The Surprising Benefits of Peppermint Oil for Runners

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Attention runners! Are you looking for a natural way to boost your endurance and take your performance to the next level? The answer may be as simple as incorporating peppermint essential oil into your pre-race routine.

Peppermint, a popular herb known for its refreshing aroma and cooling sensation, has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various ailments. However, recent research suggests that peppermint essential oil may also have the potential to enhance athletic performance, particularly in runners.

A randomized, double-blind, cross-over, and controlled study conducted by Miranda Neto et al. (2023) investigated the effects of peppermint essential oil on the physical performance of male recreational runners.1 The study involved fourteen participants with an average age of 37.1 ± 2.0 years, a body mass index of 24 ± 1.1 kg/m2, and a VO2max of 53.1 ± 1.7 mL·kg·min.1

The study design required the runners to perform two runs to exhaustion at 70% of their VO2max. Before each run, the participants consumed 500 mL of water mixed with either 0.05 mL of peppermint essential oil (PEO) or a placebo (PLA).1 During the initial part of the exercise, they also consumed an additional 400 mL of the assigned drink.1

The researchers measured various parameters, including body temperature (BT), thermal sensation (TS), thermal comfort (TC), subjective perception of effort (SPE), sweat rate (SR), and urine volume and density.1 The primary outcome of interest was the time to exhaustion, which serves as an indicator of endurance performance.

The results of the study were striking. The time to exhaustion was significantly longer in the PEO group, with an average of 109.9 ± 6.9 minutes, compared to 98.5 ± 6.2 minutes in the PLA group (p = 0.009; effect size: 0.826).1 This finding suggests that consuming peppermint essential oil before and during a race can enhance the endurance of recreational runners.

Interestingly, the study found no significant changes in body temperature, thermal sensation, thermal comfort, subjective perception of effort, sweat rate, lost body mass, or urine volume and density between the two groups,1 This indicates that the performance-enhancing effects of peppermint essential oil may not be related to changes in thermoregulation or hydration status.

The exact mechanisms behind the performance-enhancing effects of peppermint essential oil remain unclear. However, previous research has suggested that the menthol content in peppermint may have a role in reducing the perception of effort and fatigue during exercise.2,3 Additionally, peppermint has been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which may contribute to its ability to improve athletic performance.4

While the findings of this study are promising, it is important to note that the sample size was relatively small, and the participants were limited to male recreational runners. Further research is needed to confirm these results in larger and more diverse populations, as well as to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of action.

In conclusion, the study by Miranda Neto et al. (2023) provides evidence that consuming peppermint essential oil before and during a race can significantly improve the endurance of recreational runners. This natural performance booster may offer a safe and effective alternative to synthetic supplements, although more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits and limitations. As always, runners should consult with their healthcare providers before incorporating new supplements into their training regimens.

Learn more about the health benefits of peppermint here.

Learn more about natural ways to boost athletic performance here.


References

1. Miranda Neto, M., Meireles, A. C. F., Alcântara, M. A., Cordeiro, A. M. T. de M., & Silva, A. S. (2023). Peppermint essential oil (Mentha piperita L.) increases time to exhaustion in runners. European Journal of Nutrition, 62(8), 3411-3422. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-023-03235-4

2. Hsu, A. R., Chen, J., Knee, E., Chen, L., & Narayanasamy, S. (2022). Menthol: The mechanisms underlying its performance-enhancing effects in sport and exercise. Sports Medicine - Open, 8(1), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-021-00401-y

3. Stevens, C. J., & Best, R. (2017). Menthol: A fresh ergogenic aid for athletic performance. Sports Medicine, 47(6), 1035-1042. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-016-0652-4

4. McKay, D. L., & Blumberg, J. B. (2006). A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytotherapy Research, 20(8), 619-633. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.1936

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