Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a perennial plant found in Europe, Asia and North America. Although there are over 25 species of peppermint produced by these areas, the majority of peppermint is produced in the United States.
People have been using peppermint medicinally for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians, one of the most medically-advanced ancient cultures, cultivated and used peppermint leaves for indigestion. Additionally, the ancient Romans and Greeks took peppermint to soothe their stomachs. The plant was used by Europeans, especially in Western Europe, and gained popularity in the 18th century for stomach ailments and menstrual disorders.
Peppermint has a pleasant taste and is commonly used in cooking and for making drinks. It contains vitamins A and C as well as a number of minerals. Additionally, it has a wide variety of health and medicinal uses, some of which have been verified by scientific trials.
Immune System: Some claim that Peppermint can help protect you from colds or the flu and that it can help build a stronger immune system. The facts that Peppermint has both anti-microbial and antioxidant qualities offers support for this claim.
Skin: Peppermint oil diluted with water can be used as a wash capable of alleviating skin problems such as rashes and dry skin. Also, it can be used as a hair rinse to soothe both dry and oily scalp.
Digestive Issues: Peppermint can aid in the reduction of a number of painful digestive problems including gas, bloating and nausea. Additionally, it can help ease the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. One study showed that 75% of participants who took a capsule of Peppermint oil daily saw a significant decrease in their IBS symptoms, in comparison with 38% who took a placebo capsule.
Menstrual symptoms: Painful cramps and nausea caused by a woman’s natural cycle can be eased with the help of peppermint. Peppermint acts as a muscle relaxer and therefore reduces the pain caused by a woman’s cramps.
Energy: The scent of Peppermint is energizing and inhaling its scent can result in heightened levels of energy. Candles made with peppermint oil, Peppermint oil placed in a diffuser and Peppermint tea are a few ways this benefit of Peppermint can be enjoyed.
Headaches: Topical application of Peppermint oil can reduce certain types of minor headaches. Peppermint oil, diluted with another oil, can be applied directly to the forehead or upper sinus areas. In fact, a German study showed Peppermint to have the same power as 1,000 milligrams of acetaminophen.
Pain Relief: The main ingredient in Peppermint, Menthol, creates a cooling sensation when applied to the skin. As a result it can temporarily reduce minor levels of pain associated with athletic injuries, overuse or muscle pain.
Congestion and Clearer Breathing: Menthol is also responsible for Peppermint’s respiratory-aiding properties. The herb can be used topically or in a tea to alleviate common respiratory symptoms such as congestion, coughing and difficulty breathing caused by obstructed or inflamed passages.
How to Use Peppermint
Peppermint can be taken in many ways. The oil can be applied topically, or to the skin, a tea can be made of the dried and crushed leaves or the oil can be ingested in a capsule form or taken with water or another liquid. In general the most potent form of the herb is found in Peppermint oil, however lower levels of Peppermint, such as those ingested through tea, are still very effective.
Known Side Effects and Precautions
Essential oils, including peppermint oil, are very concentrated and if not used properly can cause allergic reactions. Do not use essential oils without first diluting them. Consult a professional before using peppermint oil on children under 5 or pregnant or breastfeeding women, especially those with a history of miscarriage. Also, large quantities of peppermint oil could damage the kidneys.
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