Peppermint may be best known for the festive flair it gives to drinks and desserts, but the oil from this hybrid of watermint and spearmint can do more than just delight your taste buds. Research shows that it can boost your health – just make sure to dilute the essential oil first with an oil like almond or jojoba. Here are six ways to use one of nature’s most potent medicinal herbs to bolster your body and energize your mind.
If a headache is making you feel less than joyful, try massaging a mixture of peppermint oil and ethanol onto your forehead, jaw, and temples and wait approximately 30 minutes. According to a study published in Phytomedicine, the combination has analgesic effects—especially when it comes to headache pain.
Have an important task or exam coming up? Consider taking a whiff of peppermint oil. In a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that the scent of peppermint both enhanced memory and increased alertness when compared to a placebo. Who knows, with this essential oil you might even need less coffee!
Improve Athletic Performance
If you’re looking for a way to push your limits a little farther, a small study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that peppermint oil might do the trick. For 10 days, twelve young men drank 500ml of mineral water spiked with peppermint oil. At the conclusion of the study, not only did their blood pressure and respiratory rates improve, but also their power and time to exhaustion. In fact, it took the men nearly 3 more minutes on average to run out of steam.
Soothe Upset Stomachs
The next time you get a stomachache, consider taking enteric-coated peppermint capsules. The enteric coating will allow the oil to reach your intestines without being destroyed. As a result, you’ll absorb more menthol—a chemical in the oil that studies have shown to relax muscles in the stomach and small intestine. If you can’t find enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules, try this recipe from Marie Nadine Antol’s book Healing Teas: Add one heaping teaspoon of dried peppermint to eight ounces of boiled water. Let the peppermint steep for a few minutes, then strain it and allow the tea to cool before drinking. It won’t be as potent as the capsules, but it will nevertheless help you feel better.
Relieve Sore Muscles
If you’ve started a new workout program, you’re probably a little sore. Peppermint oil can help soothe that pain (known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS) thanks once again to the muscle-relaxing properties of menthol. Massage the oil into the area where you’re feeling pain, or add a few drops to a warm bath and soak your aches away.
Unless you live in Australia—or somewhere else in the southern hemisphere—you might have to keep this tip in your pocket until April or May. But when the bugs come out, consider reaching for peppermint oil instead of DEET or other harsh chemical repellents. Here’s why: When participants in a recent Indian study applied the oil to their arms, they remained 100 percent bite-free for more than two hours. We can only assume they also smelled minty fresh.
One final note: If you’re really a fan of peppermint, it’s a plant that’s easy to grow at home. However, since peppermint is a member of the mint family, it’s also likely to take over your garden just like standard mint does, so keep it in its own pot.
As always, please research to see if peppermint oil would interact with any existing conditions you have or any medications you are taking.