Minty Fresh

peppermintSpring will soon be upon us and my thoughts turn to green. Not the Irish green of St. Patrick’s Day, but the green of herbs about to emerge from winter’s sleep. To me, no herb offers a better vernal greeting then peppermint. Peppermint tastes light and wonderful, from a cup of sweet Moroccan mint tea to a bowl of cool mint chip ice cream. But it is much more than just a food flavor.

In Aromatherapy, peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is used for a myriad of reasons. It is antimicrobial and antiseptic, helping to fight cold and flu. It is stimulating and motivates us to move. It cools and soothes muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. The essential oil also relaxes and soothes the stomach muscles and gastrointestinal tract, thus aiding the discomfort of stomach ache and heartburn. It has even been shown to relieve nausea.

A study was done on surgery patients who complained of nausea in the post-anesthesia care unit. After indicating the intensity of their nausea, subjects received randomized inhalations of isopropyl alcohol, oil of peppermint, or a saline placebo. After five minutes, overall nausea scores of the peppermint oil users decreased from 60 to 28 causing the researchers to find that “aromatherapy effectively reduced the perceived severity of postoperative nausea.”

So next time you go to a restaurant and eat a bit too much, don’t pass by the peppermint candy at the door. It’s sweet and refreshing and may make your stomach feel better.