Peppermint is commonly used as a flavoring for gum, mouthwash and candy, but has also been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It has been used to treat several different types of physical ailments with varied degrees of success. Peppermint as an alternative treatment comes in different forms including leaves, oils, teas, extract and pills. Peppermint is also an ingredient in ointments. Below are some of the health benefits of peppermint.
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome including stomach cramps and bloating can be treated by taking peppermint capsules. The exact mechanism of how peppermint works is not known, but it may be due do to the fact it can relax the esophageal sphincter, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. When used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, peppermint should be taken as enteric coated capsules, which can reduce side effects, such as heartburn.
Studies have indicated peppermint oil may help reduce certain types of headaches, such as those caused by tension, according to American Family Physician. The peppermint oil should be massaged onto the temples or the forehead at the first sign of a tension headache.
One of the lesser known health benefits of peppermint is its ability to reduce bacteria growth. According to Whole Foods, essential oil of peppermint acts as an anti-microbial and may reduce growth in various types of bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Salmonella.
Peppermint may help improve breathing in a few ways. It contains rosmarinic acid, which may help reduce chemicals which cause inflammation in asthma. Peppermint also contains menthol, which can help thin mucus and allow it to be coughed out of the lungs or drain from the nose more efficiently, which improves breathing. Menthol is also considered a decongestant and can help reduce nasal congestion.
Drinking peppermint tea or sucking on a hard peppermint candy may help reduce nausea. The exact reason why peppermint can ease an upset stomach is not clear, but it may be partially due to the fact peppermint can help relax the smooth muscles of the intestines. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, as the muscles are calmed, bile is able to flow more efficiently, which can improve the digestion and decrease a sour stomach.
Indigestion is one the most common medical complaints experienced by most people at some point in their life. Although there are dozens of medications on the market to treat indigestion, taking peppermint may be a suitable alternative for some people. According to Harvard Heath Publications, there may be some evidence that when taken with caraway oil, peppermint may help reduce heartburn and indigestion. It is important to understand, peppermint may not work for everyone when treating indigestion, and in some people it can lead to heartburn.
When applied directly to the skin, peppermint may help reduce certain types of skin irritations, such as rashes and hives. Peppermint oil or ointment containing peppermint can be applied to the skin to ease itching and discomfort. Although it will not speed-up healing of the skin, it reduces discomfort with its cooling effect.
As with many types of essential oils, peppermint can have a relaxing affect and help reduce stress. When used for stress reduction, place a few drops of peppermint essential oil into a burner and light. Relax in a quiet place or a warm bath, exhaling and inhaling the aroma slowly.
Peppermint may help reduce intestinal gas by relaxing the smooth muscles of the intestine. As the muscles relax, it may allow gas to pass and ease abdominal discomfort. When taken for gas relief, add peppermint extract or leafs to a cup of tea.
Peppermint can also be used to reduce mild pain. Menthol, which is one of the main components in peppermint, may reduce muscle spasm and pain when applied to the skin. Peppermint oil can be massaged into the sore muscle three times a day or add a few drops to a warm bath. An alternative to using peppermint oil is applying a muscle ointment, which lists peppermint as one of its ingredients.
Although peppermint is usually safe in small amounts for most people, it is still advisable to speak with your doctor before using it to treat medical conditions. There may be a few conditions where it is not recommended, such as for individuals who have a history of gallstones. It can also cause a renal failure if it is taken in very high doses, however, when used occasionally to treat mild problems peppermint can be a natural alternative to medication.