What is the composition of peppermint essential oil?

Peppermint essential oil is obtained by distillation of the aerial part of various species of the genus mint being the most used the species peppermint for its high content of essential oil and its quality. The composition of its essential oil is responsible for most of the properties attributed to mint and for the most appreciated qualities of this plant.

There is no exact composition formula since the percentage of each component may vary depending on the conditions of cultivation and harvesting of the plant as well as the extraction or distillation process. The main substances that we can find in the essential oil of mint and their proportions are:

  • Menthol with 30 – 55%
  • Chin 14 – 32%
  • Menthyl acetate 2.8 – 10%
  • Isomenthone 1.5 – 10%
  • Menthofuran: 1 – 9%
  • Cineol: 3.5 – 14%
  • Limonene: 1 – 5%
  • Isopulegol: up to 0.2%
  • Carvone: up to 1%

Menthofuran and pulegone as isolated substances are prohibited for food use in Europe.

Main components

Menthol

Menthol is responsible for minty smell characteristic of this essential oil and most of its flavor. Menthol is a secondary alcohol that is a waxy solid at room temperature. It can be separated from the essential oil of peppermint by cooling and filtration (menthol becomes solid and we can separate it from the rest of the components that remain liquid).

Menthone and isomenthone

Isomenthone is a precursor to menthone, and menthone is the molecule prior to menthol during the synthesis process in glands located in mint leaves. The change from menthone to menthol is catalyzed by an enzyme that is one of the main objectives of the genetic modifications carried out by biotechnology companies seeking to achieve a higher menthol content.

menthyl acetate

Menthyl acetate is widely used as a flavoring in many food products due to its minty, fruity and fresh smell. Menthyl acetate, also known as menthol acetate, is a substance that is also found in fruits such as mangoes, orange juice, raspberries, and plants such as ginger and eucalyptus.

Menthofuran and pulegone

These two substances are naturally present in the essential oil of peppermint. As isolated chemical substances, they have been widely used to flavor candies, chewing gum and drinks of all kinds, mainly alcoholic, but their use as food additives is currently prohibited throughout the European Union, mainly due to their hepatotoxicity.3. In mint, menthofuran is a metabolic derivative of pulegone. We can also find menthofuran and pulegone in pennyroyal, oregano, tea and some legumes.

cineole

cineole, or eucalyptol If isolated from eucalyptus essential oil, it is a substance with a bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory and mucolytic effect and can be useful in the treatment of some respiratory diseases.4.

limonene

Limonene is a substance that is found in high concentrations in the skin of citrus fruits and, to a lesser extent, in other fruits and vegetables such as mint essential oil. It is the substance responsible for lemon smell. Limonene has multiple and varied uses, among which its use as a food additive (flavouring) stands out, although its current greatest popularity is as biodegradable solvent being used for example in ecological dishwashers and as an industrial solvent. Also used as insect repellent or as a starting molecule for the synthesis of other compounds such as carvone.

Carvone

Carvone is found in low amounts in the essential oil of peppermint (peppermint) but can be up to 60% or more in the essential oil of other mints such as spearmint (mentha spicata). Carvone is used as a food additive and in cosmetics. Most of the carvone used is not natural but synthesized from limonene.

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