To get the health benefits of peppermint, try a tea for allergies; compounds in peppermint, including quercetin and rosmarinic acid, also may have helpful properties.
If allergies are getting you down, try a cup of hot tea with fresh peppermint leaves. Pour hot water over the leaves and steep for 5 to 6 minutes.
There may be many other health benefits of peppermint. Studies of spices and herbs almost always focus on supplements, since scientists need to be specific about quantities. But recent science documents helpful compounds in fresh peppermint, including quercetin and rosmarinic acid. Separate studies on quercetin have found that it works as an anti-histamine and can help relieve your stuffy nose. Rosmarinic acid has also been shown to relieve allergy symptoms. Then there’s menthol, the well-known decongestant that helps to break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel. Menthol, a taste we associate with “mint” of all kinds, has a cooling effect and can help relieve a sore throat.
Beyond allergy relief, peppermint, which has a long history of soothing indigestion and flatulence, may help your digestive system through more than one mechanism. Although you should always see a doctor for ongoing digestive trouble, peppermint can help make you more comfortable. It appears to increase bile secretion, speeding digestion, in a process that may also have a good effect on cholesterol levels.
In a study with rats, menthol turned out to protect the lining of the stomach in a way that could give it a role in preventing gastric ulcers associated with too much liquor and painkillers. A study on mice using Brazilian mint reached the same conclusion.
Peppermint oil capsules may even reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. In a double-blind study, a small group of patients with irritable bowel syndrome, but not celiac disease, took either a placebo or two capsules of peppermint oil twice a day over four weeks. Irritable bowel syndrome is one of those conditions in which your mind plays a big role, and people respond dramatically to placebos. But in the peppermint oil study, 75 percent of the people who received the peppermint oil cut their symptoms in half, a result that handily beat the placebo. If you try this, stick to enteric-coated capsules to avoid heartburn.
On the idea that “every bit counts,” adding peppermint leaves to your food may make it more digestible. It’s a popular herb in Middle Eastern cooking, especially, a key ingredient in tabbouleh and many lamb dishes.
New mothers take note: mint can help you, too. Painful nipples while breastfeeding are common in the first week or so. Lanolin creams don’t seem to work, according to a review from the prestigious Cochrane. In Iran, water infused with peppermint is a folk remedy to prevent nipple cracks, and scientists have backed up that idea, finding that women who washed their nipples after each feeding and then applied cotton soaked in a distilled water infused with peppermint oil had less pain and fewer cracks. Another study found the health benefits of peppermint in a gel. Applying peppermint extract to your skin can soothe irritations from insect bites and rashes, or even muscle aches.
A note of caution: Because peppermint oil has significant effects, don’t take it in large doses.
January 12, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN