When I was growing up friends of ours grew peppermint in their field, and we would always make fresh iced peppermint tea out of it. It was always my favorite part of summer. My grandmother used to give me a warmed-up version of the same tea if I had a stomach ache or other intestinal complaints. It always seemed to help. Now that I know a bit more about herbs, I understand why it always seemed to work on my stomach aches.
Peppermint (Mentha piperata) is a naturally occurring hybrid of spearmint (M. spicata) and water mint (M. aquatica). A native of the Mediterranean, its leaves were often used to crown luminaries in ancient Greece and Rome. However, unlike other mints, peppermint contains in its oil the powerful therapeutic ingredient menthol, as well as menthone, menthyl acetate and some 40 other compounds.
As well as having a wonderful flavor, peppermint has a number of health benefits. Here are just a few:
Peppermint Can Relieve Stomach Problems
Peppermint is often recognized as a “stomach healer.” Stomach problems that are known to be helped include irritable bowel syndrome, frequent diarrhea or constipation, stomach aches or nausea. Many people use its tea as their primary form of peppermint to relieve stomach problems because it tends to be more soothing than other forms of the mint.
Peppermint Can Help the Immune System
Many people believe that peppermint tea can help relieve symptoms of the common cold or flu. It tea does contain some very healthy vitamins, including Vitamin B, potassium and calcium. This may be the reason that it helps relieve these symptoms. It also may prevent you from getting sick in the future. Some people believe that peppermint tea can also help control mild cases of asthma, though this is highly debated by medical professionals.
Peppermint Can Be a Decongestant
Menthol, the primary active ingredient in peppermint, is a proven decongestant. Traditionally, diluted peppermint oil has been used as an inhalant as well as a chest rub to treat colds, flu, fevers and even bronchitis. Menthol vapor is approved by the FDA as a remedy for colds and flu, particularly because of its expectorant and decongestant properties.
Peppermint Tea Can Reduce Bad Breath
Any type of peppermint is known to reduce bad breath. However, when you drink the tea, there is a good chance that your bad breathe will be reduced temporarily. Some people firmly believe that when you drink the tea on a regular basis, your bad breathe will permanently go away, though this is debatable.
Peppermint Tea Can Help Relieve Stress
The flavor and smell of peppermint is known to relieve stress. Many people find that when they drink the tea, they are able to sleep better at night, which is believed to be because of its stress relieving properties. Others believe that the stress relief that you may experience from drinking it may be linked to the muscle relaxing properties of this tea.
Peppermint Tea May Dissolve Gallstones
Peppermint contains menthol which belongs to a class of compounds called terpenes that have been studied for decades in the treatment of gallstones. Studies suggest that terpenes keep cholesterol crystals from forming in bile and may even dissolve existing stones.
Peppermint May Reduce the Severity of Herpes Outbreaks
A study by the University of Heidelberg found that peppermint oil could penetrate the skin and have a direct anti-viral effect against the herpes simplex virus. It was also found to be active against an acyclovir-resistant strain of the virus.
Peppermint Can Help Relax Muscle Spasms
Peppermint is a common ingredient in many muscle rubs, “ices”, and skin creams for pain, inflammation and burning. Used topically, it has a cooling and relaxing effect on the skin. Its oil is absorbed into the skin and offers a temporary pain relief for muscular pain, cramping and spasms. It can also soothe the smooth muscles of the uterus and digestive tract, providing relief for menstrual cramps and intestinal cramping.
Peppermint Can Act as a Pain Killer
The pain-relieving properties of peppermint oil are one of its most valued therapeutic properties. It has been used for years to relieve the pain of aching and inflamed joints, migraines and headaches, as well as neuralgia.