Peppermint essential oil is a concentrated oil that is extracted from the peppermint plant by steam distillation. The whole fresh or partly dried plant is used before it starts to flower.
A small study looked at the topical application of peppermint oil and the effect that it had on chronic itching. Researchers found that a one percent solution of peppermint oil led to improvements in how long itchiness lasted and the severity of the itch.
A second small study examined the effect of applying peppermint oil on the skin to reduce itching during pregnancy. Researchers found that applying a 0.5 percent solution of peppermint oil twice a day for two weeks significantly reduced itch severity compared to the control.
Another study compared peppermint oil to minoxidil (Rogaine) and control compounds. The researchers found that a three percent solution of peppermint oil led to growth of thick, long hair after four weeks of treatment, similar to results obtained using minoxidil.
Peppermint oil also has mild antimicrobial properties. Various studies have been performed to determine its effectiveness against different types of bacteria and fungi.
One study found that incubating peppermint oil with several strains of Staphylococcus aureus, some of which were antibiotic resistant, inhibited the production of an important bacterial toxin. This effect was dose-dependent, meaning that the effect increased with rising doses of peppermint oil.
Essential oils are not meant to be taken orally. Some possible side effects from taking peppermint extract orally include heartburn, nausea, and vomiting.
Aromatherapy or topical use of diluted essential peppermint oil can have significant benefits with little risk. But be aware that peppermint aromatherapy can be toxic to pets. Always consider children, pets, and pregnant women before using aromatherapy.
It’s also important to remember that peppermint essential oil is very concentrated and should always be diluted properly before topical use. Only a few drops are needed for diluting in an ounce of carrier oil.