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Experience the Health Benefits of Mint
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on May 20, 2008
Peppermint and other mints are among the healthiest herbs that you can include in your diet. What if your body doesn't react well to ingesting mint-flavored foods and beverages? Before you say no to mints forever, I encourage you to consider that some mint-flavored products (especially candies, chocolates, and low quality teas) use synthetic menthol to create mint flavor and scent.
Synthetic menthol is created by using a crystallization process that generates contaminants, and these contaminants can affect the scent and quality of synthetic menthol.
My experience has been that the majority of people who think that they can't ingest mint actually have trouble tolerating synthetic menthol. Ingesting peppermint and other natural mints rarely results in health challenges.
Peppermint and menthol may be useful for:
Relaxing the muscles that line your digestive tract, thereby promoting less gas production and better overall digestion.
Providing symptomatic relief for painful inflammatory states like arthritis, chronic tendinitis, and acute sprains and strains.
Shrinking or dissolving gallstones, especially when used in combination with a few other compounds called terpenes (borneol, camphene, pinene, and cineole).
Combating the proliferation of viruses, most notably, the herpes simplex virus.
Some health practitioners recommend using peppermint oil to address the health challenges mentioned above. If you are going to ingest peppermint oil or apply it to your skin for health-promoting purposes, be sure that the oil you use is free of synthetic menthol, and if possible, one that is made with organically grown peppermint. Also, use extremely small amounts - even one drop of peppermint oil on your tongue or skin can produce a significant physiological effect.
Some words of caution on using peppermint oil: ingesting peppermint oil can sometimes lead to heartburn, muscle tremors, a slow heart rate, and skin rashes. Applying peppermint oil to your skin may also cause a skin rash.
Personally, I feel that the safest way to experience the health benefits of peppermint is by drinking peppermint tea or other beverages that are infused with menthol from real peppermint leaves. Eating a small handful of peppermint leaves can also be a safe and effective way to benefit from exposing your cells to natural menthol.
In the summer months, a fun way to enjoy peppermint is to add a few peppermint ice cubes to a glass of water, sparkling water, or any other beverage that you enjoy having cold. You can make peppermint ice cubes by filling an ice cube tray with peppermint leaves, filling the tray with cold water, pushing down any mint leaves that stick out until they are fully immersed, and then putting the tray in the freezer for several hours.
One of our favorite summer drinks that combines nicely with mint ice cubes is sparkling watermelon juice.
Please remember: as long as you stay away from synthetic sources of menthol, peppermint and other mints can provide loads of flavor and significant health benefits. If you have a favorite recipe that calls for fresh peppermint or other mint leaves, please consider sharing your recipe in the comments section below. Thank you.
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