Peppermint is a hybrid herb – a cross between spearmint and watermint. It is a popular flavoring for chewing gum, candy, toothpaste and mouthwash. Its flavor is a cross between pepper and chlorophyll.
Apart from being a popular flavoring agent, peppermint has medicinal uses for treating several types of physical and mental ailments.
In fact, it has a long history of use in folk medicine and aromatherapy. You can use this herb in the form of leaves, oils, teas, extract and pills for medicinal purposes.
Peppermint has a cooling and calming effect on the body and mind, mainly due to its high menthol content.
This herb also contains a good amount of manganese, copper and vitamin C. In addition, it has antioxidant, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and carminative properties.
Fresh as well as dried peppermint leaves are available in the market year-round. Fresh peppermint is preferred over the dried form, since it is more flavorful as well as rich in nutrients and medicinal properties.
You can enjoy peppermint tea, or add the herb to your salads, soups, smoothies, juices, sauces or other dishes. Use dried peppermint for seasoning.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of peppermint.
1. Treats Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Peppermint can treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as stomach cramps and bloating. It helps relax the esophageal sphincter, which reduces IBS symptoms. In addition, it helps food pass through the stomach easily.
In a 2007 study published in the Digestive and Liver Diseases journal, researchers found that a 4-week treatment with peppermint oil could improve abdominal symptoms in patients with IBS. It can even treat similar symptoms of lactose intolerance or celiac disease.
- You can drink peppermint tea a few times a day. To make the tea, add 1 teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves to a cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and drink it.
- You can take enteric-coated peppermint capsules twice daily for a month, after consulting a doctor.
2. Alleviates Headaches
Peppermint also helps alleviate different types of headaches, such as migraines, stress-related or tension headaches. This herb has significant analgesic effects that help reduce sensitivity to pain. It can also improve blood circulation and relax tense muscles.
In a 1994 study published in Cephalalgia – An International Journal of Headache, a combination of peppermint oil and ethanol showed significant reduction in sensitivity to headaches. Studies have also found the refreshing peppermint aroma to be helpful in improving memory and alertness.
- Mix 3 drops of peppermint oil in 1 tablespoons of jojoba oil, olive oil or any carrier oil. Apply it oil on the back of your neck and your temples. Massage gently for 5 to 10 minutes. The smell of peppermint oil also has a soothing effect.
- Drinking a cup of strong peppermint tea can also help alleviate a headache.
3. Minimizes Nausea
Peppermint can also help reduce nausea and vomiting. It activates the enzymes needed for digestion, which in turn minimizes nausea. According to a 1997 study at Liverpool University in England, peppermint can effectively relieve post-operative nausea.
- Slowly sip a cup of warm peppermint tea to reduce nausea.
- You can also suck on a hard peppermint candy.
- Another option is to put a few drops of peppermint essential oil on a handkerchief and inhale using deep breaths.
Note: If the aroma triggers nausea, then avoid using peppermint.
4. Supports Oral Health
The antibacterial property in peppermint inhibits the growth of bacteria in the mouth, thus preventing tooth decay, gum disease and other oral problems. In addition, it freshens up your breath.
- Chew 5 to 6 fresh peppermint leaves daily to keep oral problems at bay.
- You can also use toothpaste or mouthwash containing peppermint to brush your teeth and rinse your mouth.
- You can even prepare a strong cup of peppermint tea, cool it and then use it to rinse your mouth once daily.
5. Prevents Allergies and Asthma
Peppermint also helps ease allergy and asthma symptoms. Being an expectorant, it encourages the body to eliminate mucus from the airways, lungs, bronchi and trachea. This relieves asthma symptoms.
It is a great relaxant and relieves congestion during allergy season. In addition, peppermint has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that prevent allergic reactions.
- If you are suffering from a cough, add a drop of peppermint oil to a pot of hot water and inhale the steam.
- Mix a few drops of peppermint oil with coconut oil. Rub it on your chest, neck and nose to unclog your sinuses and enjoy relaxed breathing.
- You can also enjoy a few cups of peppermint tea daily to get rid of allergy and asthma symptoms.
6. Eases Muscle Pain
Peppermint improves circulation and exhibits anti-inflammatory and analgestic effects that help relieve muscle pain. Menthol, one of the main components in peppermint, helps soothe inflamed muscle tissues.
- Gently massage peppermint oil mixed with carrier oil like olive oil or almond oil on the sore muscles a few times a day to reduce pain.
- An alternative to using peppermint oil is applying a muscle ointment that contains peppermint.
7. Improves Digestion
Indigestion is one the most common medical complaints that you can treat with peppermint. It helps the muscles in the stomach relax, improves the flow of bile and promotes overall digestion. The soothing aroma of peppermint triggers the production of digestive enzymes to aid digestion.
- When suffering from indigestion, put a few drops of peppermint oil in a glass of warm water and drink it after eating your meal.
- You can also drink a few cups of peppermint tea daily to improve digestion.
8. Fights Acne & Pimples
Peppermint has potent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties that work wonders on acne-prone skin. It also helps reduce sebum production. This herb can also be used to soothe and calm itchy and infected skin.
- Rub freshly extracted peppermint juice on acne, pimples or other skin conditions. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse it off with cool water. Repeat once or twice a day until your skin improves.
- Alternatively, apply a few drops of peppermint oil directly on the affected area 2 to 4 times a day.
Note: Perform a spot test before applying peppermint oil directly on skin to check for skin sensitivity.
9. Stimulates Hair Growth
Peppermint is also beneficial for your hair. It improves circulation and stimulates hair growth. Plus, it fights dandruff and helps balance the pH of your scalp.
- Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil in extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil or other carrier oil of your choice. Massage your hair and scalp with this mixture, leave it on for at least 45 minutes and then shampoo your hair as usual. Do this once or twice a week.
- Another option is to add 2 to 3 drops of peppermint essential oil in your regular shampoo and use it as usual.
10. Beats Stress
The invigorating smell of peppermint helps reduce stress and relieve mental fatigue. Plus, it has a soothing and cooling effect that promotes relaxation and stimulates clear thinking.
- When you are under stress, place a few drops of peppermint essential oil on a handkerchief and inhale the aroma slowly. This will rejuvenate your mind and you will feel less stressed out.
- Add some peppermint leaves or a few drops of peppermint oil to your bathwater, and enjoy a soothing soak to fight stress.
Although peppermint is usually safe when taken in small amounts, it is still advisable to consult a doctor before using it to treat medical conditions.
People who have a history of gallstones must not use this herb. Avoid taking peppermint in high doses, as it can cause renal failure.