Nausea Remedies - Mint
Peppermint (Mentha piperita ) is an aromatic perennial plant that grows to a height of about 3 feet or 1 metre. It has light purple flowers and green leaves with serrated edges. Peppermint belongs to the Lamiaceae family and grows throughout North America, Asia and Europe. There are more than 25 species of true mint grown throughout the world. The plant is harvested when the oil content is highest. When ready for harvest, mint is always collected in the morning, before noon as sun reduces the leaves' essential oil content. This generally takes place shortly before the plant blooms, which occurs in the summer (July through August) or during dry, sunny weather. America is responsible for producing 75% of the world's supply of peppermint.
History of Mint
Peppermint is a natural hybrid of watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata) and was first cultivated in England in the late seventeenth century. The herb has been used as a remedy for indigestion since Ancient Egyptian times. Dried peppermint leaves were found in Egyptian pyramids dating back to 1000 B.C. The ancient Greeks and Romans valued it as a stomach soother. During the eighteenth century, peppermint became popular in Western Europe as a folk remedy for nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, respiratory infections, and menstrual disorders.
Peppermint was first listed in the London Pharmacopoeia in 1721. In modern times it appears in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a remedy for intestinal colic, gas, colds, morning sickness, and menstruation pain.
Properties of Mint
Peppermint is a cooling, relaxing herb that contains properties that help ease inflamed tissues, calm muscle spasms or cramps, and inhibit bacteria and microorganisms. It also has pain-relieving and infection-preventing qualities.
The medicinal parts of peppermint are derived from the whole plant, and include a volatile oil, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and triterpenes. The plant is primarily cultivated for its oil, which is extracted from the leaves of the flowering plant.
The essential oil contains the principal active ingredients of the plant: menthol, menthone, and menthyl acetate. Menthyl acetate is responsible for peppermint's minty aroma and flavour. Menthol, peppermint's main active ingredient, is found in the leaves and flowering tops of the plant. It provides the cool sensation of the herb.
The menthol content of peppermint oil determines the quality of its essential oil. This varies depending upon climate, habitat, and where the peppermint is grown. For instance, American peppermint oil contains 50–78% menthol, English peppermint oil has a menthol content of 60–70% and Japanese peppermint oil contains 85% menthol. Peppermint and its oils help with intestinal function.
Peppermint also contains vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium, inositol, niacin, copper, iodine, silicon, iron and sulphur.
It's thought that the menthol contained in peppermint oil, as well as some of the other compounds have antispasmodic effects, meaning it's a muscle relaxant and can help to relax the involuntary muscles of the digestive tract. This can help to loosen cramps and relieve bloating and nausea. It also allows accumulated painful gas to pass both upward and downward through the tract, easing indigestion and stomach upset. In addition, peppermint may help to relieve pain associated with digestive problems.
Mint has been clinically proven to ease cancer related nausea
Inhalation of peppermint oil has been shown to be useful in controlling nausea and vomiting. One study showed that peppermint aromatherapy was effective at reducing nausea in 57% of cases. A further study, showed that using an inhaler containing peppermint essential oil at the onset of nausea reduced symptoms within two minutes of treatment in 44% of cases.
A team of researchers from Iran tested both spearmint and peppermint essential oils in cancer patients, all of whom were suffering from nausea and vomiting as a result of their chemotherapy. The research team divided the patients into three groups: group one received spearmint essential oil treatment, group two received peppermint essential oil treatment, and group three acted as a control by continuing with their usual treatment for nausea.
The researchers asked everyone to record the number of times they vomited and the severity of their nausea throughout a 20-hour period when they underwent chemo treatments. The patients were also asked to record any negative side effects. The research team discovered that both the spearmint and the peppermint triggered a significant drop in the intensity of the patients’ nausea post-chemo, as well as reduced episodes of vomiting.
Another study reported in the 'Journal of Advanced Nursing' found that peppermint oil relieved postoperative nausea, enabling the administration of more pain relief medication.
Clinical studies have also shown the benefits of applying peppermint oil topically, for alleviating headaches, which can be a frustrating side effect of nausea.
Common ways to use mint to relieve nausea
Mint is a very easy herb to grow yourself — you don’t need a green thumb or much space. Just plant a sprig and watch the herb spread and blossom into a healthy plant within weeks. The refreshing aroma of fresh mint alone may be enough to make you feel better, but actually chewing on fresh mint leaves (don't swallow them) will release the oils and might also help.
Mint tea can help with a variety of conditions associated with nausea. It helps with settling the stomach, can help relieve tension headaches, freshen breath and help with sleep. All of these things can be negatively affected by nausea.
To make a cup of fresh mint tea, simply boil fresh mint leaves in a pot of water. The leaves can be crushed to release more flavour. Alternatively, if you don't have any fresh mint to hand, most of the popular tea brands offer a 'mint' variety.
Mint Supplements and Capsules
Studies suggest that use of mint capsules - which allow the oil to pass through the stomach so it can dissolve in the intestines - may help ease digestion and relieve nausea.
Mint in Cookery
Fresh mint leaves are usually chopped up and added to recipes. Dried mint leaves can be added to a sauce or stew as it simmers. Mint extract is used to give mint flavour baked goods or confections, or to flavour hot chocolate.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Using a diffuser to give out peppermint essential oil can be extremely beneficial in cases of nausea. Place a few drops of peppermint essential oil into a diffuser or oil burner. Alternatively you could use a room spray. In addition to relieving nausea, it will spread a pleasant fragrance throughout your home.
Another option it to place a few drops of peppermint oil on a tissue or handkerchief and breathe in deeply for a few seconds and the nausea will generally subside.
Mint sweets are a great way to refresh the mouth when undergoing treatment, they refresh and distract along with settling the stomach. Look for sweets with a higher concentration of peppermint oil for optimal health benefits for relieving nausea. Many manufacturers highlight the peppermint concentration of their products, promoting it for its intense flavour and breath-freshening properties. Sugary peppermint sweets may not contain enough peppermint oil to be effective whilst some mint sweets may also contain other synthetic and inflammatory ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup. Your best bet is to choose all-natural mints.
Is peppermint safe for everyone?
In most adults, the small doses of peppermint oil contained in sweets, dietary supplements and skin preparations appear to be safe although peppermint and menthol products are not suitable for children.
If peppermint essential oils are not used correctly they can cause dermatitis and other allergic reactions.
We would always advise that you check with your medical team prior to taking any form of dietary supplement and be especially cautious about combining peppermint oil with certain drugs because it may inhibit the body's ability to metabolise the drugs and increase the risk of side effects.