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Peppermint for Stomach Ailments?

Peppermint for Stomach Ailments? Peppermint has a high menthol content, and is often used as a flavouring in tea, ice cream, confectionery, chewing gum, and toothpaste. The oil also contains menthone and menthyl esters.

It is the oldest and most popular flavour of mint-flavoured confectionery. You can find peppermint in hundreds of different products including teas, candies, capsules, ointments, toothpaste, drinks and the list goes on.  So, I thought that I'd outline a few of the more promising medicinal qualities of peppermint. 

Peppermint, like many spices and herbs, is believed to have medicinal properties when consumed. It is said that it helps against upset stomachs, inhibits the growth of certain bacteria, and can help soothe and relax muscles when inhaled or applied to the skin. Other health benefits are attributed to the high manganese, vitamin C and vitamin A content; as well as trace amounts of various other nutrients such as fibre, iron, calcium, folate, potassium, tryptophan, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, riboflavin, and copper.

According to the results of a review reported in the April 1 2007 issue of American Family Physician, Peppermint oil is effective in treating digestive disorders and other conditions including headaches.

"The medicinal use of peppermint and other mint plants probably dates back to the herbal pharmacopoeia of ancient Greece, where peppermint leaf traditionally was used internally as a digestive aid and for management of gallbladder disease; it also was used in inhaled form for upper respiratory symptoms and cough," writes Benjamin Kligler, MD, MPH, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, and Sapna Chaudhary, DO, from the Beth Israel Continuum Center for Health and Healing in New York.

Specific applications of note are:
- Peppermint leaf and oil have a long history of use for digestive disorders.
- Enteric-coated peppermint oil is a safe alternative to effectively reduce some IBS symptoms, recent evidence suggests, although some evidence is conflicting.
- Peppermint oil combined with caraway oil appears moderately effective in treating non-ulcer dyspepsia.
- Peppermint oil applied topically may effectively treat tension headache.

The most promising research is its use for digestive problems such as indigestion (also known as non-ulcerative dyspepsia), relieving gas, and improving stomach discomfort for people with irritable bowel syndrome. 

Research suggests that peppermint oil combined with caraway oil may helpful in treating indigestion. In one randomised double-placebo clinical trial of 120 people evaluating it for indigestion, symptoms improved throughout the study. At 8 weeks, 43% of patients receiving the herbal formulation compared with 3% in the placebo group were symptom free.   

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

While research is far from conclusive, there are also several studies showing peppermint oil may be helpful in treating irritable bowel syndrome.

One study randomised 42 children with irritable bowel syndrome to receive peppermint or placebo. After 2 weeks, 75% of the children experienced less stomach discomfort. Interestingly, the same smooth muscle effects that are theorised to be the reason why peppermint helps people with irritable bowel syndrome may also cause more heartburn in some people. In a similarly designed clinical trial enrolling 110 adults, similar improvements were also found.

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 in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, compared with just 38% of those who took a placebo pill. 


Taken by mouth: The usual dose recommended for treating indigestion is 90mg of peppermint oil and 50mg of caraway oil.  People using peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome symptoms can take 90mg daily or 0.2 to 0.4 milliliters oil in capsules or liquids taken 3 times daily. 

Applied on the skin: Some people apply peppermint oil to their forehead and temples to relieve tension headaches and there is some research suggesting it might be helpful. People also put it on their skin to manage a variety of other ailments including itching skin, body ache, and toothaches.

Inhaling the vapor: People also inhale peppermint oil vapour to help their head/sinus congestion by adding 3 or 4 drops of oil to 150 milliliters of hot water and inhaling the vapor 1-3 times per day.

For minor indigestion, you can also experiment with a cup of peppermint tea and see if you feel a difference.