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Herbal Therapies Used by People Living With HIV: Peppermint

Part of A Practical Guide to Herbal Therapies for People Living With HIV

2004

Peppermint
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a common domestic plant grown in Europe and North America. Both its oil and dried leaves are used medicinally. Peppermint is helpful against nausea and is used by some to treat diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. It is often combined with other herbs for digestive complaints. One study showed that it reduced abdominal pain and diarrhea in people with irritable bowel syndrome. It is also thought to improve circulation and relieve tension headaches. It can be combined with vegetable oil and other essential oils and smeared on the forehead. Indeed, a small German trial suggests that a solution containing 10 per cent peppermint oil applied to the forehead is as effective as acetaminophen in relieving tension headaches. The oil should not, however, be used on too large a surface of skin because it can have a "freezing" effect.

One common way to use the plant is to pour hot water over dried peppermint leaves, cover the mixture, let sit ten minutes and then take as a tea. Peppermint oil is usually available where other essential oils are sold and is also available in a pill form called Colpermin, which has an enteric coating to protect the stomach. Colpermin, available in Canada with a prescription, is covered by many health plans. Dried peppermint leaves can be purchased loose or in capsule form in most health food stores and from herbalists. The plant is also easy to grow in most areas of Canada.

Peppermint may irritate the stomach, particularly when taken in higher doses or on an empty stomach. Other rare side effects include rashes, heartburn, slowing of the heart beat and muscle tremors. People applying peppermint oil to the skin may experience a rash caused by an allergic reaction. Peppermint may interact with some antidepressants.

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This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 

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