…And ‘tis the season for holiday cheer! The stockings are hung the ornaments placed and the lights cast a sparkling glow that seems to indicate “another year over and a new one just begun.” In homes everywhere the kitchen is filled with the aroma of holiday delights. Cookies and fudge and decorated treats. Among the various holiday treats and traditions a solitary botanical proudly stands out as if to say “This is my season to shine!” From candy canes and patties to fudge and hot chocolate peppermint will be found enhancing most any holiday delight. Its crisp and cool flavor symbolically reflects the frosty weather while also adding a fresh flair that combats the richness of most holiday treats. This classic botanical is not only responsible for the flavor of the season but unbeknownst to many it also possesses a vast array of health benefits that may lighten some traditional health maladies that often accompany the holiday cheer.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is among the most ancient and well-established botanicals used to support health and wellness. The essential oils extracted from the leaves stem and flowers contain many useful compounds including the popular compound menthol. Peppermint is abundant throughout North America and even the most amateur gardener can successfully establish this herb due to its extreme hardiness.
One of the most prevalent uses of peppermint is to support the digestive system. Clinical studies have shown peppermint to be extraordinarily helpful in supporting natural inflammatory processes and normal pain responses related to digestive health. Increasingly poor diets poor food quality and hasty lifestyles leading to fast food consumption has contributed to a substantial amount of doctor visits for digestive issues. Incidentally many of these issues coincide with pain and disruptions of normal inflammatory processes. A vicious cycle ensues leading to uncomfortable symptoms that often become chronic. Peppermint may be a simple yet helpful antidote for the uncomfortable consequences of a struggling digestive system.
The peace and solitude that this season tries to establish is so often overshadowed by the hustle and bustle of shopping and parties. As lines get longer traffic gets heavier and schedules get fuller it is no wonder that more people don’t feel as though their heads are spinning on a merry-go-round. Perhaps it is the candy cane peppermint mocha or the healthier peppermint tea you grabbed as you headed to the next store which secretly came to your rescue. Peppermint has been clinically studied for its ability to support a strong mental constitution during tense and stressful times. As the lights and noise threaten to make a joyful season unpleasant and painful rubbing peppermint oil across the forehead or temples can provide a cooling and soothing sensation that supports muscle relaxation and mental wellness. It also supports the body’s natural pain response. Therefore peppermint may serve to extend your busy shopping schedule and make the trip a bit more tolerable.
A lesser known but equally advantageous benefit of peppermint is its ability to support joint health. When applied topically the menthol in peppermint produces a cooling sensation that can provide temporary relief to tired and sore joints. This same cooling sensation can also help reestablish a normal pain response in the body. Not only does menthol provide immediate aid at the point it is applied but after being absorbed into the skin it can also travel to the central nervous system and support processes deep within the nervous system. As various cells and hormones work to interpret the pain sensation peppermint helps the body translate the pain “message” and act upon it appropriately. Sore joints and deteriorating joint health plagues “kids from two to ninety two” and can keep these individuals from enjoying the shopping entertainment and various events of this holiday season. Thus peppermint oil can become a useful aide for these individuals. It may also be useful for supporting sore muscles and joints that are the inevitable outcome of hours spent browsing through stores caroling or strolling through a light show.
This time of the year brings anticipated treats and events that culminate into a season of cheer. Thankfully this same season gives special attention to a botanical that generously bestows gifts that allow individuals to better enjoy the delights of this season. So embrace the gifts peppermint has to offer!
Khanna R MacDonald JK & Levesque BG. (2014). Peppermint oil for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 48(6):505-12. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e3182a88357.
Alam et al. (2013). Efficacy of Peppermint oil in diarrhea predominant IBS - a double blind randomized placebo - controlled study. Mymensingh Medical Journal. 22(1):27-30.
Kligler B and Chaundary S. (2007). Peppermint oil. American Family Physician. 75(7):1027-1030.
American Botanical Council. (2000). Peppermint oil. Expanded Commission E Monographs. Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/Peppermintoil.html
Borhani et al. (2010). Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled crossed-over study. International Journal of Clinical Practices. 64(4):451-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2009.02215.x.
Liu et al. (2013). TRPM8 is the principal mediator of menthol-induced analgesia of acute and inflammatory pain. Pain 154(10) 2169–2177.