Aromatherapists have used essential oils for healing a variety of physical and mental complaints since ancient times. Peppermint essential oil was used by the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans and is currently used for a myriad of purposes. It is believed to have a beneficial effect on mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
About Peppermint Oil
Peppermint essential oil is steam-distilled from the leaves and stems of the peppermint plant, a hybrid of the spearmint and the water mint plants. Menthol, the active compound in peppermint oil, is used for a variety of medicinal, cosmetic and culinary purposes. Peppermint essential oil is thought to have a calming, soothing effect on anxiety and depression, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The oil can be diluted in a warm bath or in massage oil or used in an essential oil diffuser to provide benefits.
Benefits for Anxiety
Anxiety is a common mental health disorder. While there are several subtypes of clinical anxiety disorders, most share similar features. Anxiety is characterized by persistent worry, fear, apprehension and tension. Although anxiety is typically treated with psychotherapy and antianxiety medications, some patients, worried about the potentially harmful or addictive properties of these medications, turn to alternative, holistic forms of healing, such as aromatherapy. According to authors Janet Zand, Allan N. Spreen and James B. LaValle in their book "Smart Medicine for Healthier Living," peppermint oil may be useful for calming frayed nerves, easing nervousness, promoting mental clarity and alleviating feelings of mental fatigue.
Benefits for Depression
According to the World Health Organization, depression is one of the leading causes of disability around the world, and the symptoms of depression are often debilitating. Depression results in feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, fatigue, lowered self-esteem, changes in appetite and sleep patterns and feelings of lethargy, among other possible symptoms. As with anxiety disorders, psychotherapy and antidepressants are the typical treatment modality for depression. Antidepressant medications often have a host of troublesome side effects, such as nausea, insomnia, anxiety, drowsiness, restlessness, weight gain and others. People suffering from mild forms of depression may benefit from aromatherapy using peppermint oil due its energizing, uplifting properties. Peppermint oil used in a bath may provide relief from feelings of lethargy caused by depression.
The evidence to suggest the benefits of peppermint oil on anxiety and depression is anecdotal. There is little clinical research to prove the benefits of peppermint oil on depression and anxiety. Consult your doctor if you think you may be suffering from anxiety or depression. While alternative treatments, such as aromatherapy, may provide temporary relief from anxiety and depressive symptoms, you should not use these treatments in place of your doctor's advice. Do not stop taking any medications without first informing your doctor.
- "Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances"; Donald G. Barceloux; 2008
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Peppermint
- "Aromatherapy for the Emotions"; Kylie Thompson; 2005
- "Smart Medicine for Healthier Living"; Janet Zand, OMD, Allan N. Spreen, MD and James B. LaValle, ND; 1999
- Help Guide: Antidepressants: What You Need to Know About Depression Medication
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.