Mint is the glorious plant that gives the candy of the same name its cool burst of flavour.While there are about 25 different species of mints, peppermint is actually a natural hybrid cross between Mentha aquatica (water mint) and Mentha spicata (spearmint). Peppermint has greenish-purple lance-shaped leaves while the rounder leaves of spearmint are more of a grayish green color. And this pep-permint can do wonders for you in the health department.Soothe your tummy with peppermintIn the world of health research, randomized controlled trials have repeatedly shown the ability of peppermint oil to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including indigestion, dyspepsia, and colonic muscle spasms. These healing proper-ties of peppermint are apparently related to its smooth muscle relaxing ability. Once the smooth muscles surrounding the intestine are relaxed, there is less chance of spasm and the in-digestion that can accompany it. The menthol contained in pep-permint may be a key reason for this bowel-comforting effect.A potential anti-cancer agentInterest in peppermint has extended well beyond the diges-tive tract, however. Perillyl alcohol is a phytonutrient called a monoterpene, and it is plentiful in peppermint oil. In animal studies, this phytonutrient has been shown to stop the growth of pancreatic, mammary, and liver tumors. It has also been shown to protect against cancer formation in the colon, skin, and lungs. These animal-based studies have yet to be matched by equally sound human studies, however.An anti-microbial oilEsssential oil of peppermint also stops the growth of many dif-ferent bacteria. These bacteria include Helicobacter pylori, Sal-monella enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It is found to inhibit the growth of certain types of fungus as well.Breathe easier with peppermintPeppermint contains the substance rosmarinic acid, which has several actions that are beneficial in asthma. In addition to its antioxidant abilities to neutralize free radicals, rosmarinic acid has been shown to block the production of pro-inflamma-tory chemicals, such as leukotrienes. It also encourages cells to make substances called prostacyclins that keep the airways open for easy breathing. Extracts of peppermint have also been shown to help relieve the nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis (colds related to allergy).
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