WORDS LIM TECK CHOON
Dr Mohamed Khalaf
Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, South Carolina, US.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita L.) has long been considered beneficial in addressing cold, cough and various ailments of the throat and respiratory system, as well as in providing relief to gastrointestinal issues such as heartburn, nausea and irritable bowel syndrome. Admittedly, clinical trials to date have yet to conclusively prove the validity of many claims associated with this herb.
A recent study, however, suggests that peppermint oil can provide relief to people who experience difficulties in swallowing as well as non-cardiac chest pain (NCCP). Let’s take a closer look at this study.
Figure A: The oesophagus is the tube-like structure that connects the throat to the stomach, and it sends food down via a series of contractions of its muscles called peristalsis.
In a pilot study conducted by a team of researchers, 38 patients with swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) and/ or non-cardiac chest pain (NCCP) were prescribed with concentrated peppermint oil in the form of tablets. Those with dysphagia took 2 tablets before meals, while those with chest pain took these tablets on an as-needed basis.
According to the research paper as presented by the lead author Dr Mohamed Khalaf:
- 63% of the patients reported improvements in symptoms after taking the oil.1
- The response rate among participants who have both dysphagia and NCCP is higher (73% reporting that they felt a reduction in symptoms after treatment).1
- None of the participants reported new or worsening symptoms; all the participants managed to complete the trial without experiencing side effects.1
The study also noted that peppermint oil offers the greatest benefits to patients with oesophageal spasm and oesophagogastric junction outflow obstruction.
According to the authors of the study, their findings support the recommendation of the use of peppermint oil to relieve the symptoms of conditions associated with abnormal muscular contractions of the oesophagus. This should be done after doctors have ruled out the presence of heart diseases or obstructions in the gastrointestional system, they added.
Of course, this is a small study involving only 38 participants, so Khalaf and his team hoped that other researchers would use the study data to conduct larger scale studies in order to confirm their findings. HT
Glossary of the More Technical Words Used in This Article
- Non-cardiac chest pain is chest pain due to issues unrelated to the heart. In most cases (and for the participants in this study), NCCP is related to issues with the oesophagus.2
- Oesophageal spasm describes the irregular and uncoordinated contractions of the oesophagus.3
- Oesophagogastric junction outflow obstruction is a class of rare conditions in which the oesophagus exhibits weakened or abnormal muscular contractions (peristalsis).4
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