Peppermint is sometimes regarded as ‘the world’s oldest medicine’, with archaeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago. Peppermint is often used to flavor foods, and the leaves can be used fresh or dried in teas. Peppermint oil has been used for a variety of health conditions, including nausea, indigestion, and cold symptoms. In 2007, Italian investigators reported that 75% of the patients in their study who took peppermint oil capsules for four weeks had a major reduction of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms including abdominal pain and bloating, compared with just 38% of those who took a placebo.
Peppermint relaxes the gastro-esophageal sphincter, thus promoting belching. It also relaxes intestinal muscles that when in spasm, produce painful bloating and gas. Restaurants usually take advantage of this effect by taking advantage of its use as a confectionary ingredient, which they then call “after-dinner mints.” Peppermint oil is also used for headaches, muscle and nerve pain, and stomach and bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint oil is used by commercial pesticide applicators, as a natural insecticide.
The plant generally thrives in shade and expands quickly by underground roots. If you choose to grow peppermint, it is advisable to plant it in a container; otherwise it can rapidly take over a whole garden. It needs a good water supply, and is ideal for planting in part-sun to shade areas.
How It Is Used: Essential oil of peppermint can be taken in very small doses in capsule or liquid forms. The essential oil can also be diluted with another oil then, applied to the skin.
Side Effects and Cautions: Peppermint oil appears to be safe for most adults when used in small doses. Possible side effects include allergic reactions and heartburn. Capsules containing peppermint oil are often coated to reduce the likelihood of heartburn. If they are taken at the same time as medicines such as antacids, this coating can break down more quickly and increase the risk of heartburn and nausea.