. Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and host of the YouTube Channel Clean My Space suggests making the following DIY all-purpose cleaner:
- Mix 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup vinegar, a drop of dish soap and 10-15 drops of peppermint oil.
- Use this cleaner on hard surfaces around the house.
- Allow it to sit for a few minutes then wipe away with a clean cloth. "It's great to use during cold and flu season as it will leave behind a nice scent which helps with congestion as well as killing germs," Maker said.
As with any ingredient, just make sure you use caution when dealing with peppermint oil.
"Some people are more sensitive to essential oils, so definitely follow manufacturer's precautions when using them," Ruan Gushée said.