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Health benefits of Peppermint: All about the herb peppermint

Peppermint is one of the oldest herbs that have a flowering plant. Peppermint oil is well known for its fragrance and is cultivated widely throughout Europe and North America. It is believed that peppermint is a hybrid of water mints and spear mint plants. Peppermint oil is available in liquid form, enteric coated capsules or soft gelatin capsules. The main active ingredients of peppermint are menthol and methyl salicylate.
They have soothing and calming effects on the muscles internally when taken orally. It’s used historically for number of health conditions like headache, indigestion, common cold, joint pain and nausea. The leaf of peppermint and peppermint bark is used to treat gallbladder problems and stomach or intestinal disorders.

Effects of peppermint & Advantages of Peppermint

Peppermint is used widely for GI cramps and indigestion, it has anti-bacterial properties and is helpful to relieve gas, nausea, vomiting, morning sickness and increases gastric juices. The essential oils in peppermint also stimulate the gallbladder to secrete its stored bile (that is required to digest fat). Peppermint oil when combined with caraway oil has beneficial effects for dyspepsia (heart burn). But one should remember that peppermint is a powerful muscle relaxant and can trigger heart burn or gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Thus people with upper GI problems can use peppermint in moderation or can stick to other herbs that relieve their symptoms. For people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) brewing the herb in boiling water before its consumption or consuming enteric coated capsules before meals will be helpful in relieving the symptoms. These capsules are regarded safe in many studies including children with IBM, as these are specially coated and dissolve in the intestines instead of stomach, where they have soothing, muscle relaxant effects (if dissolved in stomach can aggravate heart burn).

Currently the largest market for peppermint is in U.S and the main manufacturers are of toothpaste, mouthwash, chewing gum and pharmaceuticals.

Peppermint when taken in small doses like in tea, chewing gum or mouthwashes is generally regarded safe for non allergic individuals and non pregnant ladies. However when used on skin it is been associated with skin rashes, hypersensitive reactions, contact dermatitis, mouth ulcers, eye irritation and chemical burn. Peppermint oil when taken orally can cause headaches, heart burning, anal burning, dizziness, muscle tremor or slow heart rate. It is generally recommended to use peppermint with a word of caution for gallbladder disorders and G6PD deficiency. Menthol present in peppermint is associated with asthma, serious breathing difficulties, mouth sores and skin burses. Very high doses of peppermint can be fatal in non-allergic individuals and can cause brain damage.

Peppermint oil or supplements can even react with drugs, other herbal or dietary supplements, thus it is advisable to use it in recommended doses under the guidance of a health care professional.

Submitted on January 16, 2014