The sound of peppermint conjures images of old-fashioned ice cream and summer, and candy canes in winter-and of course, toothpaste and chewing gum. By its nature, peppermint is refreshing because of its inherently high menthol content. While it may be found growing perennially along Grandma's picket fence, it can be found in a significant amount of products, potions, foods and remedies across the globe.
Peppermint was indigenous to Europe, but is now widespread in cultivation throughout all regions of our sweet planet. While the refreshing nature of peppermint is great for teas, gum, and dental products such as Oral Guard dental spray from the Institute for Vibrant Living, its cooling properties can be found in some shampoos, soaps and skin care products. Menthol activates cold-sensitive receptors in the skin and mucosal tissues, and is the primary source of the cooling sensation that follows the topical application of peppermint oil.
Peppermint has a long tradition of medicinal use, with archaeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago. Peppermint is commonly used to soothe or treat symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, indigestion, irritable bowel, and bloating. Italian investigators reported in 2007 in the journal Digestive and Liver Disease that 75% of study patients who ingested peppermint oil capsules for four weeks had a major reduction in irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, compared with just 38% of those who took a placebo. Similar results were found in another study from Iran published in 2010. Research shows that peppermint acts through a specific anti-pain channel to reduce pain sensing fibers. This information offers hope for many who suffer from IBS.
According to the German Commission E monographs, peppermint oil (and leaf) has been used internally as an antispasmodic (upper gastrointestinal tract and bile ducts) and to treat irritable bowel syndrome, catarrh of the respiratory tract, and inflammation of the oral mucosa. On another note, one animal study referenced in 2010 in the Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics suggested that peppermint may have radio-protective effects in patients undergoing cancer treatment. Enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules have been used as an orally administered antispasmodic premedication in colonoscopy. The capsules were found beneficial in reducing total procedure time, reducing colonic spasm, and decreasing pain in patients during the colonoscopy.
Memory and alertness are said to be enhanced by the aroma of peppermint. A study out of the U.K. in 2006 showed that the aroma of peppermint provides a powerful boost for improving memory, and sharpening focus and concentration. This study measured the effect of peppermint aroma on cognitive performance, and peppermint was shown to increase alertness and memory.
Some teachers are now using peppermint air fresheners in classrooms to help keep kids focused-with a bonus of helping with sinus and digestive problems, and easing headaches and tension. Peppermint is a natural stimulant, and some teachers are now handing out peppermint candy before tests and exams. While the students may think of them as a treat, consumption of peppermint is proving to be more of a treat for the brain.
Peppermint increases the brain's capacity to retain facts. To check this theory, a test was conducted recently on a class of 30 freshmen English students at Archbishop McCarthy High School in Florida. The test included simple algebraic questions, a general history and science question and grammar mistakes for students to identify. Half of the students were given peppermint candies during their test. The students who consumed peppermint scored 10 percent better than the students who didn't take peppermint. The results show that the students who were eating peppermint were somewhat more stimulated than the others.
The main effect of peppermint is represented by a significant improvement of the blood flow to the brain. In addition, peppermint is believed to increase powers of concentration. Peppermint is an important herbal memory remedy; peppermint contains significant amounts of flavonoids, the type of antioxidants that prevent aging of the brain, improve the immune system and neutralize or diminish the action of the oxidative substances. The free radicals, which are also known as oxidative substances, play an essential role in the appearance and in the development of some memory loss causing health problems.
At the University of Cincinnati, Dr. William N. Dember, concluded that mental alertness and focus could be increased by 28 percent through the inhalation of peppermint oil. What an easy, safe, economical method for a mental pick-me-up!
Beyond soothing the digestive tract and enhancing memory, peppermint consumption has been shown to help expedite weight loss. It's a natural appetite suppressant that increases alertness while decreasing hunger pangs. Peppermint helps control appetite-with the added benefit of improving digestion. Peppermint also can make food taste better and help you feel full and satisfied more quickly.
A study in West Virginia's Wheeling Jesuit University reported that people exposed on a consistent basis to peppermint consumed about 2,800 fewer calories per week than those who were not. That is a lot of calories! The study creator, Bryan Raudenbush, Ph.D., reported that the scent or consumption of peppermint increases brain activity in the area that controls alertness. He found that avoiding this crash in both attention and focus will curb the snacking that often takes place to jump-start energy.
Peppermint is easy to find and it's even easy to grow. Always look for organic peppermint. Growing it yourself in a garden or pot is another way to guarantee that the peppermint you are using is organic. Mint can be used in oil form, as tea or dental spray to help reduce gum swelling, or by simply plucking a few mint leaves for consumption.
WAYS TO ADD PEPPERMINT TO YOUR LIFE:
- Fill your home with the scent by dispersing the essential oil in a simmering pot
- A couple drops of essential oil can be placed in the rinse water as you wash your clothes too-particularly nice for sheets and towels
- Flavor your water or tea with a drop of the oil, and or a sprig of the herb
- Add drops to an unscented liquid soap for a soothing multi-purpose peppermint soap
- For cool summertime feet, soak in cool water with liquid peppermint soap, or a few drops of the essential oil
- Use peppermint liquid soap during a hot steam showers (or baths) help relieve congestion and body aches
- Make natural toothpaste by mixing a paste of baking soda, sea salt, a dash of powdered Vitamin C, and two drops of essential oil of peppermint for an old fashioned cleansing paste
- Use Oral Guard with peppermint to freshen breath, whiten teeth, and stop bleeding gums
Try the essential oil, fresh peppermint leaves, or a soothing cup of brewed peppermint tea. Peppermint is effective when ingested or inhaled.