Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) is an aromatic herb in the mint family that is a cross between watermint and spearmint.
Native to Europe and Asia, it has been used for thousands of years for its pleasant, minty taste and health benefits.
Peppermint is used as a flavoring in breath mints, candies and other foods. Additionally, many people consume peppermint as a refreshing, caffeine-free tea.
Peppermint leaves contain several essential oils including menthol, menthone and limonene. Menthol gives peppermint its cooling properties and recognizably minty scent. While peppermint tea is often drunk for its flavor, it may also have several health benefits. The tea itself has rarely been studied scientifically, but peppermint extracts have.
Here are science-backed benefits of peppermint tea and extracts.
1. May Ease Digestive Upsets
Peppermint may relieve digestive symptoms, such as gas, bloating and indigestion.
Animal studies indicate that peppermint relaxes your digestive system and may ease pain. It also prevents smooth muscles from contracting, which could relieve spasms in your gut.
A review of nine studies in 926 people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) treated with peppermint oil for at least two weeks concluded that peppermint provided significantly better symptom relief than a placebo.
In one study in 72 people with IBS, peppermint oil capsules reduced IBS symptoms by 40% after four weeks, compared to only 24.3% with a placebo.
2. May Help Relieve Tension Headaches and Migraines
As peppermint acts as a muscle relaxant and pain reliever, it may diminish certain types of headaches.The menthol in peppermint oil increases blood flow and provides a cooling sensation, possibly easing pain.
In one randomized clinical study in 35 people with migraines, peppermint oil applied to the forehead and temples significantly reduced pain after two hours, compared to a placebo oil.
3. May Freshen Your Breath
There’s a reason why peppermint is a common flavoring for toothpastes, mouthwashes and chewing gums.
In addition to its pleasant smell, peppermint has antibacterial properties that help kill germs that cause dental plaque — which may improve your breath.
In one study, people who had undergone spine surgery and had received a rinse made with peppermint, tea tree and lemon oils experienced improvement in bad breath symptoms, compared to those who did not receive the oils.
4. May Relieve Clogged Sinuses
Peppermint has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this, peppermint tea may fight clogged sinuses due to infections, the common cold and allergies.
Additionally, research demonstrates that menthol — one of the active compounds in peppermint — improves the perception of airflow in your nasal cavity. Therefore, steam from peppermint tea may help you feel as though your breathing is easier.