“Morning or night, I love putting mint or spearmint oil on my temples and the back of my neck. There’s this aromatherapy quality of both easing tension and waking you up.” Lily Collins
Lily Collins is right on the money when it comes to peppermint essential oils. And it’s about far more than a lovely smell.
When you’re stuffed up, dealing with a pounding headache, stressed out or in pain peppermint essential oils have your back!
And how it manages to help in so many departments is pretty darn cool. Trust me, there’s a reason I never leave the house without it.
If you’ve got a hay-fever or a cold, are dealing with a tummy ache or menstrual cramps, have an icky tension headache or just want a lovely pick me up peppermint essential oils may very well be your new best friend.
Ready to learn all about how and why peppermint essential oil rocks it hard in the self-care department? Let’s do this!
Why I Adore Peppermint
I never leave the house without peppermint essential oil. It’s like my little security blanket! Seriously – this stuff has some pretty amazing scientifically proven superpowers and I always feel comforted knowing that it’s pretty well at my fingertips.
Pre-Graves Disease I thought essential oils were meant for massage, aromatherapy and skin care products (because who doesn’t want to smell pretty?) But I had never considered buying some of my own. It just seemed a little too hippy-do to me.
Shock and awe, essential oils have so much to offer. And this girl is hooked… especially when it comes to peppermint oil. It’s helped me so much through a lot of the pain that comes along with a Graves Disease flare up. And even calms me down when I’m feeling stressed. We’ll talk more on that in a minute.
I’m really excited to show you how my favourite oil can rock your freaking world too!
What’s So Cool About Peppermint Essential Oil
This essential oil certainly knows how to work it’s magic. And a lot of that has to do with a compound called menthol that likes to hang out in the mint family. This compound is responsible for the cool sensation we feel when we inhale, eat or apply mint to our skin.
But how does it make you feel cool?
Menthol is a little ninja that has some pretty interesting effects on our body. We have special sensory nerve cells that have these tiny protein receptors that are meant to detect when we’re hot or cold.
But menthol binds to these receptors and tells them a lie. You’re not exactly experiencing a temperature change, but your nerves believe that you are. And since they believe it, you feel it. (source 1, source 2)
It’s very similar to that whole ‘oh dear lord, what have I done’ sensation you feel when you eat hot peppers (or is that just me?) Capsaicin, found in those peppers, tricks your nerves into believing that you’ve come into contact with something really hot. Your body temperature actually hasn’t changed, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t feel any different.
Pretty cool, eh? It’s fascinating how compounds like menthol can effect us! And what’s even neater is how we can use those effects to our advantage! Let’s see what peppermint essential oils have to offer us.
The Awesome, Scientifically Proven Effects of Peppermint Essential Oils
1. Clear Your Sinuses
Maybe “gives the illusion of clear sinuses” would have been a better header here, because peppermint doesn’t actually do a whole lot decongesting. But you will totally feel like you can breathe better. Which is pretty flipping cool (especially when you’re all stuffed up).
Sounds kind of weird though, right? I mean, if peppermint doesn’t actually clear up those sinuses why is it the leading ingredient in so many decongestants out there?
It’s all about perception baby! I’ve already mentioned that menthol is one amazing little ninja, and it’s role in the decongestant market is no exception.
One study found that peppermint had no real effect on nasal congestion and that exercise was actually a better option, resolving up to 70% of the issue. But 100% of the subjects reported that they felt like they could breathe better after being exposed to menthol vapours (while only 20% felt better after exercising). (source)
It’s believed that the cold sensation is the reason why menthol makes us feel better when we’re all stuffed up. It gives the illusion of more air flow. And hey – I’m pretty happy to believe in the illusion. If it makes me feel better then I’m game. What do you think?
You can tap into the breathe easy effects of peppermint oils like this:
- Add a dab to the tip of your nose
- Place a couple of drops on your hands, rub them together and breathe in the vapours
- Pop some peppermint oil into your essential oil diffuser
- Inhale the scent direction from the bottle
- Create a salve (see recipe below) and rub on your chest and forehead (kind of like vapo rub)
- Rely on pre-made products featuring menthol or peppermint oils (I prefer Bear Balm by Soulflower Herbals and Pain Relief Butter by Lemon Balm Lane. Tiger Balm is another potential option)
2. Ease Pain
This is the main reason peppermint essential oil has a permanent spot in my purse – it’s pretty wonderful at easing pain. And who doesn’t love a go to pain reliever?
Back when my Graves was raging I was often living in pain city. Thankfully a friend mentioned that peppermint might be a good topical option. I was extremely skeptical, but I had nothing to lose so I got myself a bottle. And oh boy was it ever good! Like ‘put away the Advil, this stuff knows how to work it’ good (at least for me – everyone’s experiences are obviously different ;))
Whether it was indigestion hell, never ending muscle spasms, or general aches and pains, peppermint essential oils saved the day! This stuff can even help to relieve menstrual pain. Booyah!
How does peppermint essential oil ease pain?
Basically menthol can block pain detection and has an anaesthetic effect (source). Remember how I said that menthol can bind to certain nerve cells to make us feel cold (even thought we aren’t)? These sensory nerves play a role in pain sensation too. So peppermint oils ability to bind to those bad boys starts to ease pain. But it goes so much farther than that.
