Mint has long been known for its refreshing and cleansing properties and has been used for centuries for its medicinal benefits. The market is full of products like toothpaste, chewing gum, breath fresheners and sweets which have mint as their base element but does it have more to offer?
Could it offer relief to sufferers of IBS and other health concerns?
Let us take a look at the possible health benefits of mint:
Irritable bowel syndrome – IBS
Studies have found the use of peppermint oil to be an effective and safe treatment for those suffering from abdominal pain or discomfort associated with IBS. The healing properties of peppermint are apparently related to its smooth muscle relaxing ability.
Once the smooth muscles surrounding the intestine are relaxed, there is less chance of spasm and the indigestion that can accompany it.
The menthol in peppermint may be a key reason for this bowel-comforting effect. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends peppermint as a frontline treatment for IBS. The British Medical Journal has also confirmed that peppermint oil is particularly effective for the symptoms of IBS.
Indigestion and Gas
Mint is a calming and soothing herb that has been used for thousands of years to aid indigestion and stomach upsets. Mint is thought to increase bile secretion and encourage bile flow which helps to speed and ease digestion. Peppermint tea is a popular home remedy for flatulence and it is thought to relieve pain and discomfort from gas and bloating.
Mint contains menthol which is a natural aromatic decongestant that helps break up phlegm and mucus. Menthol also has a cooling effect and can help relieve a sore throat, especially when combined with tea. It can also relieve the irritation in the nose, throat and other respiratory channels which causes coughing.
Depression and Fatigue
Mint is a natural stimulant and the smell alone can help to charge your batteries and get your brain functioning on a high level again. If you are feeling sluggish, anxious, depressed or simply exhausted, mint can help to give you a much needed boost.
A good way to do this is to put a few drops of mint oil on your pillow at night and let it work on your body and mind while you sleep.
In a study in animals, menthol was found to help protect the lining of the stomach from the negative effects of indomethacin and ethanol, giving it a potential role in preventing gastric ulcers associated with alcohol consumption and regular use of painkillers.
A recent study explored the effect mint has on alertness, retention and cognitive function. It found that people who frequently use chewing gum containing mint, had higher levels of memory retention and mental alertness than those who did not.
Skin Care and Pimples
While mint oil is a good antiseptic and relieves itching, mint juice is an excellent skin cleanser. It soothes the skin, helps to cure infections and itchiness as well as being a good way to reduce pimples. It can even relieve some of the symptoms of acne.
The anti-inflammatory nature of mint will also help treat insect bites, rashes and other skin reactions, and bring down swelling.
Mint plants contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid which has shown to be a promising natural treatment for relieving seasonal allergy symptoms and hay fever.
Although breast feeding can offer significant benefits for both mother and baby, it can cause pain and damage to the nipples. Studies have shown that mint oil can reduce nipple cracks and ease the pain.
Mint is a stimulant and it also stimulates digestive enzymes that absorb nutrients from food and consume fat and turn it into usable energy. Therefore by adding mint to your diet, you are increasing the amount of fat that is being put to use rather than being stored by your body.
Mint has germicidal qualities and it quickly freshens the breath, inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and cleans the tongue and teeth. Simply chewing on a mint leaf is the easiest way to achieve these results.
Nausea and Headaches
The strong and refreshing aroma of mint is a quick and effective remedy for nausea. Balms with a mint base can give quick relief in the case of headache when rubbed on the forehead and nose.
Mint is a naturally soothing substance, so it can alleviate the inflammation and temperature rise that is often associated with headaches and migraines.
How to incorporate more mint into your diet
Adding mint is a great way to add flavour to a dish or beverage without adding excessive calories, sugar or sodium. If used in cooking, it is best to add the shredded leaves at the end to maintain their flavour and texture.
Mint is easy to grow in small pots on a windowsill and growing it in your garden can ward off insects, ants and flies.
Mint is commonly used to flavour Middle Eastern dishes such as lamb, curries, soups and salads.
Try making limeade by mixing lime juice with water, ice cubes and shredded mint leaves. Or just jazz up a glass of water by adding mint leaves and cucumber for a refreshing change.
Incorporate mint into a fresh fruit salad or salsa with chopped apples, pears, lemon or lime juice, red pepper and honey. Serve on top of baked chicken or lamb chops.
Add to natural yoghurt to make an accompaniment for lamb or curries. Or make lollies with mint, yoghurt and chocolate chips.
Pour hot water over mint leaves and steep for 5 minutes for homemade mint tea.
Chop mint leaves and add to fresh pineapple for a refreshing and healthy snack or dessert.
Finally, remember that peppermint oil can be toxic if taken in large doses. Use mint products with caution if you have previously had gallstones and if you are on medication, speak to your doctor or chemist to determine whether there could be any adverse interaction with mint or mint oil.
If you suffer from IBS you may find extra help and advice by linking with NHS Choices
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