Peppermint has been used to treat abdominal problems for thousands of years. Studies have now shown this fragrant herb has benefits for digestive and respiratory health, and can reduce nausea.
Peppermint is from the mint family and contains phenolic compounds with strong antioxidant activity. Its many vitamins and minerals include Vitamin A, C, calcium, folate and manganese.
Relief from irritable bowel Syndrome
The oil extracted from the peppermint plant contains many compounds, but the most abundant and perhaps the most important is menthol. Studies have shown that peppermint oil is effective at relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a collection of symptoms that include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. The menthol found in peppermint is thought to have the effect of relaxing the "smooth" muscles in the walls of the intestines. One study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that peppermint oil was as effective as fiber and antispasmodics at reducing symptoms of IBS.
A clinical trial in England found that patients who received peppermint oil before surgery had less nausea after their surgeries than those who did not receive it. Peppermint tea has also been used to reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, especially for women who want to avoid stronger medications.
Researchers discovered a nerve ending that responded to cold and to menthol. This may explain the cooling sensation from menthol, and its common use as an inhalant to reduce congestion in the nose.
Antimicrobial Activity of Peppermint
Menthol has been shown helpful in subduing many disease-producing bacteria, fungi and viruses. Researchers found that it, and other essential oils were effective at killing bacteria such as listeria, E. coli, salmonella infections, and more.
Tips on Using Peppermint
- Fresh peppermint leaves should be bright green and not wilted.
- Mint can be kept fresh in the fridge for a few days, placed in a loosely closed plastic bag.
- Fresh peppermint or mint leaves can be infused in boiled water for a few minutes to create a stomach-soothing, refreshing tea.
- Ford A, Talley N J, Spiegel B M R, Foxx-Orenstein A E, Schiller L, Quigley E M M, Moayyedi P. Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ, Nov 2008; 337: a2313.
- McKay DL, Blumberg JB. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytother Res. 2006 Aug;20(8):619-633. Moreira MR, Ponce AG, del Valle CE, Roura SL Inhibitory parameters of essential oils to reduce a foodborne pathogen. LWT 2005; 38:565-570.
- Nedorostova L, Kloucek P, Kokoska L, Stolcova M, Pulkrabek J. Antimicrobial properties of selected essential oils in vapour phase against foodborne bacteria. Food Control, Volume 20, Issue 2, February 2009, Pages 157-160
- Spirling LI, Daniels IR. Botanical perspectives on health peppermint: more than just an after-dinner mint. J R Soc health. 2001 Mar; 121(l):62-63.