Peppermint as a digestive aid

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a plant created from the blending of watermint and spearmint. It is popular as a traditional or folk remedy for several conditions such as gas, bloating, abdominal pain and indigestion. This could be due to menthol and methyl salicylate, the main ingredients in peppermint. They have antispasmodic and calming effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Several studies support the use of peppermint for indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.

Indigestion

Peppermint helps soothe the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. Therefore, food passes through the stomach more quickly. However, if your symptoms of indigestion are related to a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, you should not use peppermint as it can worsen those symptoms.

Gas and bloating

Peppermint relaxes the muscles that ease the flow of painful digestive gas.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Numerous studies have concluded that enteric-coated peppermint capsules can help reduce symptoms of IBS, including pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea for about 75-80% of patients. Enteric-coated capsules are specially coated to allow the capsule to pass through the stomach and into the intestine to avoid heartburn and indigestion.

Recommended intake, tea or capsules

Tea: Steep 1 tsp. of dried peppermint leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes; strain and cool. Drink 4 to 5 times per day between meals. Peppermint tea appears to be safe, even in large quantities.

Capsules: Look for peppermint oil enteric-coated capsules; 187 mg three times a day.

Precautions

The amount of peppermint normally found in food is likely to be safe during pregnancy, but not enough is known about the effects of larger supplemental amounts. Peppermint may make gallstones worse. Remember to always consult your healthcare professional before taking any supplements.

References

Alam MS, Roy PK, Miah AR, et al. Efficacy of Peppermint oil in diarrhea predominant IBS – a double blind randomized placebo – controlled study. Mymensingh Med J. 2013; 22:27-30.

Cappello G, Spezzaferro M, Grossi L, Manzoli L, Marzio L. Peppermint oil (Mintoil) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Dig Liver Dis. 2007;39:530-6.

Ford AC, Talley NJ, Spiegel BM, Foxx-Orenstein AE, Schiller L, Quigley EM, Moayyedi P. Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2008;337:a2313. doi: 10.1136/bmj.a2313. Review.

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