Asthma/AllergyPeppermint Oil

Contact dermatitis from lip balms that contain peppermint oil

Researchers at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario,  describe 4 patients with allergic contact cheilitis (inflammation of the lip) following exposure to peppermint oil contained in a lip balm product.

First, the details.

  • Each patient developed inflammation of their lips and the skin around the lips.
  • The lip balm they used contained potential sensitizers such as propolis, lanolin, coconut oil, almond oil, peppermint oil, and vitamin E.
  • They were tested with a patch test for allergens.

And the results.

  • The patch-test results showed that peppermint oil was the most likely cause of the allergic reaction in these patients.

The bottom line?

Peppermint oil is not commonly reported as a cause allergic contact cheilitis. In 1995 researchers from Glasgow Royal Infirmary, in the UK reported a series of patients with contact sensitivity to peppermint.

“However,” the authors concluded, “with the widespread use of lip balms containing peppermint oil, more cases of peppermint oil-induced allergic contact cheilitis may be expected.”

MedlinePlus tells us, “Allergic/hypersensitivity reactions may occur from using peppermint… by mouth or on the skin, including throat closing (laryngeal spasm), breathing problems (bronchial constriction/asthma symptoms), or skin rash/hives/contact dermatitis. People with known allergy/hypersensitivity to peppermint leaf or oil should avoid peppermint products.”

8/5/10 22:04 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.