Peppermint or Mentha Piperita is predominantly used for inducing flavor and/or fragrance in chewing gum, confectionary, ice cream, tea and toothpaste. Menthol, an active component of peppermint is employed in a number of products ranging from chest rubs and shampoos to skin care products.
That said, peppermint also has properties that are beneficial to our health in more ways than one, and this article looks to outline some of them.
Interesting Facts About Peppermint
Growing to about 2-3 feet in height, peppermint isn’t exactly a species in itself. Instead it is a sterile hybrid resulting from a cross between the spearmint and watermint species. Peppermint may been introduced to the modern world when it was first hybridized in England and later cultivated during the 18th century. But, it’s interesting to note that natural hybridization between spearmint and watermint do occur.
This has led many to believe that the mint may have actually originated from North Africa and Mediterranean regions. In fact, there is mention of the mint in the Bible as well as old Egyptian scriptures and Greek mythology.
The Benefits Of Peppermint
Here are some of the more prominent health benefits associated with Peppermint:
Tummy Soother: Studies performed by a number of health research groups around the world repeatedly point to a positive role of peppermint oil on the body’s digestive mechanism. And the relief aspect extends to symptoms as diverse as indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia (a discomforting digestive disorder leading to nausea and heartburn) and muscle spasms in the colon.
Most if not all of the above effects can be attributed to peppermint’s ability in relaxing special muscles surrounding the intestine. Relaxed muscles means reduced spasms which in this context translates to lesser chance of indigestion.
Cold And Flu Alleviator: Similar to your typical decongestant medicine, peppermint too shrinks the swollen membranes around the nose thereby making it easy to breathe. It’s capable of loosening mucus deposited in the lungs and bringing it up towards the mouth in the form of cough. In other words, peppermint performs remarkably well in providing relief from general cold and flu symptoms.
Anti-Inflammation: Be it fever, swelling or headaches, the common effect is seen in the form of inflammation in the affected regions. In such cases, applying peppermint oil on the affected area offers temporary respite by the cooling down the area and reducing any swelling caused due to inflammation.
Anti-Microbial: Essential oils contained in peppermint have been shown to inhibit the growth of various types of bacteria and fungi. That’s why peppermint oil when inhaled works so well against nausea and motion sickness. The anti-microbial action also extends to alleviate other problems like skin infections and hair fall
Skin Problems: Often, symptoms like skin irritation and itchiness can be attributed to hives, poison oak and poison ivy. Here too, peppermint’s broad spectrum anti-microbial properties along with its cooling effect can offer some calming relief when applied topically.
Breathe Easy, Breathe Fresh: Menthol in peppermint is a good odor neutralizer, which should explain why a broad range of toothpastes and mouthwashes feature the volatile extracts in small quantities.
In similar light, rosmarinic acid, another component found in peppermint, exhibits a range of positive actions towards asthma. Apart from being able to neutralize free radicals in the body, the chemical also efficiently stops production of leukotrienes, a chemical otherwise known to accelerate inflammation. Finally, rosmarinic acid in its own special way promotes cell level production of ‘prostacyclins’ which are key to keeping the airways in the body open for easy breathing.
Anti-Cancer Potential: Interest in peppermint’s cancer treating capabilities can be attributed to a phytonutrient called Perillyl alcohol contained in it, in plentiful. Now, animal studies conducted using this particular phytonutrient concentrate have shown that it was able to arrest the growth of tumors specifically growing in pancreas, mammary and liver.
Whether the phytonutrient will have the same degree of success on humans remains to be seen, but it does offer some ray of hope.Tags: asthma, cancer, health, health benefits, inflammation, peppermint