Online doctors at Just Health Experts have served an amazing role helping individuals remotely. Here’s a response to a frequent inquiry by users of the service.
Nausea and gastrointestinal or stomach problems affect a wide range of populations.1 For example, it commonly affects pregnant women. Natural herbal remedies such as foods and supplements have been used for their medicinal properties for thousands of years.2 In fact, many patients with nausea or gastrointestinal disorders turn to alternative medicines to treat their symptoms.
A common alternative medicine for nausea or gastrointestinal issues is peppermint.1 Peppermint belongs to the same family as mint. It contains the active ingredients of menthol, menthone, and menthyl acetate. Peppermint also comes in multiple forms. For example, it is in mint teas or topical menthol rubs for treating colds and coughs.
How does peppermint work?
Peppermint contains multiple medicinal properties.5 For example, it is an antiseptic, analgesic, and anticlotting agent.
In the gastrointestinal system, a proposed mechanism of peppermint is blocking muscle contractions.5 For instance, peppermint binds to specific receptors in the stomach that prevents the stomach from constricting. Furthermore, peppermint is an anesthetic for the stomach wall. An anesthetic is an agent that numbs the area. This works to prevent pain and stops nausea and vomiting from occurring.
What does peppermint treat or support?
Peppermint is an herbal remedy for multiple conditions such as postoperative nausea and vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome, and functional dyspepsia.2,6
Postoperative nausea and vomiting
Postoperative means occurring after surgery.6 During surgery, patients undergo anesthesia so that they are asleep during the procedure. A major side effect of anesthesia after surgery is nausea and vomiting. A way to reduce symptoms is aromatherapy with peppermint.
Adult patients in a small study were required to stay in the hospital for at least 23 hours post-surgery.6 Patients were provided nasal inhalers containing peppermint essential oils for their postoperative nausea and vomiting. They compared the effects to placebo. Patients reported decreased symptoms and satisfaction with the therapy. For example, about 27% of patients experienced postoperative nausea and vomiting. National rates of postoperative nausea and vomiting is about 30%.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a complicated disease.7 For example, there are not enough effective or safe medications for this disease. Diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome are abnormal stool frequency, form, and passage. However, peppermint in irritable bowel syndrome works by decreasing muscle contractions and gas buildup.
In multiple studies, peppermint oil was used to test its effectiveness for reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.7 In eight out of twelve studies, peppermint oil was found to be statistically significant at reducing symptoms compared to placebo. The most commonly reported side effects were heartburn and discomfort sensations.
Functional dyspepsia is also known as indigestion.2 Common symptoms of dyspepsia is stomach pain, discomfort, nausea, and bloating. Natural supplements such as caraway seed oil and peppermint oil combination have been used in patients experiencing these symptoms. For example, several studies showed improvement in dyspepsia and tolerability of the natural supplement combination. Although results were not clinically significant, there was enough of a difference between treatment and control groups. For example, 61.2% of patients treated with the natural supplement combination felt like their symptoms had improved. Only 48.9% of patients in the control group experienced reduced symptoms.
Peppermint used either alone or in combination with other supplements was beneficial in patients for various disease states.2,6,7
How do you use peppermint?
Peppermint is taken and used in multiple forms for external or internal use, such as tea or a topical oil.3
- Tea: a typical dose of peppermint tea is two to three cups a day for nausea
- Candies or gum: women using peppermint candies or gum experienced less nausea
- Menthol rubs: common cold remedies include topically applied peppermint
Peppermint is a great alternative therapy because it is cheap, safe, and effective.3
Peppermint for pregnant women
Greater than two-thirds of pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting.5 Main consequences of these symptoms are dehydration, acidosis, alkalosis, and weight loss. Acidosis is an increase of acid in the blood. Alkalosis is very low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. These are all serious effects that affect the mother’s health.
Peppermint is an alternative option for pregnant women because it is a more natural remedy.5 There are concerns with essential oils crossing the placental barrier, but it seems safe when used in tea or foods.3 However, you should speak with your primary care provider to discuss options and the right dose to limit side effects.
Lactating women often experience temporary discomfort while breastfeeding.4 Oftentimes, lactating women experience pain, cracked nipples, and cracked areolas. An alternative treatment that is safe for the mother and child is topical peppermint gel. In several studies, topical peppermint gel was used and applied on breastfeeding areas. Results showed that it was more effective than placebo at reducing symptoms. However, peppermint should only be used after nursing. The area has to be wiped clean before the next feeding.
In addition, a small study tested the level of menthol in breastmilk.4 In this study, lactating women were given menthol capsules to ingest. Results showed that milk had traces of menthol in it.
Does peppermint have any side effects?
The United States Food and Drug Administration rated peppermint as a safe supplement.3 It is a great supplement because it works quickly. The body is able to rapidly absorb it.8 However, large doses of peppermint cause heartburn, nausea, and vomiting.4 Too much ingestion of peppermint can make acid reflux worse. In addition, reported allergic reactions to peppermint like headaches were mainly due to menthol.
Nausea and gastrointestinal issues are common nonspecific symptoms that affect various patient populations. A common and cheap alternative therapy for treating these symptoms is peppermint. Peppermint is an important ingredient in herbal remedies such as the common cold, postoperative nausea and vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome, and indigestion. It is a safe and effective option, especially in pregnant and lactating women, when taken at appropriate doses. In addition, it works quickly at reducing muscle contractions and has few side effects. Side effects include allergic reactions or worsening of acid reflux. For more information about this topic, please visit Nature’s Reveal.
- Barrett, Bruce. “Viral Upper Respiratory Infection.” Integrative Medicine, by David Rakel, Elsevier 4th edition (2018): 170-179.
- Acker, Brent W, and Brooks D Cash. “Medicinal Foods for Functional GI Disorders.” Current gastroenterology reports vol. 19,12 62. 13 Nov. 2017, doi:10.1007/s11894-017-0601-x
- Gordon, Andrea and Abigail Love. “Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy.” Integrative Medicine, by David Rakel, Elsevier 4th edition (2018): 542-549.
- “Peppermint.” Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed), National Library of Medicine (US), 17 August 2020.
- Ozgoli, Giti, and Marzieh Saei Ghare Naz. “Effects of Complementary Medicine on Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy: A Systematic Review.” International journal of preventive medicine vol. 9 75. 30 Aug. 2018, doi:10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_430_16
- Fearrington, Maxine A et al. “Essential Oils to Reduce Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting.” Journal of perianesthesia nursing : official journal of the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses vol. 34,5 (2019): 1047-1053. doi:10.1016/j.jopan.2019.01.010
- Grigoleit, H G, and P Grigoleit. “Peppermint oil in irritable bowel syndrome.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 12,8 (2005): 601-6. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2004.10.005
- Grigoleit, H G, and P Grigoleit. “Pharmacology and preclinical pharmacokinetics of peppermint oil.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 12,8 (2005): 612-6. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2004.10.007