One of the Mints. Does Peppermint Help Digestion?

Christmas just finished and it is arguably the season of peppermints. The red and white stripes of candy canes and small round candies are everywhere! This is in-time for the bountiful feasts during this time of the year, and we’re here to answer the question of whether peppermint helps digestion or not.

Everybody is familiar with the smell of mint. After all, it is a common ingredient of toothpaste, mouthwashes, gums, and candies. But nobody will blame you if you sometimes get confused with the other mints. Mint has around 15 to 20 plant species under the Lamiaceae family. We’ll focus on one mint for this article, and that’s Mentha piperita, also called peppermint.

Fun fact: Peppermint is a hybrid plant from watermint and spearmint.

The Many Faces of Peppermint

This vibrant plant can have many forms, such as rubs, creams, fresh or dry leaves, and oil. You can eat it as raw leaves or turn into tea. Peppermint oil coated in enteric capsules for consumption is also available. 

For it to be used to flavor toothpaste and other products, it has to be steam distilled and turned into a concentrated essential oil. 

Peppermint’s major chemical component is menthol. Menthol gives the characteristic fresh and cooling property to the mint plants. The menthol in peppermint adds a fresh, minty flavor to toothpaste and mouthwashes. This freshens the breath of the person. But this is just scratching the surface of the uses of peppermint.

This caffeine-free tea serves as a refreshing alternative to coffee and black tea. Some people drink it for its possible health benefits.

Another health benefit claim of peppermint is headache and migraine relief. This is due to the muscle relaxant effect and the cooling sensation by menthol. In line with this, a study showed the efficacy of mint in reducing the pain and clinical signs and symptoms of painful dysmenorrhea.

Did you know, Peppermint oil can also reduce bacterial infections? It can kill Staphylococcus bacteria, along with common bacteria found in the mouth. It can also fight and prevent the growth of Listeria, Salmonella and E. Coli in pineapple and mango juices.

 

Does Peppermint Help Digestion?

You may have heard how peppermint can help in weight loss. There are a few studies about it but there is no definite answer to this topic. But, there are some studies about the effect of peppermint oil on Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other gastrointestinal ailments.

Peppermint oil has various mechanisms such as smooth muscle relaxation, visceral sensitivity modulation, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effect. It affects the esophagus, the gallbladder, colon, and the gastric and small bowel. 

Peppermint oil can reduce the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) such as pain, bloating, diarrhea and gas. It is a short-term, yet safe and effective treatment for IBS. It also helps improve the flow of bile, making it helpful for those with indigestion. 

The majority of the studies involve using peppermint oil. So, there is no definitive answer on whether peppermint tea and other derivatives can have the same effect. 

It’s all cool and dandy, but some risks and precautions must be observed. Here are some of the no-no’s of using peppermint:

  • People with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) must avoid mint for their digestion issues. Why? Mint acts as a trigger for this, sometimes increasing the symptoms of indigestion. It only affects the small percentage of GERD patients, but it’s better to avoid it anyway. 
  • If you have heartburn, do not take any form of mint. Mint acts as a muscle relaxant and can close off the stomach from the esophagus. This will only make your stomach acid flow back or stay longer in your esophagus.
  • Do not consume excessive amounts of peppermint oil since it is toxic.
  • Do not consume pure menthol, nor apply mint oil to the skin of a toddler or infant. 
  • Peppermint is not recommended to people with diabetes, hiatus hernia (it relaxes the colon), people taking antacids and other medications metabolized by the liver.

If you’re like me and you like minty food, here are some tips and tricks to make peppermint a part of your life:

  • Make your peppermint tea with one handful of torn peppermint leaves and two freshly boiled cups of water
  • Add it to your cucumber or lime drink for a minty fresh drink
  • Mix it with your chocolate chip cookies and other desserts
  • Add it to your fruit salsa for a different twist

Peppermint is a healthy ingredient and caffeine-free tea alternative. It is a natural product that has a short-term yet effective treatment for IBS. It also helps with digestion with its effect on different parts of the gut. So, does peppermint help digestion? Yes, it does. Not only that, it is available in different forms, safe and easy to turn into tea. Just remember to take everything in moderation and not to go overboard with the peppermint oils.

While you steep your peppermint tea, check out two other oils that you might have read recently: CBD and MCT oil.

Nicole Castaneda - RND

Nicole is a professional Nutritionist-Dietitian who advocates for food variation, moderation and the effect of food choices on the body. She loves to write light and easy to understand articles about food and gut health.

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