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Peppermint is a relative of numerous wild mint plants, deliberately bred in the late 1600s in England to become the delightful tasting plant so well known today. It is widely used as a beverage tea and as a flavoring or scent in a wide variety of products.
Peppermint tea also has a long history of medicinal use, primarily as a digestive aid and for the symptomatic treatment of cough, colds, and fever. Peppermint oil is used for chest congestion (Vicks VapoRub), as a local anesthetic (Solarcaine, Ben-Gay), and most recently in the treatment of irritable bowel disease, also known as spastic colon.
Peppermint oil has shown promise for a variety of conditions that involve spasm of the intestinal tract. Most studies have involved irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for which peppermint oil has shown considerable promise. Peppermint oil may also be helpful for reducing the pain caused by medical examinations of the colon and stomach, as well for decreasing the intestinal gas pain that frequently follows surgery.
Peppermint oil may also be helpful for dyspepsia (a condition that is similar to IBS, but involves the stomach instead of the intestines).
Weak evidence, far too preliminary to rely upon at all, hints that peppermint oil might help dissolve gallstones. 1 Peppermint oil is also used in another way: as aromatherapy . This means that it is inhaled, often...
At the normal dosage, enteric-coated peppermint oil is believed to be reasonably safe in healthy adults. 2 However, case reports and one study in rats hint that peppermint might reduce male fertility . 3 The species Mentha spicatamay be more problematic in this regard than the more common Mentha piperita.
Excessive doses of peppermint oil can be toxic, causing kidney failure and even death. Very high intake of peppermint oil can also cause nausea, loss of appetite, heart problems, loss of balance, and other nervous system problems.
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established. In particular, peppermint can cause jaundice in newborn babies, so don't try to use it for colic.