Just as the sound of a thunderclap halts time for a moment, the bold burst of peppermint makes tired taste buds and stuffy noses sit up and take notice. We can thank peppermint’s high menthol compound for that incredible effect. This longstanding, potent herb has many health benefits; its medicinal use is thought to date back to ancient Greece.
The Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders in Belgium states that antispasmodics, including peppermint oil, are considered the first-line treatment for abdominal pain in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). As reported in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, nine studies evaluating 726 patients showed improvement in abdominal pain and concluded that peppermint oil is a safe and effective short-term treatment for IBS.
Interestingly, peppermint oil can make colonoscopies easier for both patient and endoscopist. A paper in the Belgian journal Acta Gastro-Enterologica noted that prior to the procedure, 65 patients were given Colpermin (an enteric-coated peppermint oil capsule). The enteric coating ensures the capsule is not digested in the stomach, but passes through to be dissolved in the small intestine for maximum absorption. The peppermint oil reduced colonic spasms — decreasing pain during the procedure and increasing the doctor’s satisfaction with the outcome.
According to a study of 34 patients by Delaware-based Christiana Care Health System, nausea was decreased by more than half only two minutes after post-surgery cardiac patients inhaled peppermint oil. Additionally, researchers at the Neurological Clinic at the University of Kiel in Germany found that topical application of peppermint oil had a significant analgesic effect on headaches, while a combination of peppermint and eucalyptus oils increased cognitive performance. An article in Pharmazie reports that another combination — peppermint and caraway oils — significantly decreased pain intensity in non-ulcer dyspepsia in 213 patients.
The Clinical Journal of Pain published a paper about a 76-year-old woman’s novel treatment of postherpetic neuralgia (post-shingles pain) using peppermint oil. Her pain was resistant to standard therapies, yet she reported an immediate improvement following topical application of peppermint oil that lasted for several hours.
Are you ready to incorporate this beneficial herb into your life? Be sure to take caution when applying peppermint oil on your skin. Dilute it with a carrier oil such as unrefined coconut oil, jojoba oil, or extra-virgin olive oil. Combining it with a carrier oil does not dilute the effect of the peppermint oil. It aids absorption into the skin while making peppermint’s cooling sensation less intense on the skin’s surface. A 10 percent dilution of the essential oil to a carrier oil is generally the rule.
Let the minty-fresh recipes below get you started. You can find food-grade peppermint essential oil in health-food stores and online.