Peppermint is a proven remedy for headaches, colds, and gastrointestinal upsets. It is very easy to use: peppermint capsules help against irritable bowel syndrome, peppermint essential oil against headaches, and peppermint inhalation for blocked airways. A peppermint tea warms in winter and in summer the aromatic plant refreshes with a delicious peppermint smoothie. The right smoothie recipe follows immediately – just like numerous other tips for using peppermint.
Peppermint – Fragrant medicinal herb
Peppermint has been a prized and well-known medicinal herb for thousands of years. Even today, in our somewhat unnatural world, most of us – if perhaps no longer the plant itself – at least recognize its typically fresh, spicy mint scent.
And although the menthol flavor can of course also be produced fully synthetically for a long time – for chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. – a large part of the menthol is still extracted directly from the peppermint plant.
Peppermint is called Mentha piperita among experts. The genus name Mentha comes from a nymph named Minthe, at least according to a Greek legend. The poor thing was about to be kidnapped by the lustful Hades, the ruler of the underworld, when Persephone, his jealous wife, stepped in and quickly enchanted Minthe into a plant – namely a mint.
Peppermint differs from other mints in particular due to its high menthol content and the taste reminiscent of pepper (Latin: Piperita = peppered). Menthol is one of the particularly effective ingredients that made peppermint a medicine for many ailments.
The leaves of the plant are used for medicinal purposes. The versatile essential peppermint oil escapes from the glandular scales on the leaf surface simply by rubbing it with your fingers. This has, among other things, an antimicrobial, antiviral, and mentally stimulating effect. At the same time, peppermint has an antispasmodic effect on the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract while soothing the gallbladder and overall aiding, or rather regulating, digestion.
Peppermint as a mouthwash
Peppermint TEA is particularly popular in medicine cabinets. It looks cold as well as hot. For example, due to its antiseptic effect, cold peppermint tea can be used as a mouthwash either preventively or for existing inflammation of the oral mucosa.
Peppermint for the stomach and intestines
However, the most common use of peppermint leaves is for indigestion, bloating, and gastritis: when a meal is heavy on the stomach when the digestive process has stalled, and when there is nausea and bloating, the neutralizing effects of peppermint can help bring things back into balance.
Peppermint also promotes the production of bile juices and ensures their smooth drainage in the case of spasmodic complaints of the gallbladder and bile ducts.
In the stomach, peppermint stimulates gastric juice secretion, which accelerates gastric emptying and stimulates appetite – an effect that is particularly appreciated by children and people in convalescence. In the intestines, peppermint tea then clearly acts as a bloating agent, which can usually very reliably relieve abdominal pain caused by flatulence.
However, people with chronic stomach problems who already have damaged gastric mucosa should choose a gentler tea version instead of pure peppermint tea, namely a mixture of peppermint and one part chamomile.
Peppermint for irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome, which is now a widespread folk ailment, often means a significant reduction in the quality of life for those affected. The main symptoms usually consist of abdominal cramps with unpredictable diarrhea.
In many cases, conventional medicine finds no physical causes. As a result, the symptoms are only suppressed with medication, which does not necessarily lead to healing, but rather to a dependency on the medication taken.
It is therefore not surprising that more and more people with chronic gastrointestinal complaints are looking for herbal alternatives, which are much better tolerated and do not cause any serious side effects. Since peppermint is a tried and tested remedy for spasmodic complaints of the gastrointestinal tract, nausea, and flatulence, its use in irritable bowel syndrome is very obvious.
And so, under the influence of peppermint, the musculature of the intestine in irritable bowel patients also noticeably relaxes. The sensitive nerve cells can calm down and congested intestinal gases can escape gently. In addition, the menthol in peppermint activates the anti-pain channel in the walls of the colon, which reduces the sensation of pain. At the same time, the antibacterial peppermint effect inhibits the growth of bad intestinal bacteria and thus improves the intestinal environment.
Since the effect of essential peppermint oil is always significantly stronger than homemade peppermint tea, the positive influence of peppermint on irritable bowel syndrome was particularly evident after taking enteric-coated capsules with essential peppermint oil. The protective layer of the capsules, which is resistant to gastric juice, is intended to prevent the shell from dissolving prematurely, so that the peppermint oil does not take effect in the stomach, but actually first in the large intestine, where it leads to local relaxation of the muscles of the digestive tract.
Studies have shown that irritable bowel patients were able to report a significant improvement in their symptoms after just three weeks of taking the capsules – and without any side effects worth mentioning. The effectiveness of the peppermint oil capsules and the typically low side effect profile of peppermint were even confirmed in children and adolescents between the ages of 8 and 18.
Peppermint for the respiratory system
With colds and flu waves, the essential peppermint oil helps to clear the airways in no time thanks to its secretion-promoting and antibacterial properties. In these cases – depending on the symptoms – take a peppermint bath, rub yourself with peppermint (mix a drop of peppermint oil into a base oil, such as high-quality organic coconut oil), or – even easier – inhale with it peppermint!
To do this, fill a bowl with hot water, add a few drops of peppermint oil, bend over, cover your shoulders, head, and bowl with a towel and breathe in the minty scent slowly and relaxed. You will immediately notice a relieving effect – especially in the case of acute nasal congestion or coughing.
By inhaling the essential oils, the cilia in the bronchi are stimulated so that stuck mucus can be loosened and coughed up better.
Peppermint for the muscles
The freshness of the peppermint also has an effect when rubbed in, e.g. B. with the coconut oil and peppermint oil mixture mentioned above, it is pleasantly cooling, soothing, and refreshing at the same time. Externally applied peppermint oil can even alleviate the symptoms of eczema, rheumatic diseases, or bruises.
Peppermint instead of a first-aid kit?
Thailand travelers who have left their travel pharmacy at home will find that they do not need chemical mosquito repellent, headache pills, or nasal spray. You can buy a special cream for all of the complaints mentioned in every pharmacy there. Its recipe is a “closely” guarded secret, but consists largely of peppermint oil.
Peppermint for headaches
Of course, headache pills are not only needed on vacation but often at home as well. Because anyone who has ever suffered from headaches or migraines knows how bad the pain is to endure and how much it can impair quality of life and performance.
Tension-related headaches, which occasionally affect more than 80% of adult Europeans, are expressed as a dull, oppressive feeling of pain either in the forehead area, on both sides of the skull, or in the area of the back of the head. Those affected by migraines in particular often suffer from increased sensitivity, especially to light and noise.
Around 40% of those suffering from pain then resort to self-medication from the pharmacy as a matter of routine. Painkillers, known in technical jargon as analgesics, dampen pain sensations via the central nervous system. However, headache medications that lead to increased pain inhibition through combinations of active ingredients often have harmful side effects and, if taken regularly, put a strain on the body (especially the liver and kidneys).
Peppermint can also help here naturally. Especially with tension headaches, the plant provides relief through its anticonvulsant effect. The oil is applied locally to the forehead and temples, where it triggers a cold stimulus on the skin, which then blocks the pain conduction to the brain and at the same time relaxes the muscles.
As early as 1996, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study (Goebel et al., 1996) showed that 10 percent peppermint oil dissolved in ethanol and applied to the forehead and temples was significantly effective against tension headaches – just as effective as 2 tablets ( 1 g) Paracetamol! After just 15 minutes, the patients treated with peppermint oil experienced a soothing effect that increased over the next 45 minutes.
In 2010, another crossover study examined the effectiveness of a 10 percent menthol solution for migraines (Borhani Haghighi et al., 2010). 38.3 percent of the patients treated with the menthol solution were pain-free after two hours, and even the symptoms associated with migraines (sensitivity to light and noise, and nausea) decreased significantly more than in the placebo group.
Peppermint oil has also been scientifically proven to be at least as effective as conventional medicines and represents an easily accessible, well-tolerated, and inexpensive alternative for future headache sufferers. Therefore, if you have a headache, reach for peppermint oil first or drink peppermint tea in peace.
Peppermint for herpes
You should do the same at the first sign of herpes. This phenomenon is only too well known to many: the lip tightens, burns and tingles, and you already know that a herpes blister is approaching. What to do? Patients suffering from the widespread herpes simplex virus can find new hope and fight their painful blisters with the help of a natural remedy:
Test results showed that peppermint oil has a direct antiviral effect on herpes simplex viruses. A study by the University of Heidelberg showed that a viral kill rate of around 99% was observed just three hours after treating type 1 and 2 herpes simplex viruses with peppermint oil. Peppermint oil has proven to be particularly useful in the early stages, i.e. at the beginning of a herpes infection, by preventing the viruses from adhering to the cells and thus preventing the infection from spreading.
As you can see, although peppermint has been used as a remedy in traditional medicine for thousands of years, the current state of studies in conventional medicine on the effect of the plant is now almost more impressive. 270 studies alone have currently dealt with “peppermint essential oil” in the largest online collection of medical publications.
One recent study (Meamarbashi & Rajabi, 2013) even found peppermint oil’s marked effectiveness in improving performance in athletes.
So if you have a garden or even just a sunny to a semi-shady spot on your balcony, you should take the opportunity to cherish and care for your own medicine chest, i.e. peppermint.
Peppermint in your own herb garden
The peppermint should be planted in a humus-rich spot, neither soggy nor too dry. The dense and shallow root system of the plant loves to live as free from weeds as possible. Half shade is ideal for the spice plant. It is robust and easy to care for. Once planted, you will likely never suffer from a peppermint deficiency again. Because the plant tends to spread very independently and over large areas.
The leaves and shoot tips are harvested. The time before the start of flowering, which usually takes place between June and August, is particularly productive.
Since peppermint can delight us not only with its healing powers but also with delicious taste experiences, peppermint belongs not only in the medicine cabinet but also in the kitchen. So you don’t have to be ill to enjoy this plant.
Peppermint in the kitchen
The aromatic taste of peppermint goes well with both savory dishes and desserts and gives every dish that certain something. In Great Britain, for example, peppermint sauce is traditionally served with lamb. But soups and salads also get the necessary kick with a touch of peppermint. Of course, green smoothies with peppermint are very tasty, healthy, and trendy.
Of course, there are no limits to the imagination. Try it!
Peppermint in a green smoothie – the refreshingly healthy way to snack
Raspberry Peppermint Smoothie
For about 2 people
- 200 grams of raspberries
- 300 ml orange or apple juice
- 4 fresh peppermint leaves
- 1 apple
- 1 banana
- ice cubes
Peel and dice the apple and banana, and puree them in a blender along with the raspberries and mint leaves. Orange or apple juice makes the smoothie runnier, the ice cubes make the smoothie cool like summer. Refreshingly delicious!
Strawberry Peppermint Smoothie
For about 2 people
- 250 grams of strawberries
- 1 ½ banana (250 g)
- 20 fresh peppermint leaves
- 200 ml red grape juice
- 100 g ice cubes (crushed ice)
Wash and quarter the strawberries, peel the bananas and cut them into pieces. Blend the strawberries, bananas, mint leaves, grape juice, and crushed ice in a blender. Finished! Also delicious!