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Peppermint Tea for Happy Bellies and Good Cheer

Peppermint Tea is like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time. 

mint tea benefits

 

In this post, we focus on the main benefits we seek out in Peppermint tea at The Tea Spot: helping with tummy troubles and alleviating headaches and nausea. 

Peppermint is our go-to digestive herbal tea in North America. Have you ever wondered why peppermint tea is on virtually every restaurant’s menu? There are many reasons for this. The US produces over 70% of the world’s supply of peppermint. Aside from this herb’s abundant availability, it has ancient roots in traditional medicine. Peppermint is a naturally occurring hybrid of watermint and spearmint, and likely originated in North Africa. The active compounds in Peppermint tea, such as menthone, limonene, and menthol, come from the aromatic oils in the leaves. The FDA has listed peppermint as being “generally recognized as safe”. [1]

From facilitating digestion and easing headaches to freshening breath, improving mood, and even showing antibacterial and antiviral actions, the health benefits of the Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) are widely published. Its uses as a medicinal herb are entrenched in many cultures from ancient Egypt, to mentions in the New Testament of the Bible, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and now today’s Western traditions. Its earliest historical mention dates from 1550 BCE, in an Egyptian medical text, the Ebers Papyrus, suggesting it to calm stomach pains. The Romans also used it as a cure for digestive complaints as well as to relieve headaches. Its use in traditional medicine persisted, in the West as well as in the East. On our continent, cultivation began in the late 18th c in Massachusetts, then spreading to Ohio and Michigan, and eventually to the Pacific Northwest, where the bulk of its production takes place today.

So how does peppermint ease stomach pain and cramps and promote digestion? Studies have shown that it may support the relaxation of smooth muscle. These are the muscular walls that contract to push food through your body. The action of peppermint is thought to inhibit the contraction of the smooth muscle tissue by inhibiting the calcium influx into the smooth muscle. [2] In other words, mint tea may work to ease unpleasant stomach sensations and facilitate digestion mechanically, by relaxing the walls of the intestines and stomach. If you’ve ever noticed that your breathing seems bigger after drinking Peppermint tea (or visiting the Peppermint room at our old neighbor Celestial Seasonings!) it’s this same smooth muscle relaxation that’s taking place in your bronchial tubes. 

Peppermint may help reduce the sensitivity to headache pain, specifically, tension-type headaches, by a similar mechanism as well. In this case, it’s the inhalation of menthol in peppermint aroma which may create not only muscle-relaxing and mentally relaxing effects, but analgesic mechanisms. Controlled studies have shown that its ability to ease head pain is significantly more effective than placebo targets, and may be comparable to that of Aspirin or Acetaminophen (Tylenol). [3]

In life, nausea can sneak up on us as a result of motion-sickness from a car, boat, or plane. It can also result from taking medicine on an empty stomach, eating too much (or too little), or drinking too much alcohol. In addition, morning sickness during pregnancy can exhibit very similar symptoms, which are an unpleasant combination of tension headache and a queasy stomach. Thanks to mint's ability to mitigate the pain of tension headaches and stomach upset, Peppermint tea is one of the most common and effective ways to assuage these symptoms. Its calming and numbing effects relax the body so that it can break down food and move through the stomach quickly. Peppermint is also a decently strong adaptogen. It can help us either warm up or cool off, depending on the body’s needs, and recent studies have pointed to its potential in naturally supporting healthy hormone levels in women. [4, 5]

Basically, mint is a must-have in every tea lover's cupboard so you have some natural herbal remedies on-hand to help out your friends and family, when in need. "Plant Power" to the rescue! To learn more about Adaptogens, read my blog post about what they are and why we're craving them right now.

 

References:

[1] Benjamin Kliger and Sapna Chadaury, Peppermint Oil, American Family Physician, 2007 Apr 1;75(7):1027-1030

[2] G. Capello et al, Peppermint oil (Mintoil®) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial, Digestive and Liver Disease, Volume 39, Issue 6, June 2007, Pages 530-536

[3] H. Gobel et al, Essential plant oils and headache mechanisms, Phytomedicine, Volume 2, Issue 2, October 1995, Pages 93-102

[4] Lesley Tierra, Healing With the Herbs of Life, Rodale Press2013, p. 10

[5] Arentz, S., Abbott, J. A., Smith, C. A., & Bensoussan, A. (2014). Herbal medicine for the management of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and associated oligo/amenorrhoea and hyperandrogenism; a review of the laboratory evidence for effects with corroborative clinical findings. BMC complementary and alternative medicine14, 511. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-14-511

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