When it comes to using peppermint, you might think of your favourite after dinner mints, or a scoop of mint-choc-chip ice cream. But peppermint has been used as an herbal remedy for many a health concern – most commonly treating digestive issues, oral health and headaches.
Soothing your irritable bowel.
If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), peppermint is a fairly effective method of relieving some of your symptoms. Peppermint oil can relive abdominal cramping and aching, as well as ease bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. In a study about the efficacy of peppermint in treatment of IBS, over 75% of participants who took peppermint oil capsules over a one-month period saw radical changes in the severity of their symptoms compared to those who took the placebos.
A common treatment for common ailments.
Tension headaches are a pain – minor, or major. Rubbing peppermint oil on your temples can help relieve tension and soothe temporarily ease muscle tension. Whilst the research for the use of peppermint in treating headaches isn’t quite as solid as that for IBS, its use has been widespread and deemed particularly effective by the naturopaths and homeopaths who recommend it.
It’s not just for chewing gum.
Menthol is one of peppermint’s main compounds, and is widely used in over-the-counter solutions for coughing and muscle pain ointments. The menthol creates a cool sensation by stimulating the nerves that sense cold. They’re the same nerve endings that make menthol gum feel cool or cold in your mouth. Menthol also temporarily stops nerve endings feeling pain. While it’s not a long-term solution, it’s certainly a great alternative in the interim until you get proper treatment for your injuries.
Peppermint can bite back.
Peppermint as a leaf is harmless. However, in a concentrated oil, one should be cautious of how it’s used. Using too much could lead to chemical burns – a caution to be taken with all essential oils. In some cases, researchers have discovered an allergy to the menthol compound found in peppermint. So, if you have a bad reaction to things containing peppermint, rather avoid using it.
People who suffer from heartburn would be advised to avoid peppermint oil, as it has a relaxing effect on muscles – including the oesophageal sphincter that keeps food from travelling back up the oesophagus. However, many peppermint oil capsules are designed to bypass the stomach and dissolve in the small intestine, so if you want to use it, check with your healthcare practitioner to get the right one.
It tastes great and is incredibly useful – what more could you ask from an herb? Whether you’ve got issues with digestion, can feel a headache coming on, or have pain deep in your muscles, peppermint is a great way to relives symptoms quickly and effectively. A cup of mint tea, or a drop of oil rubbed in should do the trick.