If you have irritable bowel syndrome, a condition that doctors usually find hard to treat, why not start with a remedy that is natural and usually effective, not to mention a whole lot less expensive than prescription medication? Brew yourself a cup of peppermint tea to enjoy the best of peppermint.
Peppermint tea is an age-old remedy for many kinds of stomach upset. In Europe, where some insurance plans pay for herbal teas as well as for conventional medications, peppermint tea has been put to clinical testing. There is a substantial body of scientific research that finds it is good for mild abdominal pain, flatulence, and diarrhea. It’s better to know what you are treating, of course, since abdominal pain is a symptom of many different conditions, some of them requiring urgent medical attention. But if you have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), even your doctor may recommend peppermint tea.
Like most other herbs, peppermint is helpful in moderation and harmful in excess. The tannins in the tea interfere with absorption of iron from food, which is a good thing if you have hemochromatosis (iron overload disease) and a bad thing if you suffer iron-deficiency anemia. Men who drink very large amounts of peppermint tea (a gallon a day or so) can experience lowered testosterone levels. Women who use peppermint tea as a douche can suffer contact dermatitis.
You could rinse a minor skin wound with warm (not hot) peppermint tea as an added measure of protection against various kinds of skin infections, including MRSA, but the essential oils in peppermint tea are too much inside the body – don’t put it in your neti pot. Peppermint tea is meant to be drunk, and about 5 cups (1.2 liters) a day is all your digestive tract needs.
Peppermint herbal tea benefits are also found in lemon balm (melissa), chamomile, and star anise teas. Since all of these herbs work through their essential oils, you don’t want to boil the herb in the process of making your tea. Brewing peppermint tea with boiling water boils the essential oils away. Put almost-boiling water in a covered teapot or teacup, and allow to brew for 3 to 5 minutes. Drink warm, not hot.
Another way to get the benefits of peppermint for intestinal problems is to take enteric-coated capsules of peppermint oil. These capsules only dissolve when they reach the small intestine, saving their volatile oils for maximum effect against irritable bowel syndrome or duodenal ulcers. When it’s not practical to make tea, consider capsules as a good way to get relief of IBS or ulcers.