Peppermint uses and benefits have been investigated and documented by many researchers across the globe. Research findings indicate that peppermint is widely used in pharmaceutical and food manufacturing industries given its health benefits. The oil extracted from peppermint and its by-products are used for manufacturing mouth fresheners, candies, jellies, ice creams, syrups, toothpastes, teas, alcoholic liqueurs, chewing gums, beverages, ice creams, confectioneries, mosquito repellants, soaps and detergents (Nayak et al., 2020). This article examines peppermint uses and benefits based on past research findings.
Peppermint is a perennial, aromatic, medicinal herb comprising creep regular branches, oval-shaped leaves that have a rough surface and serrated margins. It grows to a height of over one meter above the ground. It belongs to the genus Mentha and a family of plants called Lamiaceae. It is a natural hybrid between water mint (Mentha aquatic L.) and spearmint (Mentha spicata L.) (Nayak et al., 2020).
It originated from Europe and naturally grows in North America and Canada. It is cultivated worldwide for its uses in various industries including cosmetics, food, pharmaceutical and agriculture. According to FAOSTAT (2017), about 92,296 tonnes of peppermint was produced in 2014 and the figure keeps rising.
Peppermint preparations include peppermint essential oil, peppermint water, peppermint leaves and peppermint leaf extracts. Peppermint essential oil is obtained from the plant’s leaves through a process called steam distillation. The resulting oil is comprised of two major constituents, that is, menthol and menthone. Also present are minor components such as limonene, pulegone, and menthofuran. It is from these constituents that peppermint derives its properties (Loolaie et al., 2017).
Peppermint is known by various names including, schmecker, isomenthone, Mentha piperita var officinalis, Our Lady’s mint, luteolin, Mentha piperitae aetheroleum (peppermint oil), menthone, Mentha piperita var vulgaris, caffeic acid, methyl acetate, black peppermint, Mentha arvensis L. var piperascens, Pfefferminz (German), menthe anglaise, menthe poivree, white peppermint. Mentha × piperita L., menthol, pebermynte (Danish), menthofuran, pfefferminze, chlorogenic acid, brandy mint, cineol, hesperidin, feuilles de menthe, liminene, balm mint, rutin, Porminzen, menta prima (Italian), lamp mint, Katzenkraut (German),Japanese peppermint, and curled mint (Ulbricht et al., 2008).
Research has shown that peppermint inhibits growth and proliferation of some pathogenic fungal species. The following table shows the various fungi whose growth can be suppressed by peppermint and diseases that they cause.
|Candida albicans||Genital yeast infection, urinary yeast infection, candidemia, neutropenia|
|Aspergillus fumigatus||Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (chronic lung diseases)|
|Dermatophytic fungi||Nail infections (oncomycosis), dandruff, athlete’s foot, ringworm, and atopic dermatitis/eczema|
Source: Oumzil et al. (2002); Bansod and Rai (2008).
By preventing growth of the above mentioned fungi, peppermint helps eliminate occurrence of the highlighted diseases.
Peppermint use in the fight against disease-causing bacteria is slowly gaining momentum in different parts of the world. In recent years, there has been a steady rise in drug-resistant strains of various disease-causing microorganisms. Present research is therefore being directed towards the development of alternative form of cures. This is where peppermint and other essential oils come in.
The following table highlights some of the bacteria whose growth is suppressed by peppermint and diseases that they cause.
|Staphylococcus pyogenes||Scarlet fever, necrotizing fasciitis, bacteremia, myonecrosis and pneumonia.|
|Comamonas terrigena||Intra-abdominal infections|
|Shigella dysenteriae||Shigellosis (symptoms include: fever, diarrhea, stomach cramps)|
|Serratia marcescens||Respiratory, urinary, wound infections|
|Mycobacterium avium, salmonella typhi||Tuberculosis|
|Salmonella typhi||Typhoid fever|
|Streptococcus pyogenes||Scarlet fever, necrotizing fasciitis, bacteremia, myonecrosis and pneumonia.|
|Yersinia enterocolitica||Yersiniosis (symptoms: diarrhea, pseudoappendicitis, etc)|
|Acinatobacter sp.||Blood, lung, and urinary infections|
|Staphylococcus aureus||Bone infections, pneumonia|
|Enterobacter aerogenes||Opportunistic infections|
|Streptococcus faecalis, Proteus vulgaris||Wound, soft tissue, urinary tract infections|
Source: Nabavi et al. (2015); Bokhari et al. (2016); Shalayel et al. (2016); Shaikh et al. (2014); Singh et al. (2015).
By inhibiting growth and proliferation of bacteria, peppermint aids in keeping the above mentioned diseases at bay.
It has been reported in research that viruses are increasingly becoming resistant to antiviral drugs. This development has birthed research towards use of alternative methods of dealing with viruses. Essential oils have turned out to be an effective alternative to the current synthetic antiviral drugs (Arabi & Matta, 2016; Reichling et al. (2009).
Research findings show that peppermint has the ability to suppress growth of pathogenic viruses (Geuenich et al. 2008).
A plasmid refers to a small extra-chromosomal Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) molecule present in the cell of an organism existing alongside chromosomal DNA molecule. Plasmids replicate independent of the chromosomal DNA in the cell. In bacteria, plasmids are believed to be the main cause of bacterial resistance to antibiotics (Shrivastava, 2009).
Peppermint exhibits anti-plasmid property courtesy of menthol present in its structure. Thus, another peppermint use is to initiate anti-plasmid action against any bacteria that may invade your body and cause an infection (Shrivastava, 2009).
