The extensive mint, or Mentha, family encompasses over 600 different plants, including forest mint, marsh mint, curly mint and Egyptian mint. Peppermint is the most commonly used for teas. This cooling herb has volatile oils that soothe an upset stomach, according to clinical herbalist Penelope Ody, author of "The Complete Medicinal Herbal." In addition, medical researchers have discovered many other health benefits attributable to peppermint. Please see a medical professional about any health concerns you have.
Peppermint, a hybrid of water mint and spearmint, is grown worldwide, according to Wayne Kalyn, author of "The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs." The aerial portions of the herb are best harvested just before the plant blooms and can be used fresh or dried. Peppermint's therapeutic value for an upset stomach is derived from its volatile oil, which comprises more than 40 compounds, writes Kalyn. Peppermint's volatile oil is extracted through a process of steam distillation of the stems and leaves.
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Peppermint tea is a popular choice for an upset stomach. Tea made from this herb unwinds stomach cramps, alleviates gas and promotes digestion by increasing bile production, notes Kalyn. Bile, an acidic yellow or green fluid produced by the liver, helps fats metabolize in the small intestine. Ody also writes that peppermint tea can be helpful for nausea, migraines and fevers. The vapors from tea made from the fresh leaves can be inhaled to relieve congestion. In addition, many people drink tall glasses of cold peppermint tea during soaring summer temperatures. Ask your physician which herbal remedies are appropriate for you.
An article published in the June 2011 issue of "Toxicology and Industrial Health" affirms peppermint's potential use as a natural antioxidant. Scientists examined extracts of nine mint species, and found peppermint, apple mint, white peppermint and pennyroyal among the plants with antioxidant properties. Toxic free radical molecules in the body can cause numerous illnesses, including heart disease, notes Kalyn. Antioxidant substances can search for and disable these harmful molecules, which can damage cellular DNA. According to a 2006 review in "Phytotherapy Research," this herb has also demonstrated considerable anti-tumor, antiviral and antimicrobial activities, which may possibly contribute to its efficacy for upset stomachs and other digestive problems. Despite its many benefits, peppermint is not an adequate replacement for advice and treatment from a qualified health care professional.
According to Ody, chronic use of peppermint can aggravate mucous membranes. She suggests that children be given peppermint for a maximum of one week. After that time, its use should be discontinued for awhile. Babies should never take mint. Ody also cautions that peppermint can hinder milk production in nursing mothers.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.