The Health Benefits of Peppermint
Peppermint has been used for centuries to treat stomach upset and headaches. It has been used as a facial toner and as both a sexual stimulant and a sexual depressant. The most prominent beneficial ingredient in peppermint is menthol, but it also contains smaller amounts of menthone, cineol, rosmarinic acid, and limonene. Some new research confirms many health benefits of its use, including as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, as an antimicrobial, and even as a cancer fighting agent.
Peppermint supplements can be taken fresh or dried, either whole or in capsules, in tea, in a tincture, or as an essential oil. The menthol in peppermint essential oil is very strong and may be irritating if used in large quantities without dilution. Oil in capsules is formulated with an enteric coating to prevent heartburn. When using essential oil it is often mixed in a glass of water or dropped onto a sugar cube.
In Ancient times, peppermint was used to calm and soothe dyspepsia, which eventually led to the traditional after dinner mint. Not only does an after dinner mint refresh the breath after eating strongly flavored dishes, it has been shown to relieve indigestion by calming the smooth muscles. This ability to relax the smooth muscles, such as those found around the stomach and intestines, are what make it effective in relieving the symptoms of IBS (irritable bowl syndrome). In a 2007 study, 78% of IBS sufferers got relief from cramping, constipation, bloating and diarrhea after taking peppermint oil capsules.
Even those without severe stomach troubles can benefit from a cup of peppermint tea after dinner to aid digestion. A drop of peppermint essential oil in a glass of water or dropped onto a cube of sugar can help prevent and relieve gas.
Researchers have also shown that peppermint oil can help increase the flow of bile. When taken with a fatty meal, it can help lessen symptoms for those with gall bladder disease.
Peppermint has both an analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Peppermint oil is reputed to relieve the itching from insect bites, poison ivy, poison oak, and other itchy skin conditions. Peppermint oil in shampoos and conditioners can also help relieve an itchy scalp. The antimicrobial properties in peppermint kills germs on the skin without irritating the skin, helping to heal acne and other skin irritations. The menthol in peppermint essential oil can kill Salmonella, MRSA, and H. pylori.
Menthol is often used in toothpaste, and mint toothpaste is actually the most common variety. The menthol acts as a breath freshener and the germ killing action also fights bad breath.
Peppermint tea has long been thought to have a calming effect that can help to relieve stress and settle the mind before sleep. Just like menthol rub the menthol in mint tea can help to relieve congestion in the nose, throat and chest. Peppermint tea will also help soothe a cough. For best results with the tea, make a strong cup of peppermint tea and allow it to cool. Take sips every half an hour throughout the day, making more tea as needed. Menthol is also the main ingredient in many cough drops and cough syrups which relieve congestion.
To relieve headaches, mix 2 drops of peppermint essential oil in several drops of a mild carrier oil such as grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil. Rub this mixture on the temples or the pressure point behind the ears and rub it gently for several minutes.
Mint can also have a stimulating effect. A drop applied to the back of the tongue may give a mental boost and also help relieve sadness. Since ancient times, peppermint oil has been has been used to treat hysteria, shock, and stress.
Peppermint also contains high levels of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese. Vitamin C and carotenoids have both been shown helpful in preventing colon and rectal cancer.
Peppermint also contains high levels of the antioxidant rosmarinic acid. This antioxidant helps fight allergic asthma, atherosclerosis, and cancer. Rosmarinic acid has also been shown to help in treating cataracts, arthritis, and peptic ulcers.
Peppermint oil is an emmenagogue, meaning it stimulates menstruation. As such it can be helpful peppermint should be avoided in large quantities by pregnant women because of the chance of bringing on miscarriage. While peppermint oil is thought to be helpful in the treatment of dyspepsia and colic, use on infants should be limited because it can be irritating to the throat.