Chemical Composition and Antioxidant Properties of Essential Oils from Peppermint, Native Spearmint and Scotch Spearmint

Molecules. 2019 Aug 2;24(15):2825. doi: 10.3390/molecules24152825.


Natural antioxidants have drawn growing interest for use in animal feed and the food industry. In the current study, essential oils (EOs) obtained from hydrodistillation of three mentha species, including Mentha piperita (peppermint), Mentha spicata (native spearmint) and Mentha gracilis (Scotch spearmint), harvested in the Midwest region in the United States, were analyzed for their chemical composition using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and their antioxidant properties were assessed through chemical assays, in vitro cell culture modeling and in Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans). The activity of ferric iron reduction and free-radical scavenging capacity were assessed through chemical-based assays, including the reducing power assay, 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging assay, and Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity assay (TEAC). Subsequently, the capacity of EOs to mitigate lipid peroxidation was analyzed at various doses using fresh liver homogenates from pigs. A porcine jejunum epithelial cell line (IPEC-J2) was employed as in vitro model to study the cellular antioxidant activity of the mint EOs. Finally, the effectiveness of mint EOs to alleviate acute systemic oxidative damage were evaluated in vivo using C. elegans. Data were analyzed by the MIXED procedure of SAS. Contrast statement was performed to assess linear or quadratic effects of mint EOs given at various doses. All three EOs are mostly composed of monoterpenes and their derivatives (76-90%), but differed in the major compounds, which are menthol and menthone (50%) in peppermint EO and carvone (70%) in spearmint EOs. Three mint EOs demonstrated prominent radical scavenging and Fe3+ reducing activity in chemical-based assays. In comparison with native and Scotch spearmint EOs, peppermint EO had the lowest (p < 0.05) half maximal effective concentration (EC50) in DPPH and TEAC assays and higher efficacy in the reducing power assay. All three EOs exhibited equivalent activity in mitigation of chemical-induced lipid peroxidation in liver tissues in a dose-dependent manner (linear, p < 0.001). The maximal cellular antioxidant activity (CAA) was observed at 5 µg/mL for peppermint, and 100 µg/mL for native and Scotch spearmint EOs. The addition of 25 µg/mL of both spearmint EOs increased (p < 0.05) cellular concentrations of glutathione in H2O2-treated IPEC-J2 cells, suggesting enhanced endogenous antioxidant defense. Supplementation of 100 µg/mL of peppermint or Scotch spearmint EO significantly increased (p < 0.05) the survival rate of C. elegans in response to H2O2-induced oxidative stress. The protective effect is comparable to that of supplementation of 10 µg/mL of ascorbic acid. However native spearmint EO failed to reduce the death rate within the same supplementation dose (10-200 μg/mL).

Keywords: antioxidant activity; essential oil; peppermint; spearmint.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / chemistry*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Mentha piperita / chemistry*
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry*
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Phenols / chemistry
  • Phenols / pharmacology
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Swine


  • Antioxidants
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Phenols
  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Extracts