The Benefits of Peppermint Oil
Peppermint Oil is extracted from the leaves of the hybrid mint plant Mentha piperita, a cross between watermint and spearmint plants. The Pacific Northwest provides the perfect climate for its growth and is responsible for the majority of US production of peppermint. Aside from culinary use peppermint oil has been used for digestive disorders, nausea, headaches, and menstrual cramps.
Menthol is the active ingredient in peppermint oil. Studies have demonstrated its benefit in treating irritable bowel syndrome and help with the symptoms of tension headaches. Two recent studies have shown the topical benefits of peppermint oil.
The first study showed that the topical application of peppermint oil is beneficial in treating chronic pruritus (itching). 50 individuals who had a history of pruritus due to chronic illness for greater than 6 weeks were given either a peppermint preparation or a control application. Those in the peppermint oil group noticed a significant improvement in their symptoms with regards to distribution, duration, degree of intensity, and degree of disability. It is thought that the menthol activates A-delta fibers and kappa-opioid receptors to help alleviate the itching sensation.
Another study illustrated peppermint oil’s ability to help promote hair growth. This study assessed the effect of peppermint oil on hair growth in a mouse model in comparison to minoxidil (a commonly prescribed topical agent for androgenic alopecia). They concluded that peppermint oil treatment resulted in similar hair growth gains as minoxidil. It is thought that peppermint oil promotes the blood flow to the dermal papilla which facilitates hair growth.
Based on these studies peppermint oil may help promote hair growth and improve the symptoms for individuals with chronic itching.