Harvard Health Letter

In Brief: Mint conditions

In Brief

Mint conditions

Candy and ice cream come to mind. Some of us, dating ourselves, may start singing a little bit of "Peppermint Twist," the 1962 hit song by Joey Dee and the Starliters: "Well, they've got a new dance and it goes like this..."

But peppermint is also an age-old herbal medicine that has been used to treat a wide range of abdominal woes, from flatulence to stomach cancer to gallbladder disease.

Traditional medicine doesn't necessarily mean effective medicine, and doctors now have far better answers to many of the problems that peppermint supposedly treated or cured. But peppermint has fared a bit better than many herbal medicines in clinical trials. Several studies have shown that peppermint oil seems to be fairly effective at relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a collection of symptoms that includes abdominal cramping and pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. In 2007, Italian investigators reported that 75% of the patients in their study who took peppermint oil capsules for four weeks had a major reduction in their IBS symptoms, compared with just 38% of those who took a placebo pill.

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