All The Benefits Of Peppermint Tea: Better Digestion, Focus & More
Peppermint tea is more than just a palate-cleansing nightcap. While it certainly leaves you feeling minty fresh, the herb also has some serious health benefits. Here's why you should consider adding it to your well-being routine.
What to know about peppermint.
Peppermint, more officially called Mentha piperita, is a natural hybrid of spearmint and watermint. It gets its minty taste and signature cooling properties from menthol, but its leaves also contain menthone and limonene, two other essential oils.
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While peppermint has become synonymous with breath-freshening, this ancient herb has a long history of medicinal use. It dates all the way back to ancient Egypt (Cool fact: there's evidence that dried peppermint leaves were found in tombs inside the pyramids), when it was used for everything from combating headaches to improving digestion. Some even called peppermint one of the most versatile herbs in the world, a title it shares with lavender.
Peppermint tea is made from steeping fresh or dried peppermint leaves in hot water. As the leaves sit in the water, the essential oils are released and you get to reap the benefits as you sip it.
Benefits of peppermint tea.
Before jumping into the benefits of peppermint tea, it's worth noting that most available research features peppermint oil, specifically. While peppermint tea does contain peppermint oil, capsules and essential oils typically have more concentrated doses. That being said, there's lots of anecdotal evidence and logical conclusions that can be applied to peppermint tea based on the research and expert insights.
1. Helps with digestion
Digestion support is one of the most talked-about (and sought-after) benefits of peppermint tea. "Mint seems to relax the digestive system, promoting overall digestion," registered dietitian Isabel Smith, R.D., CDN, says. Peppermint tea may also help soothe an upset stomach, reduce nausea, and ease bloating following a too-large meal.
2. May improve focus and memory
In one small study published in a 2008 issue of the International Journal of Neuroscience, researchers worked with 144 volunteers to see how peppermint and another essential oil, ylang-ylang, affected their focus and memory. After a series of cognitive tests, the researchers reported that just sniffing peppermint essential oil—the main ingredient in peppermint tea—increased alertness, enhanced memory, and improved processing speed, or the time it took for the volunteers to make sense of new information they were given.
3. Eases headaches
Peppermint acts as a muscle relaxer and a pain reliever—two properties that can ease headaches and migraines. "Peppermint oil can help migraines, muscle tension, cold symptoms and coughs, and more," says Taz Bhatia, M.D., integrative medicine physician and mbg Collective member. "The leaves contain menthol, and the oils can have many vitamins and nutrients including magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A and C."
4. May improve sleep
Because peppermint acts as a muscle relaxer, it may also help ease tension before bed and improve your sleep. There's still a need for more research, but just the act of sipping tea reduces stress and helps you relax, and since peppermint tea is naturally caffeine-free, it's a good pre-bedtime choice.
5. Fights off free radicals
Peppermint has strong antioxidant properties and can help stave off free radicals—unstable molecules that contribute to aging, illness, and chronic diseases. While not as antioxidant-rich as black and green teas, peppermint tea has one of the highest antioxidant activities when compared to other herbal teas.
6. Helps you breathe easier
If you're sick or experiencing chronic congestion, sipping (and smelling) peppermint tea may help. "Peppermint leaves naturally contain menthol, which clears the sinuses and opens up your nasal passages," says functional and integrative medicine practitioner Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C. "It can also help soothe any nausea you may be experiencing."
7. Makes your skin glow
Peppermint is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial, and it has some pretty serious cooling properties. Because of this, it can contribute to glowing skin by soothing redness and calming acne. Sipping on tea may not get the job done, but you can apply tea bags directly to your face or put it into a spray bottle and spritz when needed. (Just make sure to avoid your eyes.)
Who should sip and who should avoid.
Peppermint tea has a lot going for it, but that doesn't mean it's a good choice for everyone. While most people can safely sip peppermint tea, there are some groups that should avoid it.
If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), talk to your doctor before adding peppermint tea to your routine. Because peppermint tea relaxes the muscles, it can affect the muscle connecting your esophagus to your stomach, which can make acid reflux worse. You should also use caution if you have a bile duct, gallbladder, and/or liver disorder, hiatal hernia, or kidney stones.
Pregnant or breastfeeding people should avoid peppermint tea in large amounts. If you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant, chat with your doctor before making the beverage part of your routine.
Peppermint can also interact with certain medications, so double-check labels and talk to your doctor or pharmacist before sipping.
How to make homemade peppermint tea.
There's no shortage of commercially prepared peppermint tea available, but it's really easy to make your own if you want it to be as fresh as possible. Here's what to do:
- Gather a handful of mint leaves, either from the grocery store or your herb garden. About 20 leaves should do the trick. Crush and/or muddle them, then set aside.
- Add 2 cups of filtered water to a tea kettle or pot, and bring it to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and then add the mint leaves. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Pour mixture through a tea strainer (or pour into a mug as is if you like to chew on the leaves) and transfer to your favorite tea-sipping mug.
The bottom line.
Peppermint tea is well known for promoting healthy digestion, but the ancient herb may also ease tension headaches and migraines, improve sleep, and clear your sinuses to help you breathe better. While most people can tolerate peppermint tea without any issues, if you have an underlying medical issue or you're taking medication, you should discuss the dietary change with your doctor to get the "all clear" first.