Peppermint is an herb that is a hybrid of watermint and spearmint that has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. Made mostly of menthol, peppermint is a source for many vitamins including vitamins A, C, and B2. In addition, peppermint contains minerals including magnesium, calcium, and iron. As an oil, peppermint has a distinct menthol smell and is pale yellow in appearance. Peppermint oil has many health benefits, including improving digestion, easing pain, helping with respiratory ailments, and even destroying cancer cells.
A main use of the oil is to aid with digestion. Ingesting a glass of water with a few drops of peppermint oil can provide respite from dyspepsia and colon spasms. Peppermint oil can also bring relief for heartburn and motion sickness. The menthol found in peppermint helps to relax stomach muscles, which lessens the chance for indigestion. Peppermint also increases the flow of bile, which aids the body to digest food faster, lowering the possibility for indigestion.
Peppermint oil capsules have also been shown to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Another benefit of the oil is in providing pain relief, especially for headaches. Studies have shown that rubbing the oil on one's forehead and temples diminishes headache pain. Research has also demonstrated that the oil is comparable to acetaminophen when it comes to headache relief.
If an individual is having respiratory difficulties including sinusitis, congestion, and bronchitis, peppermint may be effective in bringing relief. Since the menthol in the oil is effective in clearing the respiratory tract, the peppermint substance is a common ingredient in cold and vapor rubs. As an alternative to using a cough and vapor rub, a person can rub the oil directly on his chest to get similar reprieve from respiratory ailments. Peppermint also promotes the growth of substances in the body called prostacylins, which enable the air passages to remain open.
Peppermint oil also may be an anti-cancer agent. Peppermint contains a chemical compound called perrilyl alcohol that is found naturally in some plants. In some animal studies, perrilyl alcohol has been effective in deterring the growth of certain cancers and also destroys cancer cells without effecting healthy cells. However, the results have not been replicated in humans.