In addition to being a delicious and soothing beverage, peppermint tea offers many health benefits, particularly for those with headaches, sinus problems or stomach problems. It has been used medicinally for centuries and is commonly recommended by alternative healers, herbalists and others as a treatment for various ailments and as a general health tonic with diverse benefits for the body and mind. Read on to find out about the specific health uses of peppermint tea, and why so many people laud it for its health benefits.
Peppermint Tea for Headaches
For some headache sufferers, pain killers are surprisingly unnecessary. You might be one of these lucky folk. The next time you have a killer headache, try reaching for some fresh or dried peppermint leaves instead of an aspirin or other pain killer. After a few minutes of steeping and sipping, you might just find that your pain has been alleviated without any side effects or unnecessary medications!
Peppermint tea is often effective in stopping headaches that are caused by stress or poor diet. These headaches typically restrict blood vessels in the brain, causing intense pain. Effective pain killers stop the pain of these headaches by relaxing the blood vessels in the brain. Peppermint tea stops headache pain in the same way--by opening up the brain's constricted blood vessels, bringing relief to many headache sufferers.
Interestingly, even the aroma of peppermint tea (or peppermint oil) may help headaches, as well as colds. (Think of it as aromatherapy in your teacup.)
Peppermint Tea Fights Sinus Problems
Menthol is the naturally occurring chemical that gives peppermint its refreshing, icy-hot flavor and feel. In addition to making peppermint tea one of the most enjoyable herbal infusions out there, menthol also plays another important role--fighting sinus problems.
The menthol in peppermint is known to calm inflamed mucous membranes in the sinuses and throat, to thin mucous (so it is less likely to block the sinus passageways and impede comfortable breathing) and to act as a decongestant (breaking up phlegm and mucous congestion). Additionally, breathing the steam from peppermint tea can also alleviate many sinus problems by breaking up phlegm and thinning mucous. This means that if you have a sinus infection (sinusitis) or are suffering from a cold or seasonal allergies, a cup or two of hot peppermint tea could do you a world of good (especially if you breathe the steam!).
Peppermint Tea Soothes Stomach Upsets
Peppermint tea is sometimes referred to as "the stomach healer" because it is known to soothe many stomach ailments, including stomach aches, stomach pains, stomach cramps, heartburn, gas / flatulence, indigestion and diarrhea, and to promote healthy digestion. It is especially effective if drunk after a meal, before bed (especially if you had a late dinner and often experience heartburn) or at the onset of stomach problems.
Interestingly, peppermint oil has been shown to effectively treat one syndrome which has few known treatments--IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Many healthcare practitioners also believe that drinking peppermint tea regularly will provide similar benefits to those with IBS.
For information on other stomach-healing herbs, read my article on herbs for digestion.
Mental Benefits of Peppermint Tea
It seems that peppermint tea isn't just good for your taste buds and your body--it also benefits your mind! Peppermint tea has been shown to improve brain function by making you more mentally alert and by improving memory retrieval. Its effects on alertness have been shown to help commuters drive more safely (perhaps also because it is calming, and thus potentially able to reduce traffic-induced frustration). Many people find peppermint to be useful for studying and test-taking because of its alertness and memory enhancing effects, as well as one more benefit: peppermint tea is a natural stress reducer. (For more stress-busting herbs, check out Teas for Stress.)
Peppermint Tea Treats Menstrual Cramps
In general, peppermint tea is good for easing constricting muscles. This can make it a good go-to herb for everyone from athletes to people suffering from anxiety. However, it seems to be particularly effective in treating a certain type of constricted muscles--the muscles in the walls of the uterus.
It seems that menthol has anti-spasmodic effects, which help it to treat stomach upsets, stress and menstrual cramps, among other things. Drinking one cup of peppermint tea two to three times a day during days leading up to menstruation and during menstruation helps soothe menstrual cramps for many women who experience PMS and dysmenorrhea.
Other Health Benefits of Peppermint Tea
In addition to the many health benefits listed above, peppermint tea has been shown to:
- have antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties (making it effective as a skin cleanser agent and a great helper for fighting bacterial infections when applied topically)
- act as an analgesic (helping with pain relief of many kinds)
- be effective as a treatment for certain skin disorders (such as psoriasis and certain skin rashes) and for arthritis when applied topically
- ease colic in babies
- promote fat burning in digestion
- improve bile production and break down "bile stones" (kidney stones and gallbladder stones formed from bile... although breaking down bile stones should be done with a doctor's supervision!)
- reduce bad breath
- strengthen the immune system
- alleviate travel sickness and motion sickness
Peppermint tea is easy to make at home. To make it, start with fresh peppermint leaves (which are easy to grown and can be bought at many grocery stores and farmers markets) or dried peppermint leaves (which can be bought in teabags, in the bulk section of many grocery stores or through many tea retailers). You'll need about one tablespoon crushed, fresh leaves, one teaspoon dried leaves or one teabag dried leaves per cup of fresh water.
To make your peppermint tea, bring the water to a boil. Add the peppermint. Steep it for five minutes or slightly longer, up to about 12 minutes. (If you want it really strong, you can also boil the leaves.) Strain out the leaves or remove the teabag.
If you're seeking health benefits, it's best to drink peppermint tea while it's hot (but not scalding). You can add a little sugar or honey if needed, but it's better for your health if you don't (unless you have a sore throat, in which case... add honey!). If you're using peppermint tea as a topical application, you can soak a washcloth in it and wipe the areas you want to treat or you can add one quart of freshly steeped peppermint tea to your bath water.
If desired, you can blend peppermint with other herbs when you make your herbal tea. It is well suited to blending, and is delicious with lavender (which is great for stress reduction), ginger (which is great for digestion) and fennel seeds (which make a great detox teas).
Peppermint Tea Side Effects
Although peppermint tea is an excellent health beverage, it is worth noting that it has a few potential side effects for certain people. Avoid peppermint tea if you have the following conditions:
- GERD (Peppermint tea's relaxing properties can cause the sphincter muscle of the stomach and esophagus to relax more, allowing for more acid reflux.)
- Pregnancy (Avoid over-use of peppermint tea during pregnancy, as it can, in extreme cases, cause uterine relaxation and could lead to miscarriage. If you have a personal or family history of miscarriage, health care practitioners generally recommend avoiding peppermint tea altogether. However, just to reiterate, normal consumption of peppermint tea during pregnancy is fine for people who don't have reason for concerns about miscarriage.)
- Over the counter or prescription drug use (In some rare cases, peppermint tea may interact with medications. If you are concerned about a potential drug interaction, check the drug's warnings or consult with your doctor.)
To be very clear, these side effects are rare and are not something that most people need to worry about. Peppermint tea is generally considered to be a very safe, effective, natural remedy for all sorts of issues, and it would be a shame for you to avoid it because of excessive concern over these potential side effects if the risk factors do not apply to you. If you have any additional concerns or questions about the side effects or health benefits of peppermint tea, talk with your doctor or consult an herbalist.