Peppermint (Part 1)- Essential Oil & Herb
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Peppermint (Part 1)- Essential Oil & Herb

Peppermint essential oil (EO) is a spirit sipped out the flask at a hot summer’s eve bash! It has a whimsical, effervescent aroma that is acceptable to everyone while having surprising and powerful effects. According to the Doctrine-of-Signatures, the fact that mint grows abundantly and spreads vigorously implies that it be used this way. But due to its intense penetrating aroma, I intuited that peppermint EO is something we should always have on hand to use liberally only when we desperately need its over-exuberance; and sparingly when we need its subtle-undertones! Mailhebiau (2009) says peppermint is an EO that aromatherapy cannot do without and offers this characterology:   

“ A powerful ‘Over-The-Top’ personality which draws its resources from the extremes of the human soul, embodying simultaneously heaven & earth, paradise & hell--the external purgatory, the paths of which lead to a thousand conflicting destinies, uncertain karmas and futures wherein meld raptures, happiness and suffering, temptations and mastery…. An androgynous man who goes from one extreme to the other depending on the excessiveness’ of his nature…Laughs easily at the folly of the world…Lack of scruples gives him the gift of gab…His virile force upsets only the weak and deceives only the ignorant…His lighthearted nature, exceptional dynamism and insolent luck, refresh as much as they burn…”.  

Gary Young, of Young Living essential oils, says peppermint is the EO of choice to decongest and open the hormonal link between the liver, spleen, and pancreas to support metabolic function. Mailhebiau further says that peppermint EO rouses physiological function after illness and toxic allopathic treatments. He says it:

  • purifies the blood in synergy with lemon & rosemary ct cineole EOs; 
  • cleanses and drains congested, tired livers in synergy with rosemary ct verbenone, lemon & dill EOs
  • regenerates hepatic cells in synergy with carrot seed EO.

Peter Holmes LAc recommends M. piperita EO for:

  • liver qi stagnation
  • to mediate liver & spleen disharmony resulting in hepato-biliary & pancreatic insufficiency
  • agitation due to fatigue & depression

Peppermint EO neutralizes lactic acid after muscle strain, and serves as a carrier for other EOs. It is considered such a potent penetrant that it is indispensible in any musculoskeletal blend, increasing penetration multi-fold.  

Peppermint is both a mental stimulant, as well as an effective relaxant for nervous insomnia, stress, anxiety & restlessness (Speak Assured). Use it in small doses (just a whiff or brief diffusion of the EO) for a sweeter sleep- an aromatic lullaby if you will. In this regard, peppermint EO is an adaptinogen. If one is chronically depleted, it will not make one more alert or energetic. It will rather, facilitate sleep because this is what the body really needs.

The most popular use of peppermint EO (and herb) is for respiratory and gastrointestinal complaints, notably influenza, Chron’s disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). A standards review, by Kefir et al (2009), is well references with research studies on the chemistry, therapeutic action, constituents, toxicology, dose, drug interaction etc. for peppermint EO in this regard:  

  • Cooling Analgesic: menthol desensitizes thermal-sensitive nerves. When applied topically, it stimulates the cold sensitive receptors and modifies pain receptors.

  • Smooth Muscle Antispasmodic:  menthol interferes with the movement of calcium across cell membranes and may be related to reduction of calcium influx. This causes relaxation of the esophageal sphincter & intestinal tract, and improves GI peristaltisis.

  • Increased Bile Secretion: flavonoids, terpenes, and menthol improve the solubility of bile in animal studies.   ·    

  • GI Anti-inflammatory: When combined with caraway EO, peppermint EO reduces visceral inflammation in rats exposed to colonic inflammatory agents.   ·    

  • Respiratory: L-menthol inhalation decreases respiratory discomfort due to stimulation of cold receptors in the upper airway.

  • Dosing for GI Complaints: 0.2mL of oil per capsule or tablet, 3x daily before meals [Chron’s, IBS]   ·    

The Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database categorizes the effectiveness of peppermint EO & herb based on levels of research evidence:

  • B (effectiveness) Rating: colon spasm, cough, dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, esophageal spasm. B Rating = Good Scientific Evidence. Statistically significant evidence of benefits from 1-2 properly randomized trials (or) evidence of benefit from >1 properly conducted meta-analysis (or) evidence of benefit from >1 cohort, case-control, non-randomized trials and supporting evidence r/t basic science, animal studies or theory.   ·    

  • C (effectiveness) Rating: asthma, abdominal bloat, nasal congestion, herpatic neuralgia, post-operative nausea, improved mental vigilance and decreased pain post cardiovascular accident (stroke). C Rating = Unclear or conflicting scientific evidence.   ·    

  • Likely Safe: Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA, when taken in small doses (up to 270mg) and in the form of tea.   ·    

  • Possibly Safe: Enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules appear to be safe when used under medical supervision in children eight years old and older.   

  • Possibly Unsafe: When used in patients with renal stones. When used in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] and hiatal hernia. It makes the condition worse by lowering esophageal sphincter tone.   ·    

  • Likely Unsafe: excessive topical absorption of menthol with application of heat may cause local necrosis and interstitial nephritis. Oral peppermint oil has caused tongue spasms, apnea, laryngeal & bronchial spasm, acute respiratory distress with cyanosis, and respiratory arrest in infants and small children. Large amounts of peppermint oil may induce uterine bleeding, thus is likely unsafe when used orally in pregnant women.   

Cautions & Consideration
It is important to always use quality EOs. According to Stewart (2006) low quality peppermint EO is potentially adulterated with synthetic menthol. Products that claim to contain pure peppermint EO may in fact be rectified with synthetic menthol- containing and isomer of menthol. This synthetic product is cheaper and smells the same as whole peppermint EO for all intended purposes. But the menthol isomer is less therapeutic and is metabolized poorly by the body compared to the natural menthol in mints. It can cause gastrointestinal side effects if used in improper dosages. 

Pure menthol is a calcium-channel blocker in the lower gastrointestinal tract- it cools and soothes inflammation and spasm. But menthol makes the EO inappropriate for gastro-esophogeal reflux disease (GERD) and hiatal hernia because it relaxes cardiac sphincter tone even more, making these complaints worse. People who take calcium-channel blocking medication such as vermpramil, should take consideration eventhough menthol is not a known calcium channel-blocker to cardiovascular tissue. Peppermint EO is not for infants or during pregnancy.

Peppermint EO is not chemically or aromatically complex. On the contrary, it is quite simple, clear and straightforward. By contrast, its affects can be extreme or subtle; adverse or beneficial; definitively needed or not needed based on the dose and circumstance. Indeed, peppermint “…Is Anything But Monotonous…” (Mailhebiau, 2009).

continued in  Peppermint (Part 2)- Bo He

* Check your sources for cautions & considerations, and route & dosing before using EOs. Especially during pregancy; on small children & infants; the elderly & weak; and those with epilepsy & neuro-muscular diseases.

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