IBS is a large intestine disorder characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, gas, constipation and diarrhea. According to statistics, IBS affects 9-23% of the entire world population. Patients who exhibit IBS are reported to exhibit a poor quality of life and tend to use medical care system more than patients without the syndrome (Saha, 2014).
According to Korterink et al. (2015) and Egan et al. (2015), peppermint oil is an effective short term treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The way peppermint manages IBS is through its ability to reduce the influx of calcium into the large intestines and the jejunum (that is, the second part of the small intestines). This action helps to relax gastrointestinal smooth muscles thereby reducing the symptoms of IBS (Egan et al., 2015).
Balchin (1997) established that peppermint can be used to treat ureteric stones or gallstones. However, more empirical investigation is needed in this area to reinforce these findings.
Peppermint can help reduce appetite and hunger cravings. When ingested, it can also make an individual consume fewer calories. This is according to the findings of a study by Reed et al. (2008), in which he examined the effect of peppermint scent on appetite control and caloric intake.
When used in lotions or creams, peppermint helps to reduce the sting of sunburn, itchiness, and redness of inflamed skin (Shrivastava, 2009).
Peppermint can be used to get rid of head lice as well as dandruffs. This is because peppermint contains anti-lice and anti-dandruff compounds including: aldehydes, ketones, phenols, sesquiterpenes, phenolic ethers and oxides (Lowana, 1996).
Peppermint use in treating headache disorders dates back to ancient times (Levin, 2012). Historical research shows that peppermint and its derivatives have always been ingested in an effort to manage headaches world over (Gobel et al., 1994). According to Gobel et al. (1994), when peppermint and eucalyptus oil are mixed in the right proportions, the resulting compound is an effective remedy for headaches.
Peppermint has been shown to effectively deal with indigestion problems when taken in a glass of water after a meal. It is said to act as a carminative and helps eliminate gas from the gut (http://www.ehow.com/how_2295291_use-peppermint-oil-indigestion.html).
In Germany, peppermint leaf is licensed to be used as medicinal tea for the treatment of dyspepsia (that is, indigestion) (McKay & Blumberg, 2006).
When peppermint oil is topically applied on human skin, it shows a strong repellent action against adult mosquitoes (Ansaria et al., 2003).
Research also shows that including peppermint oil in mouthwash products can help reduce bad breath as well as gum infections (Shrivastava, 2009).
Peppermint has also been shown to have pain relieving capability. This is possible because peppermint antagonizes the operation of calcium in the body. When topically applied, peppermint not only relieves pain, but also brings about a wonderful cooling effect (http://www.hc-sc-.gc.ca/home-accueil/text-eng.php).
Research findings also indicate that peppermint possess antiemetic properties and is thus used to manage nausea in patients who have undergone surgery (Tate, 1997).
Norrish and Dwyer (2004) investigated the effect of peppermint oil on an objective measure of daytime sleepiness. The findings of the study indicated that peppermint can help reduce sleepiness during daytime. However, the researchers cautioned that more empirical studies need to be undertaken to reinforce their findings.
Masato Ai et al. (2005) assessed the antispasmodic effect of peppermint oil and Shakuyaku-Kanzo-To: a Chinese herbal medicine on the colonic wall. The findings of the study revealed that peppermint oil had a significant antispasmodic effect on the colonic wall.
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Arabi, A.A. and Matta, C.F. (2016). Electrostatic potentials and average electron densities of bioisosteres in methlysquarate and acetic acid. Future Medicinal Chemistry, 8, 361-371. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26976657/
Balchin, M.L. (1997). Essential oils and ‘aromatherapy’: their modern role in healing. Journal of Research Soc Health, 117, 324-329.
Bansod, S. and Rai, M. (2008). Antifungal activity of essential oils from Indian medicinal plants against human pathogenic Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus niger. World Journal of Medical Sciences, 3(2), 81-88. Available at: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Antifungal-Activity-of-Essential-Oils-from-Indian-Bansod-Rai/1a9bb5ee5aa0298a958c58fa651015494ff241ee
Bokhari, N., Perveen, K., Al Khulaifi, M., Kumar, A. and Siddiqui (2016). In vitro antibacterial activity and chemical composition of essential oil of Mentha arvensis Linn. Leaves. Journal of Essential Oil-bearing Plants, 19(4), 907-915. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0972060X.2016.1184993
Egan, M., Connors, E.M., Anwar, Z., Walsh, J.J. (2015). Nature’s treatment for irritable bowel syndrome: Studies on the isolation of (-)-menthol from peppermint oil and its conversion to (-)-methyl acetate. Journal of Chemistry Education, 92, 1736-1740.
Geuenich, S., Goffinet, C., Venzke, S., Nolkemper, S., Baumann, I. (2008). Aqueous extracts from peppermint, sage and lemon balm leaves display potent anti-HIV-1 activity by increasing the virion density. Retrovirology, 5, 1-16. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2288616/
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Mark Ian Keith Norrish and Katie Louise Dwyer. Preliminary investigation of the effect of peppermint oil on an objective measure of daytime sleepiness. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 55, 291-298.
Masato A.l., Yamaguchi, T., Odaka, T., Seza, A., Yan, J., Koide, A. and Saisho, H. (2005) Assessemnt of the antispasmodic effect of peppermint oil and Shakuyaku-Kanzo-To (TJ-68): a Chinese herbal medicine on the colonic wall. Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, 61(5), 107. Available at: https://www.giejournal.org/article/S0016-5107(05)00683-8/fulltext
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Shalayel, M., Asaad, A., Qureshi, M. and Elhussein, A. (2016). Anti-bacterial activity of peppermint (Mentha piperita) extracts against some emerging multi-drug resistant human bacterial pathogens. Journal of Herbal Medicine, 22, 152. Available at: https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US201900432333
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