Health Benefits of Peppermint
Many people are familiar with the minty taste of peppermint. The flavor is especially popular in holiday treats, toothpaste, and after dinner mints. However, there’s more to the peppermint plant than just fresh breath and candy canes. In fact, peppermint’s cosmetic, digestive, and antibacterial benefits are only beginning to be explored.
History of Peppermint
Peppermint (mentha pepperita) is actually a hybrid plant. It’s the result of a cross between watermint and spearmint that can occur naturally. Peppermint can grow nearly anywhere, but it’s especially prevalent in Europe and North America. Peppermint was used in folk medicine as a pain reliever. Its value as a gastric stimulant and antibacterial agent are being revisited by modern medicine.
Here are just some of the benefits and uses of this amazing plant.
It Helps with Nausea and Digestive Issues
Peppermint can help improve digestion problems, especially irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a condition that involves irregular bowel movement, bloating, and stomach discomfort. Recent studies show that people with IBS may find relief through peppermint oil supplements.
Peppermint has also been known to calm nausea. When a wave of nausea (or, if you are pregnant, morning sickness) hits, inhaling the scent of peppermint extract can help you recover. If that doesn’t do the trick, a hot cup of peppermint tea will calm the digestive tract quickly.
It Makes Hair Look Healthy
Peppermint oil is a popular ingredient in some shampoos thanks to its fresh scent and soothing properties. Applying peppermint to the scalp refreshes the skin underneath the hairline, clears dandruff, and stimulates blood flow to the region. Some people believe that this helps stimulate hair growth.
In addition to cleansing the hair of dead skin cells, peppermint also binds to the hair follicle, infusing it with protein. This gives hair a shiny, healthy appearance — not to mention a fresh, minty scent!
Recent studies suggest that peppermint is an effective alternative to hair growth stimulants. It can be a safer, healthier option because it doesn’t contain the carcinogenic ingredients or toxins found in most synthetic hair growth products.
It Helps You Breathe Easier
The menthol contained in peppermint can make the nasal passages feel clearer. It also thins mucus and can break up mucus in an inflamed nasal passage. This helps relieve symptoms of airborne allergies.
For reasons possibly related to peppermint’s menthol content, peppermint oil helped young men exercise more efficiently in a small university study.
It Heals Skin
Peppermint’s cooling properties can be very soothing. They can act as a balm for the effects of poison ivy, poison oak, or hives.
Peppermint oil is also a great tool for treating insect bites. Applying peppermint to bug bites can calm and cool the area, making the skin less itchy.
It Promotes Dental Health
You often hear about toothpastes and mouthwashes that leave your mouth “minty fresh.” However, there’s more to having peppermint in your toothpaste and mouthwash than the promise of a tingly mouth. The peppermint oil ingredient has been demonstrated to kill bad bacteria that take up residence in the teeth, gums, and walls of our mouths.
If you’ve ever had a mint julep, you’ll recall that the taste of fresh peppermint leaf is subtle and slightly bitter. Peppermint can be chewed fresh from the leaf and is often used as a garnish. Peppermint leaf is also often dehydrated and prepared as a tea. These teas can be purchased wherever health food and holistic healing products are sold.
Essential oils are becoming more popular. This makes pure peppermint extract easier to find. Though it’s important to be aware of how much peppermint extract you’re using, peppermint oil can be a convenient way to implement the benefits of peppermint into your daily life.
Peppermint capsules are available on the market as an herbal treatment for digestive issues. When using peppermint to control the symptoms of IBS, it’s important to look for a capsule that will break down in the small intestine, and not in the stomach. This makes sure that the intestine can absorb the peppermint oil directly.
Because it contains menthol, exposure to too much peppermint oil can cause respiratory problems. Peppermint oil should never be administered around the chest or nasal area of children under 2 years old.
It’s possible to overdose on peppermint oil, though it’s extremely rare. The dosage amount that is safe varies greatly by individual and method of ingestion. Large amounts of peppermint tea appear to be safe, for example. However, large quantities of peppermint spirit (oil and leaf extract in an alcoholic solution) is not safe.
Some individuals are allergic to menthol, which is a component of peppermint. If you’re thinking about using peppermint for its benefits, make sure you’re aware of any allergies.