Peppermint tea is one of the most popular herbal teas in the United Kingdom, and not without reason. This tea has been soothing stomachs for generations, but as we’ll discover in this guide, its health benefits may extend far beyond digestion.
The Health Benefits of Peppermint
Peppermint (mentha piperita) is used as a flavouring in everything from drinks to confectionary and toothpaste, but the best way to benefit from its consumption is to drink it as a tea. It has a very pleasant, fresh flavour and is great on its own or with a little sugar/honey.
Regular consumption of peppermint tea could help:
1. Ease Digestive Issues
Some of the best-known health benefits of peppermint tea concern the digestive tract, and there is a lot of research to back up these claims. A 2014 meta-analysis looked at a total of 9 studies covering 726 patients and concluded that peppermint oil was a safe and effective remedy for IBS. (1) It was considerably more effective at reducing IBS symptoms than the placebo, but researchers also noted that the subjects given peppermint oil were more likely to suffer from heartburn, an issue we’ve discussed in greater detail at the bottom of this page.
Peppermint oil and tea have also proven to be effective at reducing abdominal pain related to indigestion and gas and may also be effective at reducing bloat. For this reason, many sufferers of digestive issues, including food intolerances, have turned to peppermint tea to cure their ails.
2. Reduce the Appetite
A lot of teas labelled as weight-loss teas are nothing more than diuretics and/or laxatives, as discussed in our guide to the Truth About Weight-Loss Teas. There are some diamonds in the rough, though, and while peppermint tea is not exactly one of them (dandelion tea is more effective), there has been some very promising research.
One of the few human trials on peppermint and weight loss found that it could reduce gastric pressure and appetite, potentially leading to weight loss and reduced bloat. (2) Other studies, on animals, have suggested that it can also lead to weight loss, with the general consensus being that this is the result of a reduced appetite.
3. Soothes and Relaxes
The menthol in peppermint may provide a number of additional benefits when consumed and when breathed in (in the form of a mist, or even a hot cup of tea) and when applied directly. It is a mild muscle relaxant and may also help promote blood flow. A few studies support these claims, but not all are as extensive as we would like. However, we do know that the compounds in peppermint can provide an immediately uplifting and soothing sensation, as anyone who has consumed it or inhaled it can attest.
4. Kill Bacteria
Peppermint is antibacterial and has shown to be effective at killing bacteria on contact in much the same way as thymol, a compound found in oregano and thyme. This won’t be much help to the average tea drinker, as all of the studies in this field have been limited to oral bacteria and have used peppermint oil extracts, but it suggests that a strong cup of peppermint tea could help wash away some of that bacteria and cut down on plaque formation as it goes down.
This is actually one of the reasons peppermint is used in chewing gum, mouthwash, and toothpaste.
Other Benefits of Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea has been recommended for the treatment of menstrual cramps, but there isn’t a great deal of research to back this up. One of the most cited studies used extracts of peppermint alongside mefanamic acid, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and found some efficiency when both were used together, while also reporting that peppermint was somewhat effective on its own. (3)
But while patients in the peppermint group were less likely to suffer common NSAID side effects, they were also more likely to reach for painkillers, suggesting that it is not as effective but could potentially be used as a complementary therapy. There are also studies pointing to its efficiency at treating chronic fatigue, but again, the studies are few and far between and were conducted for extracts and not tea.
Peppermint versus Spearmint
Many consumers mix up spearmint and peppermint or assume they are one and the same. And it’s easy to see why—they look, smell, and even taste very similar. They also have some of the same benefits.
But these are two different plants, with the main difference being that peppermint contains considerably more menthol than spearmint, making its flavour and its scent considerably more pronounced.
Peppermint is actually a cross between spearmint and watermint, so it wouldn’t exist without spearmint.
If you find peppermint too strong, there’s a good chance it’s the menthol you’re adverse to, in which case you may be better off with spearmint. If you’re a big fan of one and have never tried the other, it’s well worth giving it a go.
We have a complete guide on spearmint tea here if you want to learn more about this particular variety of mint.
Indigestion and Heartburn
Peppermint is one of the most common herbal cures for indigestion. This is far from an old wive’s tale, as it really can help with indigestion and, as mentioned above, a variety of other digestive issues.
However, that does not include heartburn. There is some confusion about this, as many people mix up indigestion and heartburn—they hear that peppermint can cure the former and assume it can also help with the latter. Actually, peppermint tea is more likely to cause heartburn, especially in individuals suffering from chronic acid reflux, a condition known as GERD.
Peppermint relaxes the oesophageal sphincter, which reduces its resistance and allows the contents of the stomach to flow into the oesophagus, causing heartburn. This relaxation reaction is one of the reasons peppermint is so effective at soothing other digestive issues.
Side Effects of Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea, like anything, should be consumed in moderation, as it can cause some unpleasant side effects when consumed to excess, including headaches. It should be avoided by anyone allergic to plants in the mint family and any related plants, and as mentioned above, caution is also advised with those suffering from GERD.