The Christmas holidays are just around the corner, and peppermint does contribute to the festivities in its own way, as some of you will likely not be able to resist the temptation of indulging in candy canes. It has long been added to various products, such as candies, ice creams, gum, cakes and toothpaste, because of its refreshing and pleasing taste and smell. The sugar and invasive chemicals aside, peppermint on its own has garnered a well-deserved reputation for its ability to treat numerous abdominal problems such as cramping and pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, stomach cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and gallbladder disease. While most of its known benefits deal with stomach and digestive issues, some of the latest research now suggests that it may also be of assistance to curb cravings, ease tension headaches, boost concentration and even enhance exercise performance.
Back in 2007, Italian researchers gathered 57 individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. They were all chosen to participate in a study which evaluated the effectiveness of peppermint oil. It turned out that within four weeks 75% of the people taking peppermint oil showed a substantial reduction of the usual symptoms consisting of abdominal bloating, pain or discomfort, diarrhea, constipation, feelings of incomplete evacuation and passage of gas or mucus, just to name these. On the other hand, there seemed to be no significant changes when a placebo was given instead of the peppermint content.
Following further evaluations regarding peppermint’s positive effects with irritable bowel syndrome, some researchers believe that its oil, especially its menthol content, ends up blocking calcium channels which relax the walls of the intestine. In 2011, an Australian study revealed that peppermint actually triggers antipain stimuli in the colon, therefore alleviating inflammatory pain in the process.
Can peppermint really improve performance and encourage weight loss?
The University of Mohaghegh Ardabili in Iran demonstrated that, because of its antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and vasoconstricting effects, peppermint oil helps reduce muscle pain and fatigue, which then may lead to improved exercise performances. Their 10-day study involved 12 healthy students who were supplemented daily with a bottle of mineral water containing 0.05 ml of peppermint oil while also undergoing treadmill exercises on a daily basis.
At the end of the trial, the results showed improvements in respiratory efficiency and energy expenditure during the exercises. In general, the students seemed to suffer less quickly from exhaustion and were able to reach longer distances by the same token. Systolic blood pressure as well as resting and exercising heart rates decreased. Based on the fact that carbohydrate metabolism rose by the end of the 10 days, scientists came to the conclusion that, by enhancing muscular energy metabolism, peppermint may then encourage weight loss.
The Chicago Tribune reported a study from 2011 in which participants were asked to simply smell peppermint oil every two hours. Apparently, the ones who inhaled the peppermint felt less hungry and consumed on average 2800 fewer calories over a week than the ones who didn’t smell the peppermint throughout.
Finally, research coming from the Wheeling Jesuit University has led scientists to believe that smelling peppermint may also be useful to increase alertness, motivation and possibly performance.
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