Peppermint Oil OTC Uses Warnings Side Effects Dosage

Peppermint Oil OTC Uses Warnings Side Effects Dosage

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is the essential oil extracted from the stem, leaves, and flowers of the plant Mentha piperita, native to Europe and North America and a natural hybrid of water mint and spearmint.

Peppermint oil has historically been used orally and topically to treat various conditions such as digestive disorders, cough, and upper respiratory symptoms. It is available over the counter (OTC) as oil or enteric coated capsules.

Studies mainly focus on its use in relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Oral peppermint oil is antispasmodic, relaxing intestinal smooth muscles and reducing IBS symptoms. It also improves digestion and increases bile production. Applied topically, peppermint oil acts as a counter-irritant, relieving minor skin irritations, muscle/joint pains, and tension headaches.

Peppermint oil is also used in inhalation aromatherapy to treat common colds, cough, stress, and improve mental function. It serves as a flavoring agent in food and beverages, and can be brewed as tea. Additionally, it is used as a fragrance in skin care products and cosmetics.

The therapeutic effects of peppermint oil are primarily due to menthol, its main active ingredient, although it contains other substances including volatile oils, flavonoids, and pulegone, a carcinogenic compound. Menthol reduces intestinal muscle spasms by inhibiting the action potential of nerve cells that activate muscle contraction and reducing the influx of calcium ions. When applied on the skin, it initially stimulates nerve endings, but continued exposure decreases pain sensitivity.

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Suggested uses of peppermint oil include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammation of mouth and throat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Indigestion and gas (flatulence)
  • Colic
  • Painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea)
  • Tension headaches
  • Minor muscle or joint pains
  • Minor itches and skin irritations
  • Common cold and cough
  • Upper respiratory infections


  • Do not administer peppermint oil to infants and children.
  • Peppermint oil capsules are enteric coated to prevent being broken down in the acidic environment of the stomach, which may lead to heartburn. Do not use enteric coated peppermint oil capsules in patients who do not produce gastric hydrochloric acid due to any condition or medication.
  • Use with caution in patients with hiatal hernia.

Side Effects of Peppermint Oil

Common side effects of peppermint oil include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Allergic reactions
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Skin irritation
  • Bronchospasm in children
  • Voice box spasm (laryngospasm) in children
  • Respiratory collapse
  • Inflammation in the kidney (interstitial nephritis)
  • Acute kidney failure

Contact your doctor immediately if you experience fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, sudden dizziness, severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady, severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, feeling like you might pass out, or serious eye symptoms like blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.

This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Contact your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

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Dosages of Peppermint Oil

There isn’t an established dosage for peppermint oil. Please check the manufacturer’s label.

  • 0.2-0.4 ml orally three times a day between meals

Inhaled for Postoperative Nausea

  • 0.2 mL in 2 mL of isotonic saline

Topical for Tension Headaches

  • Apply topically as needed every 15-30 minutes


  • Peppermint oil overdose may cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms, nausea, diarrhea, rectal ulceration, kidney failure, epileptic convulsions, loss of consciousness, respiratory depression or arrest, disturbances in cardiac rhythms, and impairment of balance and coordination. There is one report of near-fatal overdose with low heart rate and coma.
  • Treatment may include stomach emptying and symptomatic care.

Interactions with Peppermint Oil

Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking. Do not begin, discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.

  • Peppermint oil has no known severe or serious interactions with other drugs.
  • Moderate interactions of peppermint oil include cyclosporine and drugs metabolized by the liver.

The above drug interactions are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.

Always inform your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, including the dosage for each. Keep a list of this information. Check with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions about the medication.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Avoid oral peppermint oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The safety of peppermint oil use during pregnancy and breastfeeding is unknown.
  • Consumption of peppermint leaf in small amounts in food is possibly safe.
  • If applying topically to the breast area, clean thoroughly before breastfeeding.
  • Always check with your healthcare provider before using any supplements or herbal products.
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Additional Information about Peppermint Oil

  • Peppermint oil is possibly safe for most adults when topically applied or taken orally in recommended amounts for a short period of time.
  • Check with your healthcare provider before using any over-the-counter supplement, including peppermint oil.
  • Follow the label instructions for peppermint oil capsules.
  • Peppermint oil supplements are marketed as herbal supplements and are not regulated by the FDA. Exercise caution in choosing your product as formulations and strengths may differ.
  • Store safely out of reach of children. In case of overdose, contact Poison Control.


Peppermint oil is an essential oil historically used to treat various conditions such as digestive disorders, cough, and upper respiratory symptoms. Do not administer peppermint oil to infants and children. Common side effects include diarrhea, heartburn, mouth ulcers, burning mouth syndrome, allergic reactions, flushing, and headache. Avoid oral peppermint oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.


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