Menthol can also weakly activate certain opiod receptors, which can alter your perception of pain (source). Kind of cool, am I right? And, since it didn’t want to stop there, it can also inhibit certain channels in other pain-sensitive nerves, which can hinder your body’s ability to transmit pain signals (source). This means less pain for you! Yahoo!
The easiest way to tap into the pain easing effects of peppermint oil is to create a salve (recipe below) and apply it to the effected area. But you can also use the same types of pre-made products I mentioned for your sinuses. Menthol will be happy to work it’s wonders for you!
3. Soothe a Headache
Maybe this one seems obvious, since I’ve already gone over some pretty interesting pain relieving goodness brought on by peppermint oils, but I still think it’s really important to touch base on headaches. Because headaches can be agony, right? And sometimes the worst thing is waiting there in pain while you pray for your pain relievers to kick in.
But get this! Peppermint oil can help. And it kicks in super, duper fast.
One study found that there was no significant difference in the headache relieving power of 1000 mg of acetaminophen and a 10% peppermint oil in ethanol solution (source). In fact, the peeps that got to use a peppermint essential oil solution noticed that their headaches were less intense after only 15 minutes in. Booyah! That’s some fast acting relief!
I like to create the salve below or use pre-made pain butters (see the sinus section) and apply them to my forehead, temples and even the back of my neck when I’m experiencing a headache. It gets to work super quickly. And it’s safe to re-apply as needed.
4. Keep those Teeth Clean
Ever notice that mint makes a pretty frequent appearance in all of your dental care products? I mean, it’s almost overkill, right? Mint toothpaste, mint floss, mint mouthwash, mint gum… there’s a reason peppermint is popping up so often!
Peppermint packs some serious muscle that works well against cavity causing bacteria. It’s ready to take on several strains of streptococci and lactobacilli and put them in their place (which is away from your pearly whites!) (source)
If (and only if) you’re using edible grade essential oils (like doTERRA) you can easily add a drop of peppermint essential oils to your coconut nut oil next time you oil pull (a self care activity I totally recommend by the way!) Or pop a single drop in a glass of water and do a good swish. Super bonus, you’ll also have minty fresh breath!
An Extra Bonus (At Least On My End)
While there definitely need to be more studies on the psychological effects of essential oils, I also find that peppermint essential oils make me feel calm and relaxed. Thus the whole security blanket thing I mentioned earlier!
I think it’s just a side effect of all of the awesome pain relief I’ve experienced over the years. When something comes to your aid every time you’re in pain you start to associate it with feeling good. And hey, as far as side effects go, that one’s pretty awesome! I talk about this awesomeness in a little more detail in this video.
A Note On Using Peppermint Essential Oil Topically
Some people may have a hypersensity to the cold sensation created by menthol… which could actually cause them to feel pain (kind of counter-intuitive, right?) And everyone has different skin sensitivities. That’s why it’s so important to do a patch test before putting something new on your skin.
Before applying peppermint oil to a large area of your skin topically, test a drop or two on your inner wrist and wait 5-10 minutes to make sure that you don’t experience any irritation. If your skin is happy with the cool sensation, that’s awesome. But if not, it’s best to steer clear.
Peppermint Essential Oil Safety
While peppermint oils have a lot of goodness to offer they aren’t necessary good for everyone. It’s also important that you make sure that you are using pure essential oils that are meant for topical or internal use (I prefer doTERRA Essential Oils – you can check out their peppermint directions and safety information right here).
Not all essential oils are created equal – if the bottle doesn’t say that it’s intended for internal or topical use, do not put that baby anywhere near your body!
And, of course, it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way. When it comes to essential oils, less is more!
Make sure to keep peppermint oil out of reach of children. If you are pregnant, nursing or have health concerns consult with a doctor before using this oil.
Keep this bad boy away from your eyes, inner ears and other sensitive areas (because ouch).
And, of course, speak to your doctor if you have any other questions or concerns before using peppermint essential oil. They are the best person on your team to help you decide what the best move for your health would be.
Easy Peppermint Oil Salve
Easy Peppermint Oil Salve
Super simple pain relief salve made with peppermint essential oils. Great for headaches, stomach or menstrual pain, aches and pains, congestion and more.
- 1/2 Tsp Sweet Almond Oil Or Carrier Oil of Choice
- 3-5 Drops Topical Quality Peppermint Essential Oil (Like DoTERRA) Add more or less depending on your desired level of coolness
For relief from nasal congestion apply to the chest, back and temples (like you would with vapo rub)
For headaches apply to the temples, forehead and back of the neck (if the pain extends to that area)
For indigestion or menstrual pain apply to the abdominal area
For muscle or other body pain apply to the affected area
Keep away from the eyes, inner ears or other sensitive areas
Keep away from children and speak to a physician before use if pregnant, breastfeeding, suffering from serious health conditions or discuss your questions and concerns
Have you used peppermint essential oil before? What are your favourite essential oils? Any security blankets of your own that you never leave the house without? Let me know in the comments below!
Health and love,
Thought of the day: Sometimes the simplest changes can have the greatest impacts.
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