Peppermint is a hybrid herb – a cross between spearmint and watermint. It is a popular flavoring for chewing gum, candy, toothpaste and mouthwash. Its flavor is a cross between pepper and chlorophyll.
Apart from being a popular flavoring agent, peppermint has medicinal uses for treating several types of physical and mental ailments.
In fact, it has a long history of use in folk medicine and aromatherapy. You can use this herb in the form of leaves, oils, teas, extract and pills for medicinal purposes.
Peppermint has a cooling and calming effect on the body and mind, mainly due to its high menthol content.
This herb also contains a good amount of manganese, copper and vitamin C. In addition, it has antioxidant, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and carminative properties.
Fresh as well as dried peppermint leaves are available in the market year-round. Fresh peppermint is preferred over the dried form, since it is more flavorful as well as rich in nutrients and medicinal properties.
You can enjoy peppermint tea, or add the herb to your salads, soups, smoothies, juices, sauces or other dishes. Use dried peppermint for seasoning.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of peppermint.
Peppermint can treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as stomach cramps and bloating. It helps relax the esophageal sphincter, which reduces IBS symptoms. In addition, it helps food pass through the stomach easily.
In a 2007 study published in the Digestive and Liver Diseases journal, researchers found that a 4-week treatment with peppermint oil could improve abdominal symptoms in patients with IBS. It can even treat similar symptoms of lactose intolerance or celiac disease.
Peppermint also helps alleviate different types of headaches, such as migraines, stress-related or tension headaches. This herb has significant analgesic effects that help reduce sensitivity to pain. It can also improve blood circulation and relax tense muscles.
In a 1994 study published in Cephalalgia – An International Journal of Headache, a combination of peppermint oil and ethanol showed significant reduction in sensitivity to headaches. Studies have also found the refreshing peppermint aroma to be helpful in improving memory and alertness.
Peppermint can also help reduce nausea and vomiting. It activates the enzymes needed for digestion, which in turn minimizes nausea. According to a 1997 study at Liverpool University in England, peppermint can effectively relieve post-operative nausea.
Note: If the aroma triggers nausea, then avoid using peppermint.
The antibacterial property in peppermint inhibits the growth of bacteria in the mouth, thus preventing tooth decay, gum disease and other oral problems. In addition, it freshens up your breath.
Peppermint also helps ease allergy and asthma symptoms. Being an expectorant, it encourages the body to eliminate mucus from the airways, lungs, bronchi and trachea. This relieves asthma symptoms.
It is a great relaxant and relieves congestion during allergy season. In addition, peppermint has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that prevent allergic reactions.
Peppermint improves circulation and exhibits anti-inflammatory and analgestic effects that help relieve muscle pain. Menthol, one of the main components in peppermint, helps soothe inflamed muscle tissues.
Indigestion is one the most common medical complaints that you can treat with peppermint. It helps the muscles in the stomach relax, improves the flow of bile and promotes overall digestion. The soothing aroma of peppermint triggers the production of digestive enzymes to aid digestion.
Peppermint has potent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties that work wonders on acne-prone skin. It also helps reduce sebum production. This herb can also be used to soothe and calm itchy and infected skin.
Note: Perform a spot test before applying peppermint oil directly on skin to check for skin sensitivity.
Peppermint is also beneficial for your hair. It improves circulation and stimulates hair growth. Plus, it fights dandruff and helps balance the pH of your scalp.
The invigorating smell of peppermint helps reduce stress and relieve mental fatigue. Plus, it has a soothing and cooling effect that promotes relaxation and stimulates clear thinking.
Although peppermint is usually safe when taken in small amounts, it is still advisable to consult a doctor before using it to treat medical conditions.
People who have a history of gallstones must not use this herb. Avoid taking peppermint in high doses, as it can cause renal failure.
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