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Peppermint: Potentially Active Chemical Constituents
· Volatile oils: menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate, neomenthol, isomenthone, menthofuran,
limonene, pulegone, alpha and beta pinene, and trans-sabinene hydrate7
· Caffeic acids
Peppermint contains about 1.2-1.5% essential oil. The volatile oil, also known as menthae
piperitae aetheroleum, contains 30-70% free menthol and menthol esters10 and more that 40 other
compounds. The principal components of the oil are menthol (29%), menthone (20-30%), and
menthyl acetate (3-10%). Pharmaceutical grade oil, produced by distilling the fresh aerial parts of
the plant at the beginning of the flowering cycle, is standardized to contain no less than 44%
menthol, 15-30% methone, and 5% esters, in addition to various terpenoids. Other compounds
found in the peppermint are flavonoids (12%), polymerized polyphenols (19%), carotenes,
tocopherols, betaine, and choline3.
Menthol is the primary component of the essential oil of peppermint2. It occurs naturally as
a colorless crystal or powder. Menthol is mostly responsible for the spasmolytic nature of
peppermint. It stimulates bile flow, reduces the tone in the esophageal sphincter, facilitates
belching, and has antibacterial properties7, 8. It is used as a local anesthetic agent in cold and
cough preparations (Vicks Vapo-Rub®, lozenges and syrups) and in liniments for insect bites,
eczema, poison ivy, hemorrhoids, toothaches, and musculoskeletal pain (Ben Gay®)3, 9. It is used
as an antitussive in chest rubs or inhaled as a steam vapor. Its use dates back to 1890, when it was
developed as a topical rub to treat whooping cough. It is thought to provide a local anesthetic action
on the lungs and throat, suppressing the cough reflex11.
Menthol and menthyl acetate are responsible for the pungent and refreshing odour; they are mostly found in older leaves and are preferentially formed during long daily sunlight periods. On the other hand, the ketones menthone and pulegon (and menthofurane) have a less delightful fragrance; they appear to higher fraction in young leaves and their formation is preferred during short days.
Toxicity and Contraindications
All herbal products carry the potential for contamination with other herbal products, pesticides,
herbicides, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, etc. This is particularly concerning with imports from
Furthermore, allergic reactions can occur to any natural product in sensitive persons.
Allergic reactions to peppermint have been reported.
Potentially toxic compounds in peppermint: Pulegone, menthol. Pulegone, the toxic compound in
pennyroyal, is also found in peppermint in much smaller proportions. In rats, doses of 80
and 160 mg of pulgeone for 28 days caused atonia, weight loss, decreased blood creatinine
content, and histopathological changes in the liver and the white matter of the cerebellum.
Menthol causes hepatocellular changes in rats92. In rats, peppermint oil caused cyst-like
changes in the white matter of the cerebellum and nephropathy at doses of 40-100 mg/kg
per day for 28-90 days93, 94.
Acute toxicity: Adverse reactions to enteric coated peppermint oil capsules are rare but can include
hypersens itivity reaction, contact dermatitis, abdominal pain, heartburn, perianal burning,
bradycardia and muscle tremor3, 52, 56, 57, 95-100.
Inhalation of menthol can cause apnea and larygoconstriction in susceptible
individuals58. In one case series, 12 patients noted contact sensitivity to menthol and
peppermint with oral symptoms including burning mouth syndrome, recurrent oral
ulceration, or a lichenoid reaction101.
The excessive inhalation of mentholated preparation has caused reversible nausea,
anorexia, cardiac problems, ataxia, and other CNS problems, which are thought to be due to
the presence of volatile oils102. There is a case report of a 13- year-old boy who, following
inhalation of 5 ml of Olbas oil (containing 200 mg menthol) instead of the recommended
few drops, experienced ataxia, confusion, euphoria, nystagmus, and diplopia102.
Chronic toxicity: In rat studies, chronic exposure to high concentrations of menthol vapor have
shown no gross toxic effects1. There are no chronic toxicity studies in humans.
Limitations during other illnesses or in patients with specific organ dysfunction: Peppermint oil is
contraindicated in obstruction of the bile ducts, gallbladder inflammation, and severe liver damages.
Biol Pharm Bull. 2002 Feb;25(2):256-9.
Antiallergic effect of flavonoid glycosides obtained from Mentha piperita L.
Inoue T, Sugimoto Y, Masuda H, Kamei C.
Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Okayama University, Japan.
Six flavonoid glycosides, eriocitrin (1), narirutin (2), hesperidin (3), luteolin-7-O-rutinoside (4), isorhoifolin (5), diosmin (6), rosmarinic acid (7) and 5,7-dihydroxycromone-7-O-rutinoside (8), were isolated from the aerial part of Mentha piperita L. Among these compounds, compound 4 showed a potent inhibitory effect on histamine release induced by compound 48/80 and antigen-antibody reaction. This compound was more effective than luteolin and luteolin-7-O-glucoside in inhibiting histamine release from rat peritoneal mast cells. Compound 4 also caused a dose-related inhibition of the antigen-induced nasal response and significant effects were observed at doses of 100 and 300 mg/kg. These results indicate that compound 4 may be clinically useful in alleviating the nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Anal Sci. 2003 Jan;19(1):139-46. Related Articles, Links
Effects on humans elicited by inhaling the fragrance of essential oils: sensory test, multi-channel thermometric study and forehead surface potential wave measurement on basil and peppermint.
Satoh T, Sugawara Y.
Faculty of Human Life and Environmental Science, Hiroshima Prefectural Women's University, Hiroshima 734-8558, Japan.
The effects on humans inhaling the fragrance of essential oils were examined in terms of a sensory test, a multi-channel skin thermometer study and a portable forehead surface electroencephalographic (IBVA-EEG) measurement. The essential oils examined in this study were those of basil and peppermint, because our previous sensory test had indicated an opposite effect of these essential oils when mental work was undertaken; the inhalation of basil produced a more favorable impression after work than before work, whereas peppermint produced an unfavorable impression under these circumstances. For subjects administered basil or peppermint before and after mental work using an inhalator, a series of multi-channel skin thermometer studies and IBVA-EEG measurements were conducted. Using such paired odorants, our results showed that when compared between before and after mental work assigned to subjects: (1) the inhalation of basil, in which a favorable impression was predominant on the whole in terms of the sensory evaluation spectrum, was shown to be associated upward tendency in finger-tip skin temperature; (2) whereas these situations were opposite in the case of peppermint, in which the reversed (unfavorable) feature in sensory profiling was accompanied by a decrease in the magnitude of beta waves and a decrease in the finger-tip skin temperature both based on Welch's method, even at p < 0.01, implying a decreasing propensity of the aroused state and of the arousal response. The elucidation of such sensory and physiological endpoints of paired odorants would be of primary importance for human chemoreception science, because these are only rarely recorded during the same experiments, and this paradigm is highly informative about non-verbal responses to odorants.
Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Oct;16(10):1689-99.
Systematic review: herbal medicinal products for non-ulcer dyspepsia.
Thompson Coon J, Ernst E.
Department of Complementary Medicine, School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, UK. J.Thompson-Coon@exeter.ac.uk
BACKGROUND: Non-ulcer dyspepsia is predominantly a self-managed condition, although it accounts for a significant number of general practitioner consultations and hospital referrals. Herbal medicinal products are often used for the relief of dyspeptic symptoms. AIMS: : To critically assess the evidence for and against herbal medicinal products for the treatment of non-ulcer dyspepsia. METHODS: Systematic searches were performed in six electronic databases and the reference lists located were checked for further relevant publications. No language restrictions were imposed. Experts in the field and manufacturers of identified herbal extracts were also contacted. All randomized clinical trials of herbal medicinal products administered as supplements to human subjects were included. RESULTS: Seventeen randomized clinical trials were identified, nine of which involved peppermint and caraway as constituents of combination preparations. Symptoms were reduced by all treatments (60-95% of patients reported improvements in symptoms). The mechanism of any anti-dyspeptic action is difficult to define, as the causes of non-ulcer dyspepsia are unclear. There appear to be few adverse effects associated with these remedies, although, in many cases, comprehensive safety data were not available. CONCLUSIONS: There are several herbal medicinal products with anti-dyspeptic activity and encouraging safety profiles. Further research is warranted to establish their therapeutic value in the treatment of non-ulcer dyspepsia.
J Radiat Res (Tokyo). 2003 Jun;44(2):101-9. Related Articles, Links
Radioprotection of Swiss albino mice by plant extract Mentha piperita (Linn.).
Samarth RM, Kumar A.
Radiation and Cancer Biology Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur-302004, India.
The oral administration of Mentha extract (ME) before exposure to gamma radiation was found to be effective in increasing the frequency of radiation-induced endogenous spleen colonies. A significant increase in the weight of the spleen was observed in animals of the Mentha and radiation combined group in comparison to the irradiation-alone group on day 10 of postirradiation. Furthermore, a significant increase in the body weight of animals in the Mentha and radiation combined group was observed in all the radiation doses studied. A regression analysis of survival data yielded LD50/30 as 6.48 +/- 0.07 and 11.59 +/- 0.21 Gy for the irradiation-alone and the Mentha and radiation combined group, respectively, and produced a dose reduction factor (DRF) of 1.78. Significant increases in total erythrocyte and leucocyte counts, hemoglobin concentration, and hematocrit values were observed in the animals of the Mentha and radiation combined group in comparison to the hematological values observed in the irradiation-alone group at all radiation doses studied (6, 8, and 10 Gy). A dose-dependent decrease in reduced glutathione (GSH) content and an increase in lipid peroxidation (LPO) levels were observed in control animals. However, the animals of the Mentha and radiation combined group exhibited a significant increase in GSH content and a decrease in LPO level, but the values remained below normal. A significant increase in the serum alkaline phosphatase activity was observed in the animals of the Mentha and radiation combined group during the entire period of study, and normal range was evident at 24 h (6 Gy) and day 5 (8 Gy). However, this level could not be restored even at day 30 in 10 Gy exposed animals. Measured acid phosphatase activity in the animals of the Mentha and radiation combined group was found to be significantly lower than the respective controls and attained normal value at day 5 (6 and 8 Gy) and day 20 (10 Gy).
Phytomedicine. 2003;10(6-7):504-10. Related Articles, Links
Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro.
Schuhmacher A, Reichling J, Schnitzler P.
Department of Virology, Hygiene Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
Planta Med. 2003 May;69(5):413-9. Related Articles, Links
Antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of three Mentha species essential oils.
Mimica-Dukic N, Bozin B, Sokovic M, Mihajlovic B, Matavulj M.
University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Department of Chemistry, Novi Sad, FR Yugoslavia. firstname.lastname@example.org
The present study describes the antimicrobial activity and free radical scavenging capacity (RSC) of essential oils from Mentha aquatica L., Mentha longifolia L., and Mentha piperita L. The chemical profile of each essential oil was determined by GC-MS and TLC. All essential oils exhibited very strong antibacterial activity, in particularly against Esherichia coli strains. The most powerful was M. piperita essential oil, especially towards multiresistant strain of Shigella sonei and Micrococcus flavus ATTC 10,240. All tested oils showed significant fungistatic and fungicidal activity [expressed as minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) and minimal fungicidal concentration (MFC) values, respectively], that were considerably higher than those of the commercial fungicide bifonazole. The essential oils of M. piperita and M. longifolia were found to be more active than the essential oil of M. aquatica. Especially low MIC (4 microL/mL) and MFC (4 microL/mL) were found with M. piperita oil against Trichophyton tonsurans and Candida albicans (both 8 microL/mL). The RSC was evaluated by measuring the scavenging activity of the essential oils on the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and OH radicals. All examined essential oils were able to reduce DPPH radicals into the neutral DPPH-H form, and this activity was dose-dependent. However, only the M. piperita oil reduced DPPH to 50 % (IC50 = 2.53 microg/mL). The M. piperita essential oil also exhibited the highest OH radical scavenging activity, reducing OH radical generation in the Fenton reaction by 24 % (pure oil).
Probl Tuberk. 2002;(4):36-9. Related Articles, Links
[Efficiency of the use of peppermint (Mentha piperita L) essential oil inhalations in the combined multi-drug therapy for pulmonary tuberculosis]
Shkurupii VA, Kazarinova NV, Ogirenko AP, Nikonov SD, Tkachev AV, Tkachenko KG.
The essential oil of peppermint (Mentha piperita L.) has been found to have an in vitro pronounced and equal antimycobacterial effect in doses of 300 and 600 micrograms/ml, respectively. The use of its inhalations (upon 20-min heat evaporation into the room atmosphere for 2 months) as a supplement to combined multidrug therapy for pulmonary tuberculosis has indicated their significantly high positive effect in terms of abacillation (by 26.8 and 58.5% with doses of 0.01 and 0.005 ml/m3, respectively). This was followed by earlier positive X-ray changes in the lung and by attenuation of the intoxication syndrome. The findings suggest that peppermint essential oil may be used in combined multidrug therapy in patients with disseminated and infiltrative pulmonary tuberculosis.