We take a look at the potential benefits associated with making peppermint tea your go-to brew.
By Annie Hayes
Thanks to its minty-fresh taste and cooling, stomach-settling properties, peppermint tea benefits have been touted by humans for centuries. The leaves of this aromatic herb contain several key essential oils – including menthol, menthone and limonene – as well as micronutrients and plant compounds which contribute to its various purported health benefits.
While there’s very little scientific research relating to peppermint tea benefits, several studies examine the potential health applications of peppermint oil and peppermint extracts. With nutritionist Jenna Hope, we take a look at the potential benefits associated with making peppermint tea your go-to brew:
13 peppermint tea benefits
In a lab setting, peppermint has been shown to possess ‘significant antimicrobial and antiviral activities, strong antioxidant and antitumor actions, and some antiallergenic potential’, according to a review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea by Boston’s Tufts University. However, they write, ‘human studies of peppermint leaf are limited and clinical trials of peppermint tea are absent’. With this in mind, we’ve assembled 13 potential peppermint tea benefits that show promise:
- High in micronutrients
While admittedly you might not be consuming enough peppermint to make any nutritionally significant impact, the herb does contain a wide range of micronutrients and plant compounds.
Peppermint contains a wide range of micronutrients and plant compounds.
‘Peppermint leaves contain potassium, calcium and magnesium and sodium and iron, zinc and copper in smaller amounts,’ says Hope. For example, two peppermint leaves contain 2.6 mg of magnesium. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for an adult is 400mg for men and 310mg for women.
- A source of polyphenols
Peppermint is a source of polyphenols, which are chemical compounds found naturally in plants – specifically flavanols called eriocitrin, letueolin and hesperidin, Hope says. ‘Flavanols have been found to support heart health,’ she says. ‘Research suggests significantly more polyphenols are released when peppermint tea is steeped for five minutes compared to one or two minutes.’ Test tube studies have found peppermint leaves contain ‘high levels of antioxidant activity,’ she adds.
- May ease digestive issues…
Peppermint may help to relieve digestive symptoms, including gas, bloating and indigestion, especially when ingested in oil form. It’s also a muscle relaxant, and is believe to support digestion by reducing spasms in the gut. ‘Animal studies have found a relaxation effect on the gastrointestinal muscular activity,’ says Hope. ‘The research suggested that effects were greater from dried leaves compared to fresh leaves.’
- …And even treat digestive disorders
Peppermint’s muscle-relaxing effects may also be useful in the management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and non-ulcer dyspepsia, ‘although sufficient clinical trials are necessary before we can conclude this,’ says Hope. A review of nine studies spanning more than 900 people with IBS found that peppermint oil capsules reduced IBS symptoms by 40 per cent after four weeks, compared to 24 per cent with a placebo.
Additional research shows benefits in the reduction of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) during pregnancy, Hope adds, although again, more research is required to support this. While no studies have examined the effect of peppermint tea on digestive issues, it’s possible that it could have similar effects.
- Has calming properties
Peppermint has a calming effect on the central and peripheral nervous systems, and may help to ease anxiety. A small study found that inhaling the aroma of peppermint can soothe the pain and anxiety caused by inserting an intravenous catheter in cardiac patients.
- Freshens breath
Thanks to its refreshing, minty flavour, peppermint is frequently used in toothpaste, mouthwash and chewing gum. Its antibacterial properties may help to kill the bacteria in dental plaque, reducing the likelihood of gingivitis developing – the earliest stage of gum disease and a common cause of bad breath.
- Helps clear sinuses
One of the key compounds in peppermint is menthol, which has been shown to improve the nasal sensation of airflow in a study by Cardiff’s University College. This is due to ‘a specific pharmacological action on nasal sensory nerve endings which is not related to its peppermint smell,’ the team wrote. More generally, hot drinks are known to temporarily improve symptoms of sinus congestion.
- May ease nausea
While there’s no science proving that peppermint tea can help alleviate symptoms of nausea, some research has been conducted on the beneficial effects of compounds like menthol. A study by the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Iran reported that a menthol solution relieved nausea and vomiting associated with migraines.
- Relieves menstrual cramps
As a muscle relaxant and pain reliever, peppermint may also help improve symptoms associated with menstrual cramps. In a study spanning 127 women with painful periods, peppermint extract capsules were as effective as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in reducing the intensity and duration of pain. The extract also reduced symptoms of nausea and diarrhoea.
- Improves focus
The aroma of peppermint may help to boost focus and concentration. In a study assessing the cognitive performance of 144 participants, the smell of peppermint was found to enhance memory and increase alertness.
- Potentially supports immune system
While again, there are no studies on the antibacterial effects of peppermint tea, peppermint oil has been shown to kill and prevent the growth of various bacteria – from food-bourne bacteria like E. coli and Listeria to types known to cause illness in humans, such as those linked to pneumonia. In this way, peppermint may theoretically help to support your immune system, but there’s no hard scientific proof.
- Eases allergy symptoms
Another key compound in peppermint is rosmarinic acid, which has been shown to reduce symptoms of allergic reactions, such as runny nose and itchy eyes. In a rodent study by Okayama University, peppermint extract reduced allergic symptoms such as sneezing and itchy nose. There’s no proof that drinking peppermint tea would have the same effect, but for long-term allergy sufferers, it could be worth a try.
- Is caffeine-free
Whether you buy in tea bags, as loose-leaf tea or grow and pick your own, peppermint tea is naturally caffeine-free, so you can enjoy a cup at any time of the day. You might like to enjoy it after a meal to aid with digestion, before bed to relax your muscles, or first thing in the morning for a refreshing minty boost.
When it comes to brewing up peppermint tea benefits, there’s no optimal dose regarding how many cups you should aim to drink. ‘Due to the lack of human studies, we cannot make claims according to specific amounts,’ says Hope, who adds that the only thing to watch out for is its interaction with iron.
‘Peppermint tea has been shown to inhibit the absorption of non-haem iron,’ she explains. ‘Therefore, individuals on a plant-based diet should not consume peppermint tea alongside plant sources of iron, such as beans, oats, nuts and seeds.’