Peppermint is one of the most popular scents and flavors in the western world. Why is that, exactly? Because of the candy cane. What is peppermint oil good for? Well, in 1670, the choirmaster of the cathedral in the German city of Cologne discovered that peppermint was good for flavoring sugary snacks to give to his young singers to keep them quiet during the Live Nativity. To honor the season and the celebration of the nativity, the choirmaster had the candies bent into shepherds’ crooks. That is how candy canes and peppermint became associated with the Christmas season.1
Beyond the holidays, peppermint is a fragrance found in soaps, cosmetics, and lip balms. It’s in candy, gum, and tea. Peppermint oil is one of the most popular essential oils, but what is peppermint oil good for?
Peppermint is an aromatic herb and a hybrid mint, a cross between water mint and spearmint. Like most hybrids, peppermint is sterile. It reproduces with its ivy-like runners. If you’ve ever grown a runner-spread mint, you know they are voracious reproducers and quick growers that can swiftly overtake a garden. In many areas, wild peppermint is considered an invasive species because of this rapid and unchecked growth.
On the other hand, this speedy growth makes peppermint a highly sustainable ingredient. Peppermint occurs naturally in moist areas where its parent species are found, including places like stream sides or drainage ditches.
The main chemical components of peppermint oil are menthol and menthone, both of which create a cooling sensation when ingested, inhaled, or applied topically to the skin.2 There’s been little research on the use of peppermint oil in folk remedies and alternative medicine, but the oil has been used for centuries for a long list of reasons. Let’s take a look at just some of the many uses of peppermint oil.