Peppermint oil has many health benefits. It is more than just an aromatic way to flavor food or make your home smell fresh. It's also a viable treatment for a range of illnesses and conditions.
This unassuming oil, derived from the leaves of a wintergreen/spearmint cross, can relieve some of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, tension headaches, digestion problems and many other problems. Here's a look at a few of the benefits that peppermint oil can offer.
The oil can help people with IBS, an uncomfortable digestive problem that affects up to 15 percent of the population. In a 2007 study performed in Italy, 3/4 of patients who took daily peppermint capsules for a month saw a reduction of cramping, bloating, pain and intestinal problems. Only 40 percent of the control group experienced similar benefits, making it much more effective than a placebo. This benefit may occur because the menthol in the oil helps relax muscles in the intestinal walls.
This isn't the only digestive benefit of peppermint oil that it can offer, however. It also helps to relieve recurring indigestion, especially when combined with caraway oil. It's a good idea to choose enteric-coated peppermint capsules that dissolve in the small intestine, however. Uncoated capsules can relax the esophageal sphincter, causing acid reflux and heartburn.
Some studies also show that this oil can help people who suffer from recurring tension headaches. This is probably due to its muscle-relaxing properties, but is not currently well-documented.
This health benefit of peppermint oil is due to the fact that it contains menthol, a substance traditionally used to treat a wide range of respiratory problems. Menthol is responsible for the cooling feeling in topical vapor ointments and cough lozenges. It also makes it easier to breathe for people suffering from colds and other ailments. The effect is fairly short-lived, but it provides momentary relief.
The same substance responsible for helping people breathe easier can also reduce aches and pains. Menthol has been used in liniments and pain ointments for decades. In conjunction with other ingredients, such as topical aspirin, it soothes painful joints and injured tissue for short periods.
According to a study performed in 2011, peppermint was shown to reduce the sensation of pain via a specific channel in the body. As with respiratory relief, applying peppermint oil to the skin to reduce pain will work for only a short time, but it can help patients feel better for an hour or so.
The cooling effect of peppermint oil rubbed on the skin can promote healthy sleep in some people. This sensation can promote relaxation and may encourage individuals with insomnia to sleep more easily and more deeply.
Regular use of this oil can do a lot to help people feel better, especially if they suffer from indigestion or IBS. Many of the health benefits of peppermint oil which have been known for years are now being backed up by clinical studies. More than just a sweet-smelling green plant, peppermint can be real medicine.