Peppermint oil

Peppermint is an herb that grows throughout North America and Europe. It’s often used to flavor foods and products, such as chewing gum, toothpaste, and cosmetics. The Latin name of the plant is Mentha x piperita.

Peppermint has been used as a natural remedy and herbal treatment for headaches, nausea, gas, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other conditions. Some people use peppermint leaf or peppermint oil as a dietary supplement, and others use peppermint essential oil applied directly to the skin. (Essential oils are distilled and concentrated oils from the plant.)1

Peppermint oil and migraine

Peppermint oil has a tingling or cooling effect on the skin that can cause a slight numbing effect. It is believed that these properties may make peppermint oil helpful for people who suffer from migraine. For some people, applying peppermint oil to the forehead and/or temples can provide some relief from migraine pain.

Studies on peppermint oil

There have not been high quality clinical studies of peppermint oil for migraine. Some small studies have been conducted on the use of peppermint to relieve headaches, and one study found a combination of peppermint oil and ethanol (rubbing alcohol) provided pain relief from headaches.2

Peppermint oil has mainly been studied for its effects on IBS, with several studies showing some relief from digestive symptoms by taking peppermint oil in capsules. However, there is not enough evidence to conclusively prove peppermint oil is helpful for other conditions.1

Side effects of peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is generally considered safe in small doses. Possible side effects include:

  • Heartburn
  • Allergic reaction
  • Rash or irritation when applied to the skin1

Who should not take peppermint oil for migraine

As with many herbal supplements and natural migraine remedies, peppermint hasn’t been studied enough in children and therefore shouldn’t be given to children.

Peppermint oil should not be applied to the chest of children or infants as inhaling the oil may cause serious side effects to children.1

Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should talk to their doctor about the risks of using peppermint oil.

Before using peppermint oil, talk to your doctor about all medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements you are using. Some of these can interact negatively with each other and could cause harmful effects.

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As always, the best source for advice on treating migraine is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician.

Written by: Emily Downward | Last review date: May 2018
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