Mentha piperita

Medicinal Properties

Because peppermint can grow just about anywhere, it is used globally for the many health-related problems each region faces.  This makes peppermint extremely important and versatile when used as a medicine.  Peppermint is utilized as a medicine in the form of menthol, and oil that is produced and harvested from the leaves just before the plant begins to flower.  It is this oil that is used in hundreds of common products ranging from lip balms and cigarettes to shampoos and even pesticides!

Here in America, we use peppermint in medicine more than we even know!  As an athlete, I lived on products like IcyHot® and Biofreeze®, both of which contain menthol as their main active ingredient.  In these products menthol works as a topical analgesic, temporarily relieving symptoms associated with muscle aches and cramps, arthritis, tendonitis, and sprains.

Menthol is also used to treat cold symptoms.  It is used in many cough drops and cough syrups as a local anesthetic to numb sensations associated with sore throats.  Also, products such as Vicks® vaporub use menthol to relieve congestion and sinus irritation.

Most commonly, menthol is used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  M. piperita effectively calms indigestion and diarrhea, relieves flatulence, and mitigates abdominal cramps and symptoms of motion sickness.  Working as an antispasmodic, menthol also is effective in treating colic and diverticulitis.

Menthol is also found to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties as well as being an effective vermifuge, an anti-worm agent.  Organisms such as the human hookworm struggle to compete with menthol's effectiveness.  It is also successful in decreasing symptoms associated with stomach ulcers caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacterium and intestinal distress coupled with E. coli infections.

Now that you've learned about the main medicinal uses of menthol, check out the facts page to learn a few more uses and other interesting facts about menthol and the peppermint plant itself!   Or, go back home.