The Power of Peppermint

Peppermint1Everywhere you turn during the holidays you see peppermint-flavored foods and drinks, but why all the hype? Well, not only is peppermint delicious, but it also has significant health benefits.

Most commonly seen in the form of a candy cane, peppermint has always been associated with Christmas. According to tea and peppermintancient folklore, in 17th-century Germany, a choirmaster wanted the children in the church to be quiet during the Christmas Eve service and asked a local candy maker for some “sweet sticks” for them to suck on, which later took the form of the common red and white-striped candy cane that you still see today in candy canes, frozen yogurt, ice cream, coffee creamers, and in lots of desserts.

Christmas and sweet treat aside, peppermint does have some health benefits. Peppermint oil, found in the mint leaf and sold by itself in liquid form, soothes upset stomachs because it has the ability to relax the smooth muscles surrounding your intestines. Simply add a few drops of oil or several mint leaves into you beverage. Additionally, the phytonutrient monoterpene in peppermint oil has been found to slow and stop tumor growth, making peppermint a potential anti-cancer agent.  Peppermint is also an anti- fungal and anti- bacterial agent and it may prevent and treat skin infections when used on mild acne or a scrape. It can also prevent or treat the bacteria that form in your gut and cause stomach aches and nausea.

It’s no secret that eating peppermint gives you minty fresh breath, but peppermint also has the ability help keep your airways open, making it a great remedy for a stuffy nose or allergies that Peppermint3mildly affect your breathing. This is seen combined with menthol in minty cough drops and throat sprays that you may use with a sore throat or cold.

Wintertime is a great time to enjoy those delicious desserts that you see all over Pinterest and in every coffee shop. Try some peppermint bark, a peppermint hot chocolate, some peppermint tea, or a plain candy cane as a sweet afternoon snack. Be mindful when enjoying sugary peppermint treats, but do take advantage of this great and beneficial flavor.

Melissa Heller is a junior at Boston University majoring in health science. She hopes to go into the public health field after she graduates.

Photo Credit: Michelle Przybilla, FBM

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