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 (1).
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 12 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 (2Trusted Source).
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 (4Trusted Source).
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 (5Trusted Source).
Additionally, in a review of 14 clinical trials in nearly 2,000 children, peppermint reduced the frequency, length and severity of abdominal pain (6Trusted Source).
Furthermore, capsules containing peppermint oil reduced incidence and severity of nausea and vomiting in a study in 200 people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer (7Trusted Source).
While no studies have examined peppermint tea and digestion, it’s possible that the tea could have similar effects.
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 (2Trusted Source).
The menthol in peppermint oil increases blood flow and provides a cooling sensation, possibly easing pain (8Trusted Source).
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 (9Trusted Source).
In another study in 41 people, peppermint oil applied to the forehead was found to be as effective for headaches as 1,000 mg of acetaminophen (10Trusted Source).
While the aroma of peppermint tea may help relax muscles and improve headache pain, there is no supporting scientific evidence to confirm this effect. However, applying peppermint oil to your temples may help.
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 (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
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 (13Trusted Source).
In another study, schoolgirls given a peppermint mouth rinse experienced an improvement in breath after one week, compared to the control group (14Trusted Source).
While there is no evidence from scientific studies that drinking peppermint tea has the same effect, the compounds in peppermint have been shown to improve breath.
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 (15Trusted Source).
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 (16Trusted Source).
Furthermore, warm liquids, such as chicken broth and tea, have been shown to temporarily improve symptoms of sinus congestion, likely due to their vapors (17Trusted Source).
Though peppermint tea has not been studied for its effects on nasal congestion, evidence suggests that it may be helpful.
5. May Improve Energy
Peppermint tea may improve energy levels and reduce daytime fatigue.
While there are no studies on peppermint tea specifically, research demonstrates that natural compounds in peppermint may have beneficial effects on energy.
In one study, 24 healthy young people experienced less fatigue during a cognitive test when given peppermint oil capsules (18Trusted Source).
In another study, peppermint oil aromatherapy was found to reduce the incidence of daytime sleepiness (19Trusted Source).
6. May Help Relieve Menstrual Cramps
Because peppermint acts as a muscle relaxant, it may relieve menstrual cramps (2Trusted Source).
While peppermint tea has not been studied to that effect, compounds in peppermint have been shown to improve symptoms.
In one study in 127 women with painful periods, peppermint extract capsules were found to be as effective as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in reducing the intensity and duration of pain (20Trusted Source).
7. May Fight Bacterial Infections
While there are no studies on the antibacterial effects of peppermint tea, peppermint oil has been shown to effectively kill bacteria (2Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
In one study, peppermint oil was found to kill and prevent the growth of common food-borne bacteria including E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella in pineapple and mango juices (21Trusted Source).
Peppermint oil also kills several types of bacteria that lead to illnesses in humans, including Staphylococcus and pneumonia-linked bacteria (22Trusted Source).
Furthermore, menthol has also demonstrated antibacterial activity (23Trusted Source).
8. May Improve Your Sleep
Peppermint tea is an ideal choice before bed, as it’s naturally caffeine-free.
What’s more, peppermint’s capacity as a muscle relaxant may help you relax before bedtime (2Trusted Source).
That said, there is not much scientific evidence that peppermint enhances sleep.
In one study, peppermint oil lengthened the sleeping time of mice given a sedative. However, another study found that menthol did not have a sedative effect (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
Therefore, research on peppermint and sleep is mixed.
In one study, peppermint oil lengthened the sleeping time of mice given a sedative. However, another study found that menthol did not have a sedative effect (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).Therefore, research on peppermint and sleep is mixed.
9. May Aid Weight Loss
Peppermint tea is naturally calorie-free and has a pleasantly sweet flavor, which makes it a smart choice when you’re trying to lose weight.
However, there is not much research on the effects of peppermint tea on weight.
In a small study in 13 healthy people, taking a peppermint oil capsule resulted in reduced appetite compared to not taking peppermint (26Trusted Source).
On the other hand, an animal study showed that mice given peppermint extracts gained more weight than the control group (27Trusted Source).
10. May Improve Seasonal Allergies
Peppermint contains rosmarinic acid, a plant compound found in rosemary and plants in the mint family (28Trusted Source).
In one randomized 21-day study in 29 people with seasonal allergies, those given an oral supplement containing rosmarinic acid had fewer symptoms of itchy nose, itchy eyes and other symptoms than those given a placebo (31Trusted Source).
While it’s unknown whether the amount of rosmarinic acid found in peppermint is enough to affect allergy symptoms, there is some evidence that peppermint may relieve allergies.
In a study in rats, peppermint extract reduced allergic symptoms, such as sneezing and itchy nose (32Trusted Source).
11. May Improve Concentration
Drinking peppermint tea may help improve your ability to concentrate and focus.
While studies on the effects of peppermint tea on concentration are unavailable, two small studies have researched this beneficial effect of peppermint oil — taken by ingestion or inhalation.
In one study, 24 young, healthy people performed significantly better on cognitive tests when they were given peppermint oil capsules (18Trusted Source).
In another study, smelling peppermint oil was found to improve memory and alertness, compared to ylang-ylang, another popular essential oil (33Trusted Source).
12. Easy to Add to Your Diet
Peppermint tea is delicious and easy to add to your diet.
You can buy it in tea bags, as loose-leaf tea or simply grow your own peppermint.
To make your own peppermint tea:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
Turn off the heat and add a handful of torn peppermint leaves to the water.
Cover and steep for 5 minutes.
Strain the tea and drink.
Because peppermint tea is naturally free of caffeine, you can drink it at any time of day.
Enjoy it as a post-meal treat to aid digestion, in the afternoon to boost your energy or before bed to help you relax.