Ancient Egypt got it right with peppermint: Here are 15 conditions it can treat By Grace Olson for Prevention.news
Peppermint is mostly used for flavoring, but it has medicinal applications as well. In fact, the ancient Egyptians used it as a natural remedy for indigestion. The discovery of dried peppermint leaves in several Egyptian pyramids reveals their importance in the ancient world.
Today, people can still benefit from using peppermint. Here are some of the conditions that it can treat:
- Allergic rhinitis – Peppermint extracts can be used to help a person with allergic rhinitis or hay fever manage his allergies. These extracts contain compounds that can inhibit histamine, a substance that promotes inflammation and triggers allergic reactions.
- Breastfeeding-related nipple pain – Applying water infused with peppermint leaves or extracts to the nipples can help prevent nipple cracks and nipple pain in breastfeeding mothers.
- Colds/flu – Menthol is an active ingredient in peppermint and is responsible for its cool taste. This compound is also a decongestant.
- Dental caries/bad breath – Dental caries is also known as tooth decay. Peppermint oil extracts can inhibit the growth of oral bacteria responsible for dental caries. The cool, minty taste of peppermint can also help with bad breath.
- Gastrointestinal disorders – Peppermint can enhance gastric emptying, which can be potentially useful for people experiencing functional gastrointestinal disorders.
- Headaches/migraines – Applying diluted peppermint oil to the forehead has a relaxing effect that can help people suffering from a tension headache.
- Indigestion – Peppermint soothes stomach muscles and improves the release of bile. However, it should not be used for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which has different causes. (Related: Peppermint provides surprising results for digestive problems, physical performance and even weight loss.)
- Infantile colic – This is a condition wherein an infant cries for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week, even when it is well-fed and otherwise healthy. Peppermint may help soothe the baby and stop it from crying.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – Several studies have shown that peppermint, in its various forms, can be used to help alleviate symptoms of IBS. This includes pain, bloating, diarrhea and gas. Peppermint can also reduce the intensity of spasms and inflammation.
- Memory problems – The fragrance of peppermint may enhance memory as well as increase alertness among humans. It can be a potentially effective and cheap remedy for people with memory problems.
- Nausea and vomiting – Patients undergoing chemotherapy usually experience nausea and vomiting. Peppermint can alleviate these side effects and offer relief to patients.
- Prostate cancer – Menthol also enhances the anti-proliferative activity of vitamin D in prostate cancer cells, thus preventing them from growing.
- Radiation damage – Some studies suggest that peppermint can help protect against DNA damage and cell death caused by radiation.
- Shingles-related pain – Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful blistering rash. Applying diluted peppermint oil on the rash can help alleviate the pain.
- Tuberculosis – One study found that inhaling peppermint essential oil can effectively reduce inflammation caused by pulmonary tuberculosis.
Risks and precautions
Like any other herb, the effects of peppermint can change depending on the compounds it interacts with. Here are some things to remember before using it:
- Consult with your healthcare provider first. It is best to seek advice first before using peppermint. Your healthcare provider can inform you if peppermint could interfere with any supplements or medications you are currently taking.
- Dilute peppermint oil first before applying it to the skin. Undiluted peppermint essential oil can have a burning effect when applied liberally. Dilute the peppermint oil in a carrier oil or mix it with a topical cream before applying it anywhere.
- It can cause allergies. Before using peppermint, make sure that your are not allergic to it.
- Do not use it with antacids. Some peppermint supplements come in capsules. If taken together, the antacid may cause the peppermint capsule to break down too quickly and cause heartburn.
Clearly, the ancient Egyptians were on to something when they started using peppermint. Several studies have confirmed its medicinal uses and proven that traditional remedies are still effective.