Peppermint Essential Oil and Physical Performance

Article Written by Tom Nikkola

One afternoon, while taking a “mental break”, I did some searching on Pubmed for studies on peppermint essential oil (yes, for me that’s a mental break).

After a few clicks, I was immersed in studies and papers on peppermint essential oil. As often happens when I enter the research rabbit hole, time got away from me as one study led to another.

I found myself fascinated by what nature provides, in the way of natural support for optimal health and fitness.

Peppermint essential oil contains more than 40 key constituents. However, three constituents make up most of the volume of peppermint essential oil. They are methone, methyl acetate, and menthol.[i]

Because of the variety of constituents in peppermint, like other essential oils, it provides a variety of seemingly unrelated health benefits for us.

Peppermint & Performance

Peppermint essential oil is a nervous system stimulant. Not in the way that ephedrine is a stimulant, but it does stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).*

Even though it stimulates the SNS, when used over time, it may actually lower resting and exercising heart rate.*

In one study, participants were given one drop of peppermint essential oil (50 µl) on the tongue.

By the way, if you “try this at home” using pure, therapeutic-grade peppermint essential oil, use just one drop. It is potent, and if you use two or three it can be overpowering. 

Grip strength, vertical jump, standing long jump, visual and auditory reaction time, and heart rate variability were all measured. All improved five minutes after peppermint essential oil was placed on the tongue. All measures were still significantly improved, compared to the control group, one hour after taking the peppermint.[ii]

For strength training, peppermint looks promising, but for athletes who also need to optimize their reaction times, peppermint could be especially beneficial.*

Another study on peppermint was published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. In this study, participants were told to drink one 500 ml bottle of mineral water each day for 10 days. The mineral water had 0.05 mL peppermint in it, which is the equivalent of about one drop.

After 10 days, lung capacity and blood lactate levels during exercise improved. Carbohydrate metabolism also increased, which suggested an increase in the energy production in muscle tissue. Heart rate during exercise and at rest also improved.[iii]

In a treadmill stress test, participants using peppermint had increased their workload. Their measured “frustration,” which was used as a sign of mental stress, was also lower.[iv]

Still another study showed that inhalation of peppermint led to a decreased quarter-mile run time, and increased push-up and grip strength performance.[v][v]

Pretty impressive, huh?

My wife and I visited Charles in November of 2015, and found out he used Young Living Essential Oils in his gym in the late 90’s!  I wasn’t surprised, since Charles is always ahead of mainstream with his training and nutrition methods. Of course, he was diffusing peppermint in his gym way back then!

Personally, I put 2-3 drops on my forearms, before heading to the gym on some days. Other days, I’ll put a couple drops in my water bottle and sip on it during my workout. Give it a try!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Article Written by Tom Nikkola
Prior to joining Healthy Living How To, Tom had a successful career managing nutrition, supplement, lab & metabolic testing, and weight loss businesses at Life Time Fitness. He has written hundreds of articles, two e-books, and has lectured on a variety of health topics. Today, Tom works side-by-side with his wife Vanessa, as well as consults with various health and fitness brands on their business and education strategy.

[i]Sun Z, Wang H, Wang J, et al. Chemical Composition and Anti-Inflammatory, Cytotoxic and Antioxidant Activities of Essential Oil from Leaves of Mentha piperita Grown in China. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(12): 3114767

[ii]Meamarbashi A. Instant effects of peppermint essential oil on the physiological parameters and exercise performance. Avic J Phytomed. 2013;4(1)72-78

[iii]Meamarbashi A, Rajabi A. The effects of peppermint on exercise performance. JISSN. 2013;10:15

[iv]Raudenbush B, Corley N, Eppich W. Enhancing athletic performance through the administration of peppermint odor. 2001. J Sport Exer Psych. 2001;23:156-160

[v]Raudenbush B, Meyer B, Eppich W. Effects of odor administration on objective and subjective measures of athletic performance. Int Sport J. 2002;6:1-15



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