Posted by Pragati Khond on December 30, 2008

Prague, Czech Republic, December 30: Peppermint oil can treat digestive disorders effectively, although high dosages may result in adverse effects, a review reported in the April 1 issue of American Family Physician says.

Usually found in the traditional candy canes that are used as Christmas tree decorations, peppermint oil has strong antimicrobial properties which might fight germs and relieve digestive symptoms, and is promptly defensive against irritable bowel syndrome.

Research has shown antimicrobial activity of mentha villosa and faassen's catnip - commonly known mints with a non-mint called bluebeard. Essential oils extracted from marjoram, oregano, winter savory, horseradish, garlic, hyssop, basil and few thyme varieties showed similar properties.

Scientist Pavel Kloucek, from Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, noted that essential oils obtained from plants are lipophilic which means that they gravitate towards fat. The bacterial cell membrane is full of fat and the essential oil molecules get inside them and lead to membrane-leakage.

"Most of the (effective) species are really from the family Lamiaceae, or mint family," he added.

Ancient civilizations had discovered the medicinal properties of peppermint oil where peppermint oil combined with caraway oil can treat non-ulcer dyspepsia and also has a relaxing effects on muscles.

In ancient times, peppermint leaf was used internally as a digestive aid and for managing gallbladder disease. This oil was also inhaled for cough and upper respiratory symptoms.

Peppermint oil in high doses can have adverse effects though and is thought to be dangerous for pregnant and lactating women, infants and young children. High doses may cause allergic reactions, heartburn, perianal burning, blurred vision, nausea, and vomiting.

Scientists say that many medical conditions may be prevented by using essential oils with some foods.

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