According to preliminary yet promising findings of a new study, athletes who enjoy adding a hint of peppermint into their water for flavor might find another benefit: improved performance during workouts.
Peppermint oil is among the most popular essential oils and known for its flavoring and fragrance properties. Peppermint is widely used in food, cosmetics, and even pharmaceutical products. One of the major components in peppermint essential oil is menthol, which is reported to have cooling and soothing effects when used topically after a workout (1).
However, more recent research is investigating the effects peppermint essential oil may have on markers of exercise performance. One study, published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, studied the effects when 12 healthy males in their 20s ingested 0.05 milliliters, about one to two drops, of peppermint essential oil mixed into 500 ml (about 16 ounces) of mineral water daily for 10 days (2). The study also measured markers of lung function and exercise performance using a standard treadmill exercise test before and after the 10-day intervention period.
After supplementation, researchers found significant improvements to lung function and other related parameters indicating enhanced respiratory output and energy expenditure during exercise. Work, power, vertical and horizontal distance, and time to exhaustion also improved significantly.
More research needs to be done to find the exact mechanisms for how consuming peppermint essential oil supports exercise performance, but existing evidence may possibly provide clues. Previous research has shown the main component in peppermint essential oil, menthol, supports strengthened lung function (3, 4).
There’s also extensive research showing aromas such as peppermint essential oil may affect physical performance by impacting cognitive performance, perceptions of physical exertion, and pain response (5-7).
This study and others offer promising insights into ways peppermint essential oil may improve exercise performance. Although the research did not specify when to consume the oil around exercise, it’s suggested that simply ingesting it daily may lead to results.
Otherwise, diffusing peppermint essential oil in the hours leading up to a workout for alertness or keeping it in a gym bag to apply topically on muscles after a workout might also support exercise performance.
- Johar P, Grover V, Topp R, Behm DG. (2012). A comparison of topical menthol to ice on pain, evoked tetanic and voluntary force during delayed onset muscle soreness. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Jun;7(3):314-22.
- Meamarbashi A, Rajabi A. The effects of peppermint on exercise performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013; 10: 15.
- Zänker KS, Tölle W, Blümel G, Probst J. Evaluation of surfactant-like effects of commonly used remedies for colds. Respiration. 1980;39:150–157.
- Tamaoki J, Chiyotani A, Sakai A, Takemura H, Konno K. Effect of menthol vapour on airway hyperresponsiveness in patients with mild asthma. Respir Med. 1995;89:503–504.
- Raudenbush B, Smith J, Graham K, McCune A. Effects of peppermint odor administration on augmenting basketball performance during game play. Chem Senses. 2005;30:265–278.
- Raudenbush B. The effects of odors on objective and subjective measures of physical performance. The Aroma-Chology Review. 2000;9:1–5.
- Raudenbush B, Corley N, Eppich W. Enhancing athletic performance through the administration of peppermint odor. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2001;23:156–160.