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Try the magic of peppermint for health



Try the magic of peppermint for health
Try the magic of peppermint for health (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)

Mint is the glorious plant that gives the candy of the same name its cool burst of flavour.


While there are about 25 different species of mints, peppermint is actually a natural hybrid cross between Mentha aquatica (water mint) and Mentha spicata (spearmint). Peppermint has greenish-purple lance-shaped leaves while the rounder leaves of spearmint are more of a grayish green color. And this peppermint can do wonders for you in the health department.

Soothe your tummy with peppermint
In the world of health research, randomized controlled trials have repeatedly shown the ability of peppermint oil to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including indigestion, dyspepsia, and colonic muscle spasms. These healing properties of peppermint are apparently related to its smooth muscle relaxing ability. Once the smooth muscles surrounding the intestine are relaxed, there is less chance of spasm and the indigestion that can accompany it. The menthol contained in peppermint may be a key reason for this bowel-comforting effect.

A potential anti-cancer agent
Interest in peppermint has extended well beyond the digestive tract, however. Perillyl alcohol is a phytonutrient called a monoterpene, and it is plentiful in peppermint oil. In animal studies, this phytonutrient has been shown to stop the growth of pancreatic, mammary, and liver tumors. It has also been shown to protect against cancer formation in the colon, skin, and lungs. These animal-based studies have yet to be matched by equally sound human studies, however.

An anti-microbial oil
Esssential oil of peppermint also stops the growth of many different bacteria. These bacteria include Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It is found to inhibit the growth of certain types of fungus as well.

Breathe easier with peppermint
Peppermint contains the substance rosmarinic acid, which has several actions that are beneficial in asthma. In addition to its antioxidant abilities to neutralize free radicals, rosmarinic acid has been shown to block the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, such as leukotrienes. It also encourages cells to make substances called prostacyclins that keep the airways open for easy breathing. Extracts of peppermint have also been shown to help relieve the nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis (colds related to allergy).

A rich source of traditional nutrients
Our food ranking system also showed peppermint to deliver a wide range of traditional nutrients. Peppermint is a good source of manganese, copper, and vitamin C. Vitamin C seems to play a role in decreasing colorectal cancer risk. It is the main water-soluble antioxidant in the body is needed to decrease levels of free radicals that can cause damage to cells. Some studies have shown a link between increased vitamin C intake and a decreased risk for colon cancer, possibly by as much as 40%, while other studies have shown that vitamin C intake can help to decrease the incidence of colon tumours.
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