The fragrant, medicinal leaves of the peppermint plant have an extensive history of use in traditional medicine. The refined oil of this plant contains medicinal concentrations of menthol, which demosntrates promise as a holistic treatment for heartburn, tension headaches, colon spasms and irritable bowel syndrome. In general, peppermint oil is safe and effective when it is used cautiously under a health care provider’s guidance.
However, there are some peppermint oil contraindicatons– circumstances under which a person should not use peppermint oil by mouth. Do not use peppermint oil if any of the following situations describe you.
Peppermint oil has only been studied for use in adults and children over eight years of age. No clinical trials have evaluated peppermint oil’s safety or efficacy in younger children. Until more is known about the effects of peppermint on a child’s development, it is inadvisable to use peppermint oil in young children. Consult your health care provider if you have any questions about the use of holistic medicine for kids.
Although peppermint is safe for pregnant women in the amounts found in food, isolated peppermint oil supplements have not been studied for their safety during any stage of gestation. In theory, peppermint oil supplements may contribute to pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, preterm labor, stillbirth and birth defects. Unless your obstetrician or midwife explicitly recommends peppermint oil, do not take it during pregnancy.
Peppermint oil may decrease a mother’s supply of breast milk, so lactaton is sometimes regarded as a peppermint oil contraindication. Potentially dangerous chemicals in peppermint oil, such as menthol, may also cross into breast milk and trigger side effects in the nursing child.
People with Achlorydria
If you have achlorhydria, a digestive disease in whic the stomach produces no hydrochloric acid, you should not take peppermint oil supplements. The coating on these products may dissolve too early if you have this condition, leading to an increased risk of side effects. Consult your health care provider about other drugs and supplements that are not recommended for people with achlorhydria.
There are some other risks associated with peppermint oil supplements. Visit the National Institutes of Health website for more information about peppermint oil contraindications.