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Peppermint Oil Benefits and Uses

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History shows a wide range of uses for peppermint essential oil, which has been used as far back in time as ancient Rome and Egypt.1 Various cultures have used this oil not only for its minty fragrance, but for its therapeutic benefits as well. In addition, peppermint oil is known to symbolize hospitality.2

What Is Peppermint Oil?

Peppermint oil is derived from the leaves of the peppermint plant (Mentha piperita), a hybrid of the water mint and spearmint plants, and M. arvensis var. piperascens, a plant from the Labiatae family.3 It is often used as a home remedy for stomach problems, muscle pain and headaches. Peppermint oil can be utilized in capsules or supplements as well.4

9 Uses and Benefits of Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is used in aromatherapy, the practice of using essential oils to support health,5 where it is found to be effective in relieving pain6 and nausea,7 and in improving memory and raising alertness.8 According to published research, peppermint oil exhibits antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, antioxidant, analgesic, radioprotective and anti-edema properties,9 and may be useful for:

Providing relief for stomach problems — Peppermint oil is a safe and effective alternative to medications in reducing colonic spasms.10 It may help ease abdominal pain11 and provide relief for indigestion and upset stomach.12

Research has also shown that peppermint oil is effective in improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).13 Another study reveals similar findings.14 Peppermint contains large concentrations of menthol15 that may assist in decreasing smooth muscle spasms and blocking calcium channels in the gut.16

Easing respiratory problems — Peppermint oil can be used as an expectorant and decongestant.17 It can help clear up phlegm in your respiratory tract18 when used as a chest rub or inhaled through a vaporizer.19

The essential oil may also benefit individuals with tuberculosis. Researchers found that when inhaled, the oil can help decrease tuberculosis-induced inflammation and minimize the risk of the disease from worsening or recurring.20 Peppermint oil can also relieve asthma because it contains rosmarinic acid, an anti-inflammatory compound.21,22

Relieving pain — Peppermint oil may help relieve sore muscles when added to a massage oil blend or to bathwater. Dabbing a few drops on your wrist or inhaling the aroma can ease headaches. You can also massaged the oil onto your temples.23,24

Promoting positive effects on cancer-related treatments — Peppermint oil may help address chemotherapy-induced nausea. It may also help treat hot flashes in women receiving treatment for breast cancer.25

Helping ease herpes infections — Peppermint oil was found to have a beneficial effect against drug-resistant herpes simplex virus. Because of its lipophilic nature, peppermint oil can pass through the skin, making it potentially useful against recurrent herpes infection.26

Enhancing hair and skin health — Mixing peppermint oil into massage oils,27 shampoos and lotions28 may give these products antiseptic29 and antimicrobial properties. The oil can also help cool skin and eliminate dandruff30 or lice from your scalp,31 or contribute to hair growth.32

Improving dental health — Peppermint oil extract may be more effective than the mouthwash chemical chlorhexidine in preventing development of biofilm that may lead to cavities33 and bad breath.34

Providing comfort for stress and nervous system problems — Due to its energizing effects, peppermint oil is used to help manage stress and treat nervous disorders and mental fatigue. Studies suggest that the essential oil may have an effect similar to psychostimulants, as shown in an animal study.35

Acting as a natural insect repellent Peppermint oil may work in repelling insects,36 while the cooling sensation it provides can help relieve itching by blocking the irritating sensation.37

Composition of Peppermint Oil

The two major components of peppermint essential oil are menthol and menthone,38 which are why it’s widely used as an ingredient in lozenges, toothpastes39 and rubs.40 Other constituents found in peppermint oil are menthyl acetate,41 1,8-cineole, limonene, beta-pinene and beta-caryophyllene.42

How to Make Infused Peppermint Oil

There are several ways to make your own peppermint oil infusion at home. Here is one recipe from eHow.com you can try:43

Ingredients

  • Fresh peppermint leaves available in supermarkets or health food stores44 (You can also grow your own peppermint leaves, as the plant is easy to grow45 and you avoid ingesting chemical additives46)
  • Carrier oil
  • Colander
  • Clean dish towel
  • Mallet or mortar and pestle
  • Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
  • Glass bottle or container with a lid

Procedure

  1. Place leaves inside the colander. Gently spray them with cool water, and spread on a clean kitchen towel to air-dry.
  2. Using a mallet or mortar and pestle, gently crush the leaves and ensure they have a strong peppermint smell and are slightly bruised. Refrain from overgrinding or over-pounding. If you’ll be using a mallet, place leaves on a cutting board or counter first, then gently tap the leaves with it. If you’ll be using a mortar and pestle, use the pestle to gently press the leaves.
  3. Fill the glass bottle with peppermint leaves. Pour carrier oil into it until the leaves are thoroughly submerged. Tightly close the jar and shake lightly so the oil covers the leaves.
  4. Place the sealed jar away from direct sunlight for around 24 to 48 hours so the peppermint leaves may steep in the oil.
  5. Carefully pour the steeped oil through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer into a new glass jar. Discard used leaves and store finished oil in a cool, dark area. Use within four to six months.

How Does Peppermint Oil Work?

While it is tempting to buy products containing peppermint oil, using it in its whole state without additional ingredients may yield more positive results.47 However, it should never be utilized undiluted because it can cause irritation, especially to those with sensitive skin.48 It must be diluted in carrier oils like sweet almond, jojoba, coconut and olive, and used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

Peppermint oil is sensitive to heat, and should be stored in a cool place in tightly sealed bottles.49 Avoid using peppermint oil alongside other supplements and drugs, since it may trigger negative effects. For instance, peppermint oil can disrupt the rate at which your body processes cyclosporine, causing more of the medication to stay in your bloodstream.50

Peppermint oil is also known to interact with other drugs like felodipine (Plendil), simvastatin (Zocor), antacids, calcium channel blockers and blood pressure-lowering medicines.51

Is Peppermint Oil Safe?

Peppermint oil is safe in low amounts in most adults, but it can trigger side effects in people with sensitivities. It is important for the following individuals to either avoid using this essential oil or to use it carefully only with the help of a health care professional:52,53

Pregnant and nursing women — Peppