The millions of Americans with diabetes must constantly try to keep their blood sugar under control, often searching for natural options that might help. One idea that often comes up is peppermint, particularly peppermint tea. Though it sounds like a sweet idea, does it really work?
What's Known and Not Known
As far as direct impacts on diabetes symptoms, such as lowering blood sugar or controlling complications, there's not a lot of research supporting peppermint's role in these areas.
"While there are potentially several medicinal benefits of peppermint, the available evidence surrounding the use of peppermint for diabetes is extremely limited," says Christopher Westrick, PharmD, a pharmacist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.
"There have been a few studies designed to evaluate the effect of peppermint in rats with diabetes, with results suggestive of a possible benefit. However, how that would translate into a human is unknown." Westrick adds that "the correct amount or form of peppermint would need to be further determined, as well as the safety of long-term use of peppermint as a treatment."
Despite the slight bit of promise shown in animal studies, the reality (as is the case with many herbal remedies and supplements) is that more research is needed. For example, an August 2017 review article of the benefits of peppermint in the Archives of Clinical Microbiology barely mentions the potential use of peppermint for diabetes. Likewise, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health cites no diabetes-related benefits.
The few times that peppermint does show up in medical literature as a treatment for diabetes, it's only in a supportive role. For example, the Cleveland Clinic notes that peppermint candies can be useful for raising blood sugar if it's too low.
Read more: Peppermint Candy Health Risks
What's more, taking peppermint can pose some risks, says Marlisa Brown, RD, CDE, a dietician and certified diabetes educator in Deer Park, New York, and a spokesperson for the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.
"In many cases it is safe to try peppermint, but it is important to check with a pharmacy and doctor prior to using peppermint medicinally, especially in oils or in higher doses," she says. "The reason for this is it may interact with several medications, such as some cholesterol meds, some blood pressure meds and autoimmune suppressants."
Other Natural Remedies for Diabetes
Though peppermint may not be the solution for diabetes control, the Mayo Clinic notes that a number of lifestyle factors can play a crucial role in regulating blood sugar and keeping diabetes complications under control. For example, losing weight through healthy eating and regular exercise is one of the most important steps in managing blood sugar.
The Mayo Clinic suggests gaining better control by consuming fewer calories and fewer refined carbohydrates and by eating more foods with fiber, as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables. Regular physical activity can also play a key role in keeping blood sugar under control. Put it all together with sustained weight loss, and it can lead to a decrease in diabetes complications, as well as less reliance on diabetes medications.
Is This an Emergency?
- Mayo Clinic: “Type 2 Diabetes”
- Archives of Clinical Microbiology: “Peppermint and Its Functionality: A Review”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar): Management and Treatment”
- Christopher Westrick, PharmD, pharmacist, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio
- Marlisa Brown, MS, RD, CDE, dietician, certified diabetes educator, Deer Park, New York, and spokesperson, Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Peppermint Oil"