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Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a sterile, hybrid plant, created from the blending of watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). Peppermint is used for adding flavor or fragrance to several foods, cosmetics, soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and other products - it is also popular for medicinal purposes.

Peppermint leaves can be used dried or fresh in teas.

Indigenous to Europe, peppermint today is cultivated all over the world.

Peppermint is popular as a traditional or folk remedy for several conditions and illnesses because of its calming effects, including flatulence, menstrual pains, diarrhea, nausea, depression-related anxiety, muscle and nerve pain, the common cold, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome.

This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods.

Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is a concentrated oil made from the peppermint plant. Peppermint oil can be bought or made at home. The oil is extracted by steam distillation from the whole fresh or partly dried plant before it starts to flower.

According to an article in the scientific journal Natural Product Communications2, the chemical components of peppermint oil are menthol (40.7%), menthone (23.4%), as well as menthyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, limonene, beta-pinene and beta-caryophyllene.

Peppermint for irritable bowel syndrome

A growing number of scientific studies have demonstrated that peppermint, in various forms, can help treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including:

  • pain
  • bloating
  • diarrhea
  • gas.
Peppermint closeup
The peppermint plant is a watermint and spearmint hybrid

A study carried out by researchers at McMaster University3, Ontario, Canada, and published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) concluded that doctors should recommend peppermint oil, fiber, and antispasmodics as first-line treatments for irritable bowel syndrome.

After looking at four trials involving 392 participants, lead researcher, Dr. Alex Ford and team found that peppermint oil was the most effective treatment when compared to antispasmodics and fiber.

A study published in the Mymensingh Medical Journal4concluded that peppermint oil is effective in treating the symptoms of pain in diarrhea predominant IBS.

A study in the Belgian journal Revue Médicale de Bruxelles5 (article in French) acknowledged that "peppermint oil has an established visceral analgesic effect".

Dr. Stuart Brierley and team from the University of Adelaide's Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory in Australia discovered how peppermint activates an anti-pain channel in the colon6, resulting in less inflammatory pain in the gut.

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