Peppermint: Aromatherapy’s Incredible Hulk


Although a life-long fan of fantasy and science fiction, I am only a recent (last 5 years or so) follower of comic books. The Avengers and the spin-off movies and TV shows get credit for this. Brilliant coordination by Marvel. (Picture credit: Disney Marvel Studios)

My experience of one of these heroes, The Hulk, goes back to the early ‘80s TV show. Mostly, I knew that this green character was a good guy until he got angry and then his shirt would rip apart (etched detail in the memory of a child). I remember he would try to do good but was reckless and resembled more of a bull in a china closet than a cavalier knight.

The main character, Doctor Bruce Banner, was brilliantly intelligent and capable of great love, yet emotionally fractured and quite dangerous. I explain the essential oil peppermint to clients and colleagues as being slightly like The Hulk. Peppermint, like Bruce Banner, is a highly intelligent and healing oil. Unfortunately, like The Incredible Hulk, it is unpredictable and if used recklessly could cause harm.

If you invest in just a handful of oils, I suggest that peppermint be one of the first as it is so versatile. However, it is also an oil found on many caution lists, especially not for use in children under 3 or used with an abundance of caution. Peppermint is an even and highly effective oil, yet contains some components that bring with it specific risks. Think of sweet Doctor Banner and alien bashing Hulk.

My go to uses for peppermint are also ones that frequently have easy to identify commercial counterparts. These reflect the aromatic value as they tend towards the “minty” scent:

  1. Digestion – Pepto-Bismol.
  2. Sore muscles – Ben Gay
  3. Cold and cough – Mentholatum/ Vicks
  4. Bug bites
  5. Fever reduction

The Bruce Banner character qualities of peppermint are preventative and healing. Great power is found in the chemical components limonene and pinene. Limonene is found in most citrus oils, lime being the beginning sound. Pinene is found in conifer oils like pine, again the introductory syllable. We know citrus oils and pine oils are used for cleaning, think lemony Pine-sol. They are effective in cleaning and wellness because of their antimicrobial functions, central to healers.

The Hulk properties of peppermint are breathtaking and burning. Peppermint contains menthol. The chemical component menthol is to be used with caution with children both topically and inhaled. Oils high in menthol have a small risk of side effects which might impact the central nervous system and/or the respiratory system in small children. It is safe to use after testing in children OVER the age of 30 months, but in decreased amounts.

The story of the Incredible Hulk is dominated by Bruce Banner trying to “tame” his inner Hulk. Given the right circumstances and will – he can do this and his power used for good, rather than destruction Peppermint is on the cautionary lists of the aromatherapy world, like The Hulk a notorious danger. However, when looking at a chart of injuries from essential oils in the past few years, peppermint is not the big monster, misuse is. Only one injury appeared to be a child under 3 with breathing (seizure actually) issues and that was combined with a known trigger –eucalyptus. Most injuries were caused by oils not necessarily on the naughty list, just oils that were undiluted/ under-diluted or improperly ingested.

Most injuries in our world are not caused by monsters like in comic books. They are caused by everyday items which are accidentally or intentionally misused (like cars or knives).  Most of the time our world is filled with Bruce Banners, but a little knowledge of the Hulk could help if you live in the land of Marvel Comics where there are dangers. Same goes for essential oils in general and peppermint in particular. Although peppermint is an oil that should evoke a thought of caution, used with prudence it is one of the most versatile and valuable for a medicine cabinet (or in my case ready for anything as it is resting safely in the bottom of my purse).

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REFERENCE: In September, 2015 National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy recommended not using peppermint in children under 30 months.<br> Reference: <br>Source Facebook: Robert Tisserand Essential Training September 3 post including comments.

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