Peppermint essential oil tends to be steam distilled from the flowers of the Mentha x piperita plant, a hybrid plant. High pressure distillation seems to be the norm, but it could be infused or even water distilled. The oils become the essential oil, the water soluble portion becomes peppermint hydrosol. It's one of the more popular essential oils, with 3300 metric tons produced in 2008. (I know I bought about 4 pounds that year!)
Peppermint essential oil might undergo rectification, a redistillation of crude oils intended to remove something unpleasant. In the case of peppermint, it can be done under a vacuum to remove sulfur compounds. For something like eucalyptus, it might be done to increase the amount of something like eucalyptol.
Peppermint essential oil is reported to be a digestion aid, headache reliever, reducer of nausea or travel sickness, soother of sore throats, respiration helper, and anti-spasmodic. We tend to use it in our products because it offers a perception of coolness to our skin.
Peppermint essential oils is composed of 38% to 48% menthol (a monoterpene), 20% to 30% menthone, and about 6% 1,8-cineole (aka eucalyptol, which we discussed in the post on eucalyptus!)
Peppermint considered a thermoreceptor agonist - in other words, it makes our skin feel hot or cold even though there's been no change in temperature. (You might remember from the post on eucalyptus essential oil). It makes our skin feel a little colder, which is why we include it in pain relief essential oil blends, as well as foot related products. I love to use it in a cooling spray along with spearmint and a little menthol. This is thanks to the menthol which "interacts with TRPM8, the cool-sensitive thermoreceptor" (click here to read more!). Because of this nifty feature, you'll want to keep peppermint related items away from mucous membranes and tender areas. I know the Vicks' blend bath bomb sounds like a good idea, but take a moment and think about it.
Add peppermint oil at up to 1% in the cool down phase of your products. You can also use peppermint essential oil in cooking - add a drop or two to some chocolate for a minty sensation or add some to a simple syrup and use it as an additive to a cocktail (do not use it at 1% in your cooking products!!! Too much!0. Just remember that peppermint essential oil is an oil soluble ingredient, so you will need an emulsifier if you want to add a significant amount to either a body care or eating product!
Join me tomorrow to take a look at the science behind peppermint!