|Since long before the development of synthetic drugs, humanity has respected and taken advantage of the health-promoting properties of many plants. One of the most well-known of these is peppermint. This fragrant herb not only enhances candies, beverages and cosmetic products — it can sooth gastrointestinal distress, ease headaches, increase mental acumen and perhaps even protect the body during chemotherapy.
Peppermint essential oil, high in the powerful organic compound menthol, is the subject of ongoing research into safe, natural therapies for many health problems.
The pain-relieving potential of peppermint oil is exciting because it presents a viable yet safe alternative to pain medications. Many people turn to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for headache relief. These overused drugs are associated with stomach upset, gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers.
Menthol, the component of peppermint oil that creates its familiar cooling sensation, can relieve pain when applied topically. The coolness occurs when menthol reacts with nerves to inhibit certain signals, simultaneously blocking the sensation of pain (Neurosci Lett 2002;322:145-8).
Menthol is common in creams and ointments for muscle pain, and it can also effectively relieve headaches.
Some others uses for peppermint include:
Dr. Barbara Smith