Herbal Meds

Using Peppermint as a herbal medicine 

For centuries, peppermint has been used to provide relief for indigestion, headaches and colds.  Today, this powerful medicinal herb is used to soothe digestive complaints and ease indigestion and nausea.

Peppermint is cultivated world wide for use as a natural flavouring agent and also as an herbal medicine.  This hybrid of spearmint has oval, pointed leaves that are either dark green or purple and lilac-coloured flowers.  The leaves and stems are harvested for medicinal purposes just before the flowers bloom.  What gives this herb its healing qualities is its volatile oil, which are made up of several compounds namely menthol, menthone and menthyl acetate.  Peppermint oil is made into an herbal medicine by steam-distilling the parts of the plant that grow above the ground.

Some of the common uses of peppermint include relieving heartburn, nausea and indigestion, easing the symptoms of diverticular disorder and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), dissolving gallstones, soothing muscle aches, sweetening the breath and easing coughs.  Peppermint oil appears in more commercial products than any other herb.  It is included in antacids, mouthwashes and toothpastes.

The oil obtained from this herbal remedy relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract which helps to relieve intestinal cramping and also flatulence.  Peppermint has antispasmodic properties that are beneficial to people suffering from IBS, which is a disorder characterized by abdominal cramps, diarrhea alternating with constipation and indigestion.  In a study conducted at the Taichung Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan, patients who used peppermint oil capsules reported significant relief from the symptoms of IBS. Abdominal pain disappeared completely or was greatly reduced and patients reported less bloating and flatulence.  

The menthol contained in peppermint herbal medicines stimulates the flow of digestive juices and bile, thereby aiding digestion.  This has made peppermint a popular ingredient in over-the-counter antacids.  Several studies have also indicated that menthol aids in dissolving gallstones.  It is important though to find out how serious your condition is before using peppermint as an herbal alternative to gallstone surgery.

Drinking peppermint tea will relieve nausea and motion sickness.  Peppermint tea is a safe, natural herbal remedy for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. Flatulence and bloating is also eased when drinking this herbal tea.

Rubbing peppermint oil on the skin relieves pain by stimulating the nerves that perceive cold and dulling the nerves that sense pain.  This makes it a valuable herbal medicine for aching muscles.  

Commission E, which is a German health board that is an authority on the research of herbs, found that peppermint was an effective decongestant that also reduced inflammation of the nasal passages.  Inhaling peppermint oil when you have a cold will ease your breathing and drinking peppermint tea is effective to relieve bronchial spasms.

Research conducted at the University of Kiel in Germany showed that when applying a mixture of peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil to the forehead and temples, the pain of headaches and migraines were significantly reduced.

What are the side effects of Peppermint?

Please consult your medical practitioner prior to using any herbal medications should you be under their care.

Used in the recommended doses, peppermint generally has no side effects, even if used for prolonged periods.  One of the rare side effects is a skin rash when applying peppermint oil directly to the skin, simply discontinue use if this occurs.

How do I use Peppermint?

Take enteric-coated capsules between meals.  Enteric-coated capsules are capsules that are coated with a material that permits transit through the stomach to the small intestine without the medicine contained being absorbed by the stomach.

Drink peppermint tea after or between meals.  To take a peppermint tincture, put 10 to 20 drops in a glass of water.

To treat IBS, nausea and gallstones, try enteric-coated capsules containing at least 0,2 ml peppermint oil per capsule.  These capsules will release the oil where it is needed most - in the small and large intestine instead of in the stomach.  Take 1 or 2 capsules three times a day between meals.

To freshen your breath, place a few drops of peppermint oil on your tongue.

To soothe indigestion and relieve flatulence, make peppermint tea by using one or two teaspoons of dried peppermint leaves in a cup of boiled water.  Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.  Take care to cover the cup to make sure that volatile oils that make peppermint a beneficial herbal medicine do not evaporate.  

To ease congestion and coughs, drink up to four cups of peppermint tea brewed as above.

To relieve muscles aches and pain, add a few drops of peppermint oil to 15 ml of a neutral oil and apply to the affected areas up to four times daily.  You can also add a few drops of oil to aqueous cream.

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