Peppermint is used around the world as tea, confectionary ingredient, culinary herb and medicinal plant. The whole herb contains various phenolic compounds that exert some medicinal effects but the essential oils (e.g. menthol) are responsible for much of it actions.
Peppermint and its essential oils are used primarily as a carminative to improve digestive function and relieve the bloating and gas. As an antispasmodic it relieves smooth muscle cramping (i.e. colic) and research shows it decreases discomfort associated with certain medical procedures including: endoscopy, colonoscopy and double-contrast barium enema. It also acts as an antiemetic to reduce nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness and chemotherapy.
Menthol, the main component of the essential oil binds to "cold receptors" in the body making the exposed areas feel cool. It is found in numerous commercial "sports creams" because it acts as a topical analgesic to relieve muscle pain. The cooling action also makes it useful as an antipruritic to relieve the itchiness from hives and insect bites. In addition it is also found in cough drops because the menthol has a soothing effect on sore throats and help relieve coughs.
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