The powers of peppermint: Steel yourself for a natural pandemic-safe holiday


Peppermint flavor has become ubiquitous in products ranging from toothpaste to mocha latte. In fact, peppermint’s essential oil — as opposed to an ingredient such as peppermint-flavored syrup in a Starbucks mocha latte — exhibits far more powerful properties than a sweetener.

That’s especially important as the holidays near — though this holiday should be far different than any other. Health experts urge us to avoid travel and refrain from family gatherings to stop the coronavirus pandemic’s second onslaught.

That means our swiftly shifting moods amid both COVID and the holidays could combine to make our normal indulgences even worse. Think turkey stuffing with pumpkin-flavored ice cream and a huge hot toddy topped with whipped cream, anyone? Alone, binge-watching Netflix? Uh-huh.

Now’s the time to steel oneself. Just think how proud you’ll be if you stick to your wellness goals — or at least most of them.

That’s where the powers of peppermint come in.

Peppermint oil — derived from the peppermint plant that thrives in Europe and North America — relaxes cells that line much of the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in some relief for those overindulgences that leave you with indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome, according to Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

Beware too much of a good thing, though.

Peppermint also relaxes the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach, so it can cause heartburn and worsen problems with gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Check with your doctor. Peppermint oil can be bought in millileters and in capsule form, so make sure to research the efficacy of the dosage if you know the holidays mean soothing yourself with too much green-bean casserole and pumpkin pie.

And if you have qualms about ingesting peppermint oil, some studies show just smelling peppermint might help with your holiday diet resolutions.

In 2010, psychology professor Bryan Raudenbush found that the smell of peppermint could work to suppress one’s appetite.

One group of test volunteers sniffed a peppermint scent through an inhaler every two hours, and the other group didn’t sniff anything at all. The results were dramatic – those who sniffed the peppermint not only felt less hungry, but ate 2,800 fewer calories over the course of a week.

Raudenbush said the smell of peppermint proved strong enough to override one’s sense of hunger, which may have been emotionally triggered.

If you need to gird yourself even more for a COVID-altered holiday, mix your own wellness recipe by adding yoga, deep breathing, soothing music and any other relaxation method that works for you.

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