It is the season for Christmas parties and family gatherings and at this time of year there is the additional pleasure of getting kissed under the mistletoe – of course it all depends on who is doing the kissing, but having fresh breath before embarking on this lovely activity is essential. And also having something to ward of the unwanted attentions of any germs that might be lurking in the vicinity! We will also be eating richer food than normal and that can cause digestive upsets and is one of the reasons we become so prone to infections during the holiday season.
You may have noticed that almost all non-prescription preparations that claim to help indigestion are mint flavoured. And this is not just because mint has a nice taste. Mint is one of the oldest known treatments for indigestion and its inclusion in medicines is due to the plant’s ability to settle the stomach. However, do be aware that there are other components in these over the counter products and overuse can undermine your own ability to maintain an acid and alkaline balance in the body. Using a natural digestive aid over a period of time should stimulate your own system to do its job efficiently rather than rely increasingly on synthetic assistance. Do remember that if you are on prescribed medication that you should not stop taking without the knowledge of your doctor.
Originally native to the Mediterranean region, peppermint, which is a cross between water mint and spearmint, is one of the oldest cultivated herbs and was used for culinary as well as healing purposes by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It would seem that poor eating habits have been a problem throughout all of human history!
The ancient Romans carried it with them wherever they colonized; (presumably the relief it offered was much needed at the end of an orgy!) To this day, the Arabs brew it into tea and chop it into salads, the Asian Indians include it in chutney recipes, the British make its juice into jellies to be served with heavy meat dishes, and the Germans, concoct it into schnapps as an after-dinner drink. In all these cases, the motive for including mint in the diet is to improve digestion and avoid indigestion.
Nutrients in Peppermint tea
As with any dark green leafy plant the peppermint offers a wide range of nutrients that make it an excellent food source. Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, manganese, folate, iron, magnesium and calcium. Unfortunately you do not normally consume a sufficient quantity to be able to classify this as a superfood, but if you add the nutrients in the leaves to an already balanced diet it will certainly add to the pot of essential and varied nutrients you need each day.
Peppermint improves digestion in general but is great for stomach and colon cramps as the menthol in the herb has a muscle relaxing action and IBS sufferers often find it reduces symptoms. A cup of peppermint tea after a meal is much better for your digestion than a cup of coffee.
The oil mixed with a lotion or light skin oil, rubbed on the forehead can relieve headaches and is cooling when massaged into sore muscles.
As a forerunner of our modern gum, the leaves were chewed to prevent bad breath which was essential before toothpaste and flossing. Even 100 years ago dental hygiene was not common practice for nearly everyone…Does not bear thinking about as we come into the mistletoe season…..
Peppermint oil usually comes in small capsules or in a liquid tincture. The tea also comes with some variations, one of my favourites being Green Tea and Peppermint.
Other health benefits
Animal studies have indicated that the oil produced from the leaves could provide protection from cancer and also inhibit the growth of certain tumours in the breasts, pancreas and liver.
Peppermint oil is highly antibacterial and it also inhibits the growth of other potentially dangerous bacteria such as H.Pylori (Helicobacter pylori), the bacteria that causes peptic ulcers; Salmonella, E.Coli 0157:H7 and MRSA.
If you have a cold or flu there is nothing better than a little peppermint oil sprinkled on a tissue, or rubbed on your chest, to help you breathe better.
For asthmatics the rosmarinic acid in the oil acts as an anti-inflammatory and also encourages cells to produce substances called prostacyclins, which keep the airways open.
Apart from its medicinal uses and nutritional properties, mint is wonderful with lamb. Make a home-made sauce or jelly and enjoy two or three times a week along with a cup of peppermint tea after your dinner.
I use diluted peppermint oil to soak my toothbrush in – will put a tiny drop on the toothbrush to clean my teeth and I also use in the kitchen and add a drop to my normal strength peppermint tea once a day.
A definite all year round herb to use but at this time of year one to keep close to hand.
Have fun under the mistletoe……
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©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2018
A little bit about me nutritionally.
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/
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