Ambulation-promoting effect of peppermint oil and identification of its active constituents

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. Jul-Aug 2001;69(3-4):383-90. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(01)00543-3.


Various plant-derived essential oils (EOs) have traditionally been used in the treatment of mental disorders, despite a lack of scientific evidence. In a previous study, we demonstrated that certain EOs possess behavioral effects, a finding that supports our original hypotheses that EOs possess psychoactive actions. The present study was conducted in order to obtain further evidence to support our hypothesis. Peppermint oil, a type of EO, is believed to be effective for treating mental fatigue. When the oil was administered intraperitoneally to ICR mice, the ambulatory activity of mice increased dramatically. We identified alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, (R)-(+)-limonene, 1,8-cineol, isomenthone, menthone, menthol, (R)-(+)-pulegone, menthyl acetate and caryophyllene as constituent elements of peppermint oil by GC-MS analysis. We then examined the effect of each constituent element of peppermint oil on ambulatory activity in mice. Intraperitoneal administration of 1,8-cineol, menthone, isomenthone, menthol, (R)-(+)-pulegone, menthyl acetate and caryophyllene significantly increased ambulatory activity in mice, suggesting that these chemicals are the behaviorally active elements of peppermint oil. Intravenous administration of these substances to mice induced a significant increase in ambulatory activity at much lower doses. The present study provides further evidence demonstrating that EOs possess pharmacological actions on behavior. In addition, our finding revealed that the action of peppermint oil comes from its constituent elements.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipruritics / pharmacology
  • Bicyclic Monoterpenes
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Male
  • Menthol / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Monoterpenes*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Oils, Volatile / analysis
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology
  • Parasympatholytics / analysis
  • Parasympatholytics / pharmacology*
  • Plant Oils / analysis
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Terpenes / pharmacology


  • Antipruritics
  • Bicyclic Monoterpenes
  • Monoterpenes
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Parasympatholytics
  • Plant Oils
  • Terpenes
  • Menthol
  • peppermint oil
  • alpha-pinene