Holiday Headaches: Break out the Peppermint?

Peppermint for your Headache?

In the spirit of holiday-themed writing, let’s address one of the inconveniences of stress and anxiety that sometimes accompanies holiday activities — headaches.

Peppermint Plant

Peppermint Plant via Flickr (Jill Robidoux)

Peppermint — that classic candy mint flavouring — appears to have some benefit for people suffering headaches. This came to my attention by virtue of some family and friends extolling the benefits of essential oils and their purported health benefits. With some investigation, I was surprised to find that peppermint (in the form of peppermint oil — not the minty candy) has at least a few research papers backing its effects on headaches.

For example, some older research (Gobel et al, 1996) found peppermint to be as effective as paracetamol (Tylenol) for tension-type headaches. Similarly, another paper suggests peppermint combined with other compounds were likewise effective (Gobel et al, 1994). More recently, migraine headaches were managed effectively by a 10% menthol solution — menthol is a primary component of peppermint — applied topically to the temples and forehead for relief of pain, nausea, and light or sound sensitivity caused by the migraine (Brogan Haghighi et al 2010).

Although this is limited research at best, if the more common strategies for relieving headaches of drinking more water, getting more sleep, or reaching for the nearest tylenol are ineffective, perhaps this is a viable alternative for you. According to Natural Medicines, peppermint oil is deemed “likely safe” for topical use — and it does have a “Generally Recognized as Safe” status by the FDA in the United States, so the dangers of peppermint application should be limited. (*However, since its use is usually oil-based and applied directly to the skin, you should be cautious of having a reaction to the oil — ie. increased redness, itchiness, rash, etc.)

Peppermint for Headaches?

So while I would be wary of trying to manage headaches by using peppermint alone — perhaps there is some benefit to be had if used in addition to other headache interventions. Read more about peppermint here if interested, and have a headache-free, happy holiday!

Dr. Jim GilliardDr. Jim Gilliard is a chiropractor in Burlington, ON at Endorphins Health and Wellness Centre — located in the Burlington Professional Centre at 3155 Harvester Road, Suite 406. If you have questions, comments, or wish to book an appointment, please feel free to contact him at your convenience.

Phone: (905) 634 – 6000

 Research References:
    1. Borhani Haghighi A, Motazedian S, Rezaii R, Mohammadi F, Salarian L, Pourmokhtari M, Khodaei S, Vossoughi M, Miri R. Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossed-over study. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 2010;64(4):451-6.
    1. Gobel H, Fresenius J, Heinze A, Dworschak M, Soyka D. Effectiveness of Oleum menthae piperitae and paracetamol in therapy of headache f the tension type. Der Nervenarzt, 1996;67(8):672-81.
  1. Gobel H, Schmidt G, Soyka D. Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters. Cephalalgia, 1994;14(3):228-34.

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