Food Science With Foley: A Peppermint Winter

Elizabeth Health Professional

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Peppermint has long been associated with the Holiday season, but few know about its fabulous benefits. You can find peppermint in various forms including peppermint oil, peppermint leaves, and peppermint capsules. Not only does peppermint smell and taste delicious, but it can also be incredibly helpful for people with digestive issues!


My last post focused on the microbiota, and how the microbiome affects a healthy digestive system. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gut disorder that includes a combination of symptoms that include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, and constipation, without visible symptoms of gastrointestinal (GI) disease. It also comes along with unfavorable alterations in the gut microbiome compared to healthy individuals. Most of the research that I’ve been able to find on peppermint has been done on peppermint oil in people with IBS or general digestive discomfort, so we will focus on that!


Ayurvedic medicine has traditionally used peppermint oil to treat nausea, ulcers, flatulence, and gastrointestinal disorders. Clinically, peppermint oil has been shown to alleviate symptoms of IBS! These decreases in abdominal pain and flatulence were brought about by using enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules, so if you’re looking for some relief, it would be worth spending the money on the right capsule because it makes for a much more intense delivery of peppermint oil to the intestine. Because the microbiome is involved in IBS, there is a chance that the antimicrobial effects of peppermint oil play a role in this relief, but I haven’t been able to find any studies that have looked specifically at how the microbiome changes with peppermint oil supplementation. In people with indigestion, which can be a symptom of IBS, a combination of peppermint and caraway oil reduced symptoms. Peppermint oil can also reduce esophageal spasm as well as nausea. For IBS, the suggested dose of enteric-coated peppermint oil specifically for individuals with IBS is one 0.2mL capsule 15-30 min prior to each of your meals (or three times per day).


Peppermint oil has also been used for colds and respiratory diseases but isn’t recommended for children under two years old. Peppermint tea is another great option for when you’re feeling under the weather with a cold, and many people anecdotally use the tea for digestion and digestive disorders in the place of peppermint oil. Two studies have even shown that topical treatment of peppermint oil significantly relieves tension headaches compared to placebo.


While peppermint has some awesome benefits, there are some contraindications to using peppermint. People with hernias or GI reflux shouldn’t use it because it has clear effects on the esophageal sphincter which may make symptoms significantly worse. Peppermint oil shouldn’t be taken during pregnancy, but the amount of peppermint in tea during pregnancy and lactation is generally considered safe.


All in all, peppermint smells good, can help your digestive system, headaches, and respiratory disorders, so if you’re feeling festive, make some peppermint cookies, tea, or eat a candy cane!

 

Elizabeth Foley is an FSU Ph.D. Candidate in Nutrition and Food Science. Posts and blogs created by Elizabeth on the Wealth Meet Health community are for informational purposes only and are not meant to take the place of your relationship with a health professional. For personal health considerations, please consult a health professional directly.