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Medicine from Your Kitchen: Peppermint

Culinary herbs have many medicinal properties, but may not be helpful to everyone and can aggravate certain health conditions. Take peppermint, for example. Peppermint is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.1 Test tube experiments reveal peppermint’s anti-microbial and anti-viral activities.2 Other studies demonstrate its antifungal effects on both humans and plants.3 A single dose of peppermint can improve alertness and mental functioning. This effect is lost when this herb is regularly consumed.4 Peppermint oil is composed primarily of menthol and menthone.

Dental Health

Peppermint in toothpaste or mouthwash is quite useful because it helps to protect teeth from dental plaque by acting as an anti-biofilm agent against the bacteria Streptococcus mutans that can cause tooth decay. A biofilm is a thin, slimy film of bacteria that adheres to a surface. Streptococcus mutans combine with sugar and other carbs to form an acid that erodes tooth enamel.5 If one is allergic to peppermint, it could produce inflammation of the lips.

Digestive Discomfort

Peppermint tea helps to ease nausea and generally acts as a relaxant to the gastrointestinal tract.6 Enteric peppermint oil tablets may provide some relief from difficulty in swallowing due to esophageal spasms.7 Peppermint oil relieves intestinal spasm and discomfort from irritable bowel syndrome.8 For best results, put 0.2 ml of peppermint oil in an enteric-coated capsule and take two or three times a day.9 Since peppermint tea substantially decreases iron absorption, it should not be used by individuals who have iron deficiency or anemia. Peppermint oil aggravates GERD (gastric esophageal reflux disorder), gallbladder, and liver problems. Evaluation and diagnosis are essential before using peppermint on a regular basis for digestive complaints.

Cough and Sinus Relief

Peppermint oil is useful in treating coughs and colds because of its anti-inflammatory effect in the epithelial tissue of the respiratory tract.10 It helps to protect from Influenza A virus. Steam inhalation with peppermint can help with congestive sinus headaches as compounds in peppermint sooth the epithelial tissues in the sinuses. Pour hot water into a bowl and add 3 to 7 drops of essential peppermint oil. Cover your head with a towel, close your eyes, and breathe through your nose for 2 or 3 minutes. You can also apply diluted peppermint oil under the nose. If you don’t dilute the oil, it will irritate your skin.

Headache Relief

The menthol in peppermint helps to relax muscles spasms. Topical applications of diluted peppermint oil are effective as Tylenol in relieving tension headaches.11 Avoid the eyes!

To make a diluted peppermint oil solution for adult usage, add 12 to 18 drops of peppermint oil to one fluid ounce of cold-pressed olive or almond oil. (Some individuals might require a little stronger diluted solution). Put a drop of this diluted peppermint on the hand to be sure you are not sensitive to it. Then apply it on tight muscles in the neck and shoulders or the forehead and temples in the case of a headache. Do not use the topical solution of essential oils on children.

Better yet, avoid tension headaches by frequent exercise breaks and staying hydrated. Be sure to include shoulder, neck, and chest stretches. Poor posture, insufficient sleep, and eye strain also contribute to tension headaches. Be sure to see your doctor if your headaches are frequent or are accompanied by other symptoms.

Cautions

As previously mentioned peppermint oil aggravates GERD (gastric esophageal reflux disorder), gallbladder, and liver problems and should not be used by those who have iron deficiency. Prompt evaluation and diagnosis of any digestive problem is essential before using peppermint. Individuals who use peppermint regularly should have their iron level checked. Any herb has the potential to interact with medicine, so check with a pharmacist before using.

© 2019, Wildwood Sanitarium. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.

Sources

  1. YuXian Li. In vitro antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities of the ethanol extract of Mentha piperita L. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2017; 26(6): 1675–1683.
  2. McKay D. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytother Res. 2006 Aug; 20(8):619-33.
  3. Mafakheri H. Antifungal activity of the essential oils of some medicinal plants against human and plant fungal pathogens. Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand). 2018 Dec 31;64(15):13-19.
  4. Kennedy DO. Phytochemicals for Improving Aspects of Cognitive Function and Psychological State Potentially Relevant to Sports Performance. Sports Med. 2019 Feb; 49(Suppl 1):39-58.
  5. Ashrafi B. Mentha piperita essential oils loaded in a chitosan nanogel with inhibitory effect on biofilm formation against S. mutans on the dental surface. Carbohydr Polym. 2019 May 15;212:142-149.
  6. McKay D. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytother Res. 2006 Aug;20(8):619-33
  7. Khalaf MHG. Impact of Peppermint Therapy on Dysphagia and Non-cardiac Chest Pain: A Pilot Study. Dig Dis Sci. 2019 Feb 15.
  8. Alammar N. The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019 Jan 17;19(1):21. doi: 10.1186/s12906-018-2409-0.
  9. Craig, Winston, Herbs Your Health: A Guide to the Therapuetic Use of 45 Commonly Used Herbs. 2011.
  10. Craig, Winston, Herbs Your Health: A Guide to the Therapuetic Use of 45 Commonly Used Herbs. 2011.
  11. Göbel H. [Peppermint oil in the acute treatment of tension-type headache]. Schmerz. 2016 Jun; 30(3):295-310.

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