December is the season to be jolly – it’s also the season where peppermint pops up all over the place. Sure, mint is a delicious addition to your favorite treats, but did you ever stop and think about the health benefits that come along with the powerful herb?
Benefits of Peppermint
Peppermint isn’t just for flavor, the health effects of its fresh leaves and oil date back to ancient times.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A growing number of studies show that peppermint can help alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including gas, pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
- Headaches/Migraines: A study published in the journal Headache found that peppermint may help prevent the onset of headaches and associated symptoms for those with migraines. Applying peppermint oil to the forehead can be as effective as acetaminophen in the treatment of tension headaches.
- Cold and Flu: The main chemical component, called menthol, helps shrink the swollen membranes in the nose, making it easier to breathe when you’re congested. Menthol also acts as an expectorant, which means it helps loosen and bring out mucus from the lungs, helping to relieve coughing.
- Nausea/Vomiting: Pregnant women and those undergoing chemotherapy have experienced a reduction in nausea and vomiting from using peppermint in various forms.
- Cavities and Bad Breath: Peppermint oil has shown to be more effective than the most common chemical in mouthwash – called chlorhexidine – in preventing the formation of biofilms, which are linked to the development of cavities. It can also freshen breath and whiten teeth.
- Muscle Pain: Peppermint oil has been shown to provide relief from muscle pain and spasms when applied directly to the affected muscle.
How to Enjoy Peppermint:
One of the most popular ways to reap the rewards of the medicinal herb is to drink peppermint tea. Sip some in the morning before you start your day, or after dinner to help with digestion.
You can also experiment with diffusing peppermint essential oil or applying it topically. If you choose to go the essential oil route, always make sure to use the proper safety precautions. Essential oil should not be applied directly to the skin without a carrier oil.