The benefits of Peppermint are many-fold, but in the world of super-foods, the peppermint plant is often overshadowed by the likes of Blueberries, Goji Berries, and Broccoli. Yet Peppermint is an herb that is rich in vitamins and minerals, and is associated with being able to combat many illnesses and conditions. Its leaves can be consumed whole, or chopped and drunk in the form of peppermint tea, or they can be topically applied, or ingested, in the form of peppermint oil. But why is it so good for you and what are the uses to which it is put by so many people in the know? First of all, let’s stop for a minute and take a quick look at the history of this incredible herb.
The History of the Incredible Peppermint Plant
Peppermint leaves have been used as ancient herb since time immemorial. According to Greek mythology, there was once a lovely little nymph named Minthe. Unfortunately for her, Pluto became infatuated by her, and his wife, Persephone, became jealous and changed her into a plant. Unfortunately for Minthe (presumably now called MINT!), Pluto was unable to change the spell and all he was able to do was to give the plant a sweet smell to remind anyone who breathed the aroma of how beautiful had been. So remember what they say. Beware Greeks bearing gifts. It appears they’re not only prone to clambering into wooden horses, but they’re a pretty possessive lot too!
Traditional uses of Peppermint
Peppermint’s aromatic properties have made it one of the best used perfumed herbs throughout history. Throughout mainland Europe and the Middle East it was used to impart its characteristic smell in places of worship and in people’s homes too. Our Greek friends traditionally rub its leaves onto dining table tops as part of a guest welcoming custom; whilst in Arab countries, mint tea is offered to visitors as a welcoming gesture. It’s also been extensively used a flavoring in cooking.
The Incredible Health Benefits of Peppermint
The wide variety of uses for Peppermint is directly related to the diversity of vitamins and minerals that it contains. For a full in-depth breakdown, click here. Now let’s take a look at some of the many benefits of Peppermint and the ailments and conditions that it is used to combat – But first, one useful note in terms of taking peppermint for medicinal purposes. You’ll find that one single drop of Peppermint oil holds the equivalent properties of drinking 24 cups of Peppermint tea. So unless you want to turn yourself into a Peppermint tea junkie, using it in its oil format is recommended.
Peppermint as a Stomach Relaxant
The most popular medicinal uses for Peppermint include using it as a relief for various stomach conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, dyspepsia, and colic. Because of the menthol that Peppermint leaves contain, it gives the herb a stomach muscle relaxing capability, which, when applied to the muscles surrounding the intestines, relaxes them, counteracting any spasms and feelings of indigestion.
Peppermint for Easier Breathing
Another of the benefits of peppermint is its use in helping to clear nasal passages. It contains a substance known as Rosmarinic Acid, which is used in medicines to combat asthma. This acid is able to stop the body manufacturing inflammatory chemicals like Leukotrines. It also facilitates the production of substances known as Prostacyclins. These help to keep your airways open. It’s not therefore surprising that these substances can be found in many of the nasal relief treatments that can be bought over the counter.
As well as its ability to ease breathing difficulties, peppermint also contains antioxidants which as we know are great for neutralizing free radicals that cause cell damage, leading to signs of aging.
Peppermint’s Anti-Microbe Capability
In addition to being able to minimize the growth of some types of fungus, peppermint oil can also be used to inhibit the growth of many bacteria, including:
- E-coli O157:H7
- Helicobacter Pylori
- MRSA – Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus
Potential to Treat Fight some Cause of Cancer
Further interests into the benefits of Peppermint have been stimulated by the herb’s content of Perillyl Alcohol, and Monoterpene. In tests carried out on animals, both of these substances have shown an ability to be able to combat certain types of cancer, including:
- Cancer of the Pancreas
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Cancer of the Colon
- Carcinoma (Skin cancer)
- Liver cancers
However, to put this into some sort of perspective, it should be emphasized that these tests have yet to be carried out on humans. It does however go to show the huge potential that the humble peppermint leaf has in helping us to fight serious disease.
Need More? Check out these 21 amazing benefits of peppermint (1):
1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Peppermint oil capsules have been described as “the drug of first choice” in IBS patients,3 as it safely helps alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. Research has shown that it is effective in children and adults alike, with one study showing a 50 percent reduction in “total irritable bowel syndrome score” among 75 percent of patients who tried it.4
2. Colonic Spasm and Gas
Peppermint oil is an effective alternative to drugs like Buscopan for reducing colonic spasms.5 It may also relax the muscles of your intestines, allowing gas to pass and easing abdominal pain. Try peppermint oil or leaves added to tea for gas relief.
3. Gastric Emptying Disorders
In people with functional gastrointestinal disorders, peppermint may be useful to enhance gastric emptying.6
4. Functional Dyspepsia (Upset Stomach and Indigestion)
Supplementing with 90 milligrams (mg) of peppermint oil, along with caraway oil, “much or very much improved” symptoms of functional dyspepsia in 67 percent of patients.7 If you have an upset stomach, try drinking a small glass of water with a few drops of peppermint essential oil added.
5. Infantile Colic
Peppermint is at least as effective as simethicone in the treatment of colic in infants.8
6. Breastfeeding-Associated Nipple Pain and Damage
Peppermint water helped to prevent nipple cracks and pain in breastfeeding mothers.9
Inhaled essential oil of peppermint helped to rapidly regress tuberculosis inflammation, with researchers suggesting it may help prevent recurrences and exacerbation of the disease.10
8. Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)
Extracts from peppermint leaves may inhibit histamine release, which suggests it may help alleviate hay fever symptoms.11
9. Shingles-Associated Pain
A topical treatment of peppermint oil resulted in near-immediate improvement in shingles-associated pain, with the results lasting for two months of follow-up treatment.12
10. Memory Problems
The aroma of peppermint has been shown to enhance memory and increase alertness.13
11. Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea
Peppermint oil effectively reduces chemotherapy-induced nausea, and at a reduced cost compared to standard drug-based treatments.14
12. Prostate Cancer
Peppermint contains menthol, which may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer.15
13. Radiation Damage
Peppermint may protect against DNA damage and cell death caused by radiation exposure.16
14. Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1
Peppermint has been shown to help inhibit drug-resistant herpes simplex virus type 1.17
15. Dental Cavities and Bad Breath
Peppermint oil extract has been shown to be superior to the mouthwash chemical chlorhexidine in inhibiting the formation of biofilm formations linked to dental cavities.18 Powdered peppermint leaves have also been used historically to freshen breath and whiten teeth; you can even add a drop or two directly to your toothpaste.
16. Respiratory Benefits
Peppermint oil acts as an expectorant and decongestant, and may help clear your respiratory tract. Use peppermint essential oil as a cold rub on your chest or inhale it through a vaporizer to help clear nasal congestion and relieve cough and cold symptoms.
Peppermint oil may help relieve tension headache pain. For headache pain, try dabbing a few drops on your wrist or sprinkling a few drops on a cloth, then inhaling the aroma. You can also massage the oil directly onto your temples and forehead.
Peppermint oil is cooling and energizing. Add a few drops to your bath, or dab a few drops directly on your body then get into the tub, for near-instant stress relief. You can also put the oil into a burner for a stress-relieving aroma.
19. Hair and Skin
Try blending peppermint oil into your massage oil, shampoo, body wash or body lotion. It has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that can help cool your skin and remove dandruff (and lice) from your scalp.
Peppermint contains rosmarinic acid (also found in rosemary), which may help to reduce inflammation-causing chemicals in people with asthma.
21. Muscle Pain
Peppermint may help to relieve muscle spasms and pain. Try massaging its essential oil onto sore muscles or adding it to your bath water for muscle pain relief.
More and more people are beginning to realize the benefits of adopting a holistic health regime and lifestyle. Maintaining a program of regular physical exercise, avoiding processed foods, eating more natural so-called super-foods, and including more health enhancing herbs and spices such as Peppermint are an enormous step ahead in the right direction.