Peppermint for a Happy Holiday Tummy!

The holiday season is here!  Peppermint chocolates, peppermint ice cream, peppermint toffee, peppermint cookies, peppermint martinis! Peppermint is inside of every edible creation around the holiday time.

For some, the peppermint craze only lasts through the holidays.  But for some IBS sufferers, peppermint is a year-round companion.  Herba piperita, as it is also known, has long been used for its benefits on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has used mint for centuries to aid such things as upper respiratory distress with sore throat, headaches from cold and flu, skin irritations, as well as nausea and upset stomach.  Peppermint, part of the mint family, is a cross between spearmint and water mint plants.  The peppermint plant contains a high amount of menthol, which is responsible for that cool feeling the peppermint has on the body.

Peppermint has been studied for its use in those affected by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Animal studies show that peppermint has a relaxation effect on GI tissue, and analgesic and anesthetic effects in the central and peripheral nervous system. In one research study, Grigoleit and Grigoleit found statistically significant effects in favor of peppermint oil for use in IBS cases presenting with non-serious constipation and diarrhea.  Another study, done by a group from Section of Digestive Sciences, Department of Medicine, G d’Annunzio University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy (Cappello, Spezzaferro, Grossi) specifically targeted IBS cases excluding bacterial overgrowth, lactose intolerance, and celiac patients.  75% of these patients showed significant improvement through the use of enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules.

Peppermint itself, can be found as a tea leaf, concentrated oil, enteric-coated capsule, or liquid for ingestion.  A recommendation would be to begin with a cup of peppermint tea daily.  If symptoms don’t improve, try two cups daily.  If there is still no relief, look into the enteric-coated capsule.  Enteric-coated capsules delay the release of the peppermint oil and is easier on the digestive tract.  Ingesting peppermint oil directly is harsh on the stomach and could cause heartburn, nausea and vomiting. So, this method should be dosed carefully.  Regardless, the most preferable form would be the plant form.  It is a complete, natural herbal remedy.  But, if necessary, the other forms may alleviate the IBS signs and symptoms as well.

So, break out the peppermint for the holidays.  And if you suffer from IBS or occasional digestive discomfort,  save a little peppermint for the rest of the year.

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