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Peppermint: A minty fresh repellent

peppermint tea

photo credit: tee 1 by inasaka

I hope this has never happened to you. We recently moved into our new apartment with our 6 month old son, and were horrified to see a mouse scurry across the room. The next morning I noticed droppings on our half-unpacked boxes, the floor, the baby’s toybox, and even on our comforter in our bed!!!! It was reviling.

I was desperately trying to find a clean and safe way to rid our home of these unwanted visitors. Also, the fact that we have a 6 month old baby on the verge of crawling made this situation exponentially challenging. I was told by another mom to try peppermint oil because mice hate the smell of peppermint. Simply soak a cotton ball with peppermint oil and rub it it in the corners of your home or near the threshold, if they are coming from the outside. This was a much more appealing solution than trying the traditional poisonous traps, the sticky traps, or the spring-loaded mice traps that would have posed a grave threat to my curious 6 month old. A side effect was a minty fresh smelling home.

Curious, I did a little bit of research on peppermint oil. I could not find any articles describing its’ mouse-repelling properties, but I did learn that it has a wide application for many different health conditions. Peppermint oil is virucidal(can kill viruses) against herpes simplex one (HSV -1) and herpes simplex two(HSV- 2). It is also effective against acyclovir-resistant strains of HSV-1. Additionally, peppermint oil is found to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity as well as anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, and anti-allergenic properties.

Peppermint oil has been shown to relax smooth muscle cells. These are the muscle cells of the gut. It is useful in treating Irritable bowel syndrome. However, it should be enteric-coated ( have a protective coating) so that it will not cause relaxation of the esophogeal sphincter(located where the esophagus joins the stomach). This can cause acid reflux and heartburn.

It has been shown to relax the colon via a peppermint enema during GI procedures. It has also been shown in a preparation with caraway oil to relieve symptoms of non-ulcer dyspepsia (bloating, fullness, and gastrointestinal spasm) . Additionally, application of peppermint oil topically has been shown to reduce and end symptoms of tension headaches.

Inspite of its potential health benefits, peppermint oil can be highly toxic at very large doses. It has been associated with acute renal failure and acute interstitial nephritis. It can stimulate the gall bladder and it contraindicated in patients with gall stones or gall bladder infection. In patients with reflux or a hiatal hernia it is relatively contraindicated as it can cause worsening of symptoms by relaxing the lower esophagus.

It can trigger menstruation, and should be not be used by pregnant women. In children, it should not be used internally or near the face because it can cause spasms of the tongue, the bronchi, and lead to respiratory arrest. However, the amount in over the counter medications, teas, and lotions or other topical products is minimal and unlikely to cause such grave, untoward effects.

Other side effects include allergic reactions, perianal burning, hearburn, nausea and vomiting. It inhibits liver enzymes and can slow the degradation of certain medications. This may lead to increased blood levels of these medications.

Peppermint oil, though seemingly harmless, should be used with care.


1. Pubmed: Phytomedicine

2. Pubmed: Microbios

3. Phytotherapy Research

4. American Family Physician


  Kate wrote @ June 17th, 2008 at 8:33 pm

I am curious whether the peppermint oil worked for you — I currently have a mouse problem and do not like killing animals. I previously put cotton balls with a couple drops of peppermint oil on them around the house, but it didn’t seem to be enough. I’m trying actually applying the oil to the floor now, we’ll see if that works. Thanks for the idea :)

  neelam wrote @ June 19th, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Hi Kate,

I tried the peppermint oil and the ultrasonic repellents and have been lucky so far. Also, i think it is impt. to close up any openings or holes in your home. especially where the pipes of the sink, fridge, stove, dishwasher come out…these could be pathways for mice. You can use polyurethane, or steel wool, something they won’t be able to gnaw through. My condolences to you for having to deal with this annoying and challenging situation. It is hard to be humane when you are reviled and grossed out. The fact that you are still trying and thinking about it deserves a lot of credit to you and respect.

Neelam Misra

  Andrea McMann wrote @ August 6th, 2008 at 10:30 am

Hi Neelam,

I originally learned about peppermint as a repellant from a wonderful book called Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond of Care2 fame. I highly recommend it! Once, a mouse snuck into my car and chewed up my daughter’s pacifier that she had left in her car seat! Ugh!

Take care,


  Lisa Versa wrote @ January 2nd, 2009 at 8:00 pm

We refinished our basement and stirred some mice from their homes. I woke up one morning and found droppings on OUR DINING ROOM TABLE and KITCHEN COUNTER - ew! The ultra-sonic plug-ins did wonders for us! I highly recommend them. It’s the humane way to deal with critters.

I have recently unplugged the devices (conserving energy) and they haven’t come back. x x fingers crossed!

Good luck, Lisa

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