Friday, August 03, 2007

Peppermint dreams


…Who sez Harvard is all serious and all? In the July 31st Harvard HEALTHbeat newsletter, Celeste Robb-Nicholson, editor-in-chief of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, riffs off on peppermint.

…No, really, peppermint is medicinal. A fourth of people have gastro disturbances so serious they interfere with life.

…For centuries, peppermint has been used to treat ailments from flatulence to stomach cancer to gallbladder disease.

…Peppermint oil is pretty helpful for irritable bowel sydrome, too. A study in Italy showed that patients with IBS who took peppermint capsules fared twice as well as those on placebo.

…The most active ingredient is menthol, which cools by stimulating the nerves that experience “cool.” Menthol also inhibits the nerves that respond to painful stimuli.

…In the intestine, menthol blocks calcium channels, which relaxes the smooth muscle in the walls of the intestine.

…However, peppermint can also relax the muscle that keeps acid from backing into the esophagus—thus peppermint can make acid reflux worse. So for stomach purposes, the peppermint is often wrapped in a coating so it doesn’t dissolve too soon.

…According to a website of the Univ of Maryland Medical School, peppermint can also help ease menstrual cramps and dissolve gallstones.

…But be careful, pregnant or nursing mothers! If you have a history of miscarriage, do not drink or take peppermint.

…Like anything else, don’t overdo. Some people are allergic to peppermint. Wouldn’t you just know.

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