The Healing Power of Peppermint
Peppermint is an amazing little herb that has been used in culinary and medicinal preparations for thousands of years. In ancient cultures peppermint was cultivated and used for stomach ailments and to soothe indigestion. Western herbalists also began using peppermint as a decongestant and cough reliever for patients with bronchitis and pneumonia in the 18th century.
The peppermint plant (mentha x piperita) is a hybrid species of the spearmint and water mint plants containing the active ingredients menthol and menthone. Menthol is known to have analgesic, antispasmodic, and antimicrobial properties while menthone is a naturally occuring pesticide that can be used to ward off insects and pests. Interesting fact: menthol triggers the cold sensitive receptors in your skin causing the cooling sensation you feel when peppermint is applied topically, inhaled, or eaten.
Some of the most common uses for peppermint include:
Soothing digestive complaints
The active ingredients in peppermint relax the muscles of your intestines helping to reduce spasms of the colon and minimise bloating and gas. Try drinking a cup of peppermint tea after meals if you suffer from indigestion and bloating.
Peppermint oil has traditionally been used to reduce nausea, with more recent studies finding peppermint oil is more successful than standard medical treatments in reducing nausea associated with chemotherapy. Drinking peppermint tea or rubbing the essential oil behind your ears can assist in reducing nausea.
Relieving muscle tension
Menthol from peppermint oil is known for its analgesic and antispasmodic activity making it the perfect natural alternative for muscle pain. Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to a tablespoon of carrier oil (try sweet almond or coconut oil) and apply topically to the affected areas.
Peppermint oil can also be effective in relieving headaches associated with muscle tension. Simply apply a few drops of peppermint essential oil on to the back of your neck or forehead. You can also make a homemade neck rub by mixing 5 drops of peppermint oil and 5 drops of lavender essential oil in two tablespoons of carrier oil.
Reducing coughs and respiratory ailments
As an expectorant and decongestant peppermint assists in clearing mucus from the respiratory system, thereby reducing symptoms associated with sinus, asthma, colds, coughs, and bronchitis. Placing some peppermint in an oil diffuser beside your bed is a great option for treating respiratory ailments.
The cooling properties of the menthol in peppermint oil make it perfect for cooling the skin and reducing fevers. Mix a few drops of peppermint essential oil with coconut oil and rub it onto your neck and the soles of your feet to help stabilise a fever.
Freshening breath and dental hygiene
Peppermint has been used as a natural breath freshener for over 1000 years. Research findings indicate peppermint oil is more effective for reducing dental cavities when compared to commercial mouthwash. Chewing fresh peppermint leaves is wonderful for freshening breath, while the essential oil can be used to make homemade mouthwash and toothpaste.
Notes on ingesting essential oils
We do not advocate or recommend the ingestion of pure essential oils unless under the guidance of a qualified health professional. Essential oils are extremely potent and in some cases ingestion and / or long term use may result in harmful side effects. The safest way to gain the benefits from essential oils is to apply topically to the skin, or use them in an oil diffuser.
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