While many think peppermint is only a cure for bad breath, it actually has other medicinal uses. The peppermint plant is cultivated around the world mainly for flavoring purposes, but the oil contains over 40 compounds - including methone, menthol and menthyl acetate - that have therapeutic properties. Note: peppermint is often confused with spearmint, which has a similar flavor, but not the same medicinal qualities.
Peppermint oil acts as an intestinal muscle relaxant, making it effective for treating digestive disorders - such as cramping, gas, heartburn, nausea and indigestion. It has an antispasmodic effect that has proven useful for relieving symptoms of irritable bowl syndrome and some studies show it can help dissolve gallstones. The menthol in peppermint stimulates the flow of bile and digestive juices; which is why it is often an ingredient in over-the-counter antacids and digestive aids.
As a topical agent, peppermint can relieve muscle aches and pains. It seems to stimulate the nerves that perceive cold; while dulling those that perceive pain. Inhaling the menthol in peppermint oil can act like a decongestant and reduce inflammation of nasal passages, helping those suffering from colds breath easier. Peppermint tea is often prescribed to soothe the bronchial constriction associated with asthma. Furthermore, some swear that rubbing peppermint oil on the temples can reduce the pain associated with headaches.