Peppermint (Mentha x piperita). While peppermint is often used to flavor foods, it can also be helpful for the relief of bloating, gastrointestinal upset and headaches. Drinking peppermint tea can help relieve indigestion and eliminate gas, which contributes to bloating. Peppermint oil is also used for irritable bowel syndrome and could prove helpful with PMS-related bowel conditions. Additionally, rubbing peppermint oil on temples relaxes muscles and helps soothes headaches.
Peppermint is a famous antispasmodic for digestive cramps, while its essential oil is used as a local topical anesthetic in commercial ointments (Solarcaine and Ben-Gay, for example).
Germany’s Commission E authorizes use of oral peppermint oil for treating colicky pain in the digestive tract of adults. However, peppermint oil shouldn’t be used for colic in newborn babies, as it can cause jaundice.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia report that peppermint activates an “anti-pain” channel in the colon. This contributes to relief of pain from inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
“Our research shows that peppermint acts through a specific anti-pain channel called TRPM8 to reduce pain-sensing fibers, particularly those activated by mustard and chili,” Dr. Stuart Brierley said in a university news release.
“This is potentially the first step in determining a new type of mainstream clinical treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. This is a debilitating condition and affects many people on a daily basis, particularly women who are twice as likely to experience irritable bowel syndrome,” Brierley added.
Peppermint is often recommended by alternative medicine practitioners as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
- Results from several studies suggest that peppermint oil may improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
- A few studies have found that peppermint oil, in combination with caraway oil, may help relieve indigestion, but this evidence is preliminary.
- Although there are some promising results, there is no clear-cut evidence to support the use of peppermint oil for other health conditions.
Several double-blind studies of individuals with irritable bowel syndrome demonstrate peppermint can significantly relieve painful abdominal cramps, bloating and flatulence. In the largest study, reported in the Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers administered either enteric-coated peppermint oil or a placebo to 110 individuals three to four times daily, 15 to 30 minutes before meals, for four weeks. The study found peppermint significantly reduced abdominal discomfort.
Take a 0.2- to 0.4-ml enteric-coated peppermint capsule three times daily. (Enteric coating prevents stomach upset.) For mild stomach discomfort, try a tea from fresh or dried peppermint leaves. The menthol in peppermint relaxes the muscles. Its antispasmodic and analgesic effects also can help relieve headaches, possibly including migraines, when applied to the forehead or temples—dilute about 3 drops of essential oil in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Peppermint is also known as: Mentha piperita, Bo He.