The power of Peppermint as a digestive aid is mainly due to the high menthol content of this herb. When taken orally, as in a tea, menthol helps relieve gastrointestinal problems like indigestion, gas and bloating. Menthol encourages bile to flow into the small intestine, where it promotes digestion by breaking down fats more rapidly. Menthol also has a powerful anti-spasmodic effect, relaxing the muscles of the abdomen and the digestive tract which allows gas to pass through the system much more easily.
Peppermint essential oil can also be used to aid in smooth digestion. Simply dilute with a pure carrier oil and gently massage into the abdomen or inhale its refreshing scent before a meal to stimulate the appetite and get the digestive juices flowing.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
In 2008, a peer reviewed study was published in the “British Medical Journal” that researched the effectiveness of Peppermint essential oil for the natural treatment of IBS. Four controlled trials were examined that tested the effects of Peppermint oil versus placebo on IBS symptoms in 392 patients. When the patients were randomised to the two conditions, the Peppermint oil group showed a marked improvement in symptoms, 2.5 times less symptoms than those receiving the placebo.
Food grade Peppermint oil has the power to impact the bacteria in the GI tract and prevent smooth muscle contractions by blocking calcium channels. It can also help to regulate immunity and reduce inflammation, particularly helpful for IBS sufferers. All of these effects can help reduce abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and frequency of stools.
Peppermint oil applied topically may effectively treat tension headaches, with two studies demonstrating the efficacy of topical Peppermint oil for this particular type of headache.
One study compared topical Peppermint oil to placebo and found the oil was superior to placebo in terms of headache pain relief. Another trial demonstrated that topical Peppermint oil was similar to acetaminophen (pharmaceutical pain killer) in terms of treatment efficacy. In both of these headache studies, the Peppermint oil was combined with ethanol (10 grams of Peppermint oil plus 90 grams of 90 percent ethanol). The solution was then rubbed on the forehead and temples and reapplied every 15 minutes as needed.
The menthol in Peppermint oil is both numbing and calming which can soothe an overactive nervous system during a migraine attack. The anti-sickness benefits of Peppermint can also help to relieve any nausea that may accompany an attack. Dilute Peppermint oil in a pure carrier oil and applying frequently to the temples, forehead and the back of the neck or put a couple of drops of (food grade) essential oil on the roof of the mouth to provide relief.
Used for thousands of years to keep the breath smelling minty fresh, researchers have found that Peppermint oil is extremely effective in killing off the anaerobic bacteria that can lead to cavities and gum disease.
A study published in the "European Journal of Dentistry" found that Peppermint oil displayed antimicrobial activities against oral pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus fecalis, Escherichia coli and Candida albicans.
The high menthol content in Peppermint make this essential oil excellent for diffusion and inhalation to reduce congestion and clear the airways. It is one of the best essential oils for colds, flu, bronchitis and asthma, with studies showing that Peppermint oil is rich in compounds that are anti-microbial, anti-viral and antibacterial.
It can also help with seasonal allergies, helping to unclog the sinuses and clear pollen out of the nasal passages.
With naturally cooling properties, Peppermint Hydrolat can be used as refreshing facial mist in the summer or at times when you are hot and bothered. It provides relief from itching and is good for insect bites and allergic reactions. Uplifting and stimulating, Peppermint Hydrolat can be used to increase concentration, enhance memory and boost the mood.
Folklore and history
Peppermint is thought to have originated in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. In the Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text dating to 1550 BCE, mint is listed as calming to stomach pains.
The Roman natural philosopher Pliny wrote of Peppermint, in particular that it stimulated the appetite stirring "the mind and appetite to a greedy desire of food." He also wrote that mint should be bound into a crown around the head in order to stimulate the mind and the soul. Pliny, Hippocrates and Aristotle all considered mint to be a discouragement to procreation, saying that it discouraged sexual intercourse. However, the Greeks said that mint encouraged sexual behavior and forbade its consumption by soldiers in order to maintain control.
The renowned English naturalist John Ray is credited with the discovery of Peppermint in 1696, when he happened upon Peppermint in a garden when he spotted a sweet yet pungently aromatic plant he had not documented before. So began an era of trial and error, as biologists grappled with the best uses for Peppermint for which the herb is known today.
From ancient times to the present day, Peppermint has been used as an accompaniment to meals, to flavour confection, sauces and wines and as a soothing herbal tea.
Thought to be a naturally occurring hybrid of water mint and spearmint, Peppermint has an enduring history as a remedy for many ailments. It was used by the Romans as a cure for digestive complaints and headaches, and monks of the Middle Ages were known to use it as a tooth polisher. By 1721 it made an appearance in the London Pharmacopoeia where it was recommended for all manner of ailments including sores, venereal disease, colds and headaches.
Peppermint Herbal Tea
One cup of boiling water per one heaped teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. This may be drunk as often as desired.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil can be used in the bath, or vapourised in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil or cream. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil.
Peppermint Water Hydrolat
This cooling and refreshing hydrolat can be used to calm down itchy skin and to combat allergic reactions. It makes a soothing and refreshing natural skin cleanser, leaving the skin feeling clean and soft. Peppermint water can also be used as a refreshing and uplifting room or facial spritzer.
Menthol Crystal Incense
With an uplifting, minty and cleansing aroma, Menthol Crystals can be burnt as an incense or added to balms and creams. They can also be diluted in water and used as a mouth wash, or sprayed finely into the air as a room spray. A few crystals can be added to the bath water for a penetrative muscle relaxing soak.
Essential oil, up to l.5%, containing menthol, menthone and menthyl acetate as the major components, with isomenthone, menthofuran, isomenthol, neomenthol, piperitone, a- & b- pinene, limonene, cineole, pulegone, viridiflorol, ledol etc.
Flavonoids; menthoside, rutin and others
Miscellaneous; rosmarinic acid, azulenes, choline, carotenes etc.
None known. However if you are taking homeopathic remedies Peppermint is contraindicated as it negates their action.
When handling Menthol crystals avoid contact with eyes. Use with caution as crystals are very strong. Avoid use with babies and old people.