The Health Benefits and Side Effects of Peppermint Tea

Learn how this herbal beverage can soothe many discomforts

Illustration of the health benefits of peppermint tea

Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018 

Herbal teas (also known as tisanes or infusions) have been used for centuries as natural remedies for a wide range of ailments and to support overall health and wellness. Of all the healthy herbal teas in the world, peppermint tea is one of the most widely used and the most respected. A delicious and soothing beverage, peppermint tea is commonly recommended by alternative healers, herbalists, and others as a treatment for various ailments and as a general health tonic with diverse benefits for the body and mind.

Relieves Headaches

For some headache sufferers, painkillers are unnecessary and you might be one of these lucky folk. The next time you have a killer headache, try reaching for some fresh or dried peppermint leaves instead of aspirin or other painkillers. After a few minutes of steeping and sipping, you might find that your pain disappears without any side effects or unnecessary medications.

Peppermint tea is often effective in stopping headaches that are caused by stress or poor diet. These headaches typically restrict blood vessels in the brain; like painkillers, peppermint tea opens up those constricted blood vessels, bringing relief to many headache sufferers.

Even the aroma of peppermint tea (or peppermint oil) may help headaches, as well as colds. Think of it as aromatherapy in your teacup.

Clears Sinuses

Menthol is the naturally occurring chemical that gives peppermint its refreshing, icy-hot flavor and sensation. Menthol also fights sinus problems by calming inflamed mucous membranes in the sinuses and throat, thinning mucus (so it is less likely to block the sinus passageways and impede comfortable breathing) and acting as a decongestant (breaking up phlegm and mucous congestion). Just breathing the steam from peppermint tea also can break up phlegm and thin mucus.

Soothes an Upset Stomach

Peppermint tea is sometimes referred to as "the stomach healer" because it is known to soothe many gastrointestinal ailments, including stomach aches, stomach pains, stomach cramps, heartburn, gas/flatulence, indigestion and diarrhea, and to promote healthy digestion. It is particularly effective after a meal, before bed—especially if you had a late dinner and experience heartburn—or at the onset of stomach problems.

Because peppermint oil has been shown to effectively treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), many healthcare practitioners believe that drinking peppermint tea regularly may help with the condition.

Improves Mental Clarity

Peppermint tea has been shown to improve brain function by making you more mentally alert (despite being naturally caffeine-free), improving memory retrieval, and reducing stress. It's been shown to help commuters drive more safely (its calming effect may reduce traffic-related frustration) and to ease anxiety in test-takers.

Fights Menstrual Cramps

The anti-spasmodic effect of menthol eases constricting muscles—particularly those in the walls of the uterus. Drinking two or three cups a day of peppermint tea during the days leading up to and during menstruation helps soothe menstrual cramps for many women.

How to Make Peppermint Tea

Start with fresh or dried peppermint leaves (the dried ones can be bought in teabags, in the bulk section of many grocery stores, or through tea retailers). You'll need about one tablespoon crushed, fresh leaves, or one teaspoon or teabag of dried leaves per cup of fresh water.

Add the peppermint to boiled water. Steep it for five minutes or slightly longer, up to about 12 minutes. (If you want it really strong, you can also boil the leaves.) Strain out the leaves or remove the teabag.

For maximum health benefits, it's best to drink peppermint tea while it's hot but not scalding. You can add a little sugar or honey, but it's better for your health if you don't (a little honey is OK if you have a sore throat).

You can blend peppermint with other herbs when you make your herbal tea. It's delicious with lavender, another stress reducer; ginger, a digestion aid; and fennel seeds, which are great for detox tea.

Peppermint Tea Side Effects

Although peppermint tea is an excellent health beverage, it has a few potential side effects. Avoid peppermint tea if you:

  • Suffer from GERD: Peppermint tea's relaxing properties can cause the sphincter muscle of the stomach and esophagus to relax more, exacerbating acid reflux.
  • Are pregnant: In extreme cases, over-consumption of peppermint tea can cause uterine relaxation and could lead to miscarriage.

In some rare cases, peppermint tea may interact with medications. If you are concerned about a potential drug interaction, check the drug's warnings or consult with your doctor.

Peppermint tea is generally considered to be a very safe, effective, natural remedy. If you have any concerns or questions about the side effects or health benefits of peppermint tea, talk with your doctor or consult an herbalist.