Peppermint for Diabetes

Fresh mints
A peppermint plant growing in a garden. (Image: ntdanai/iStock/Getty Images)

Peppermint, scientifically known as Mentha piperita, is an herb native to Europe and Asia, now cultivated all around the word. It is commonly used as a flavor in foods, chewing gums, candies and toothpaste. Peppermint is also used as an herbal medicine, especially for digestive and skin problems. It may also help diabetics who have indigestion, bloating and nerve complications. For medicinal purposes, peppermint supplements are available as teas, capsules, tinctures, oils and ointments. If you have diabetes and consider using peppermint remedies, talk to your health care provider.

Improved Digestion

In diabetes, both the metabolism of sugars and fats are impaired, according to American Physiological Reviews. Diabetics have problems digesting fats; thus, indigestion and stomach pain are common symptoms. Peppermint may help diabetics because it improves the flow of bile -- especially when fatty meals are eaten -- and therefore aids digestion, explains University of Maryland Medical Center.

Bloating

The gut motility in diabetics is sometimes slow, a condition called gastroparesis. As a result, food stays in the stomach longer, suffers fermentation and causes bacterial overgrowth. Fermented foods and intestinal bacteria are responsible for excessive gas, manifested as bloating, flatulence and abdominal cramps. Peppermint helps relax the digestive tract’s muscles and relieve the excessive gas, says University of Maryland Medical Center.

Blood Glucose Levels

In laboratory tests, peppermint lowered blood glucose levels, says University of Maryland Medical Center. However, peppermint’s effects on lowering the blood sugar levels in humans are not known.

Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy, a complication of diabetes, affects the nerves. Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include burning pain, tingling and numbness in the hands or feet. Ointments or creams based on menthol, the active ingredient in peppermint, provide a cooling sensation and help manage nerve pain, according to Drugs.com.

Warnings

Peppermint may cause allergic reactions in some people. This supplement might interact with drugs including simavstatin, cyclosporine and felodipine. Peppermint should not be used if you have gall stones, gastroesophageal reflux or stomach ulcers, warns Drugs.com.

Considerations

It appears that peppermint might help with digestive and nerve disorders associated with diabetes. Ask your doctor about possible side effects. Peppermint supplements should not replace any conventional drugs you are taking, and are not approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat diabetes or its complications.

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