A pleasing peppermint cure!

Usually when I start a blog post I like to try and be creative in my descriptions of how I’m feeling, or what has happened to me. This time I think it’s better for you and me that I don’t. Why? Because I have really bad stomach pain, and I don’t think anyone wants to hear about how my insides feel like they are tied in knots and being stabbed by pins… want me to continue? I thought not. All I’ll say is that my daily cookie-busting stress-relieving run was a very bad plan today… the walk back from Chiswick to Shepherds bush takes a lot longer than running…

When I’m feeling like this, I take my grandmother’s advice and eat plain foods and drink herbal teas. This never fails to make me think of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. After escaping Mr McGregor’s garden, a rather sorry Peter return home where his mother puts him to bed with a dose of camomile tea, “One table-spoonful to be taken at bed-time.”

Instead of camomile, I often opt for peppermint tea; it always soothes and makes me feel better. I think a lot of its effects are psychosomatic; drinking peppermint tea leaves me a little nostalgic for my childhood, when I would pick peppermint from the garden to either chew on whilst perched on the shed roof or make ‘special tea’ in my ‘witches cauldron’! However, in the midst of my stomach pain I came across this paper.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide’s Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory published this paper which, through wonderful physiological wording, describes their efforts to show how ‘cooling agents’ found in peppermint could have an antinociceptive (anti-pain) effects in the colon. The researcher observed that an ion channel, TRPM8, found in the gut is activated by these agents, and leads to desensitisation of colonic nerves which signal when pain-inducing things are in/happening to the colon. Although the press release touts that “researchers have shown for the first time how peppermint helps to relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which affects up to 20% of the population” I feel that it is still unclear whether the concentrations of icilin used in the study is representative of that in peppermint tea.

However, peppermint has been shown to have a significant effect in treatment of stomach pain and IBS. A ‘systematic review and meta-analysis’ carried by UK based scientists led them to conclude that peppermint oil was an effective treatment for IBS. Still, peppermint oil must have a higher level of active compounds, right?

It appears that peppermint does have an effect, although whether peppermint tea is as effective physiologically as the researcher’s claim is a little dubious in my mind. Still, it doesn’t matter to me, I’m off to curl up in bed with a good book and a steaming cup of peppermint tea!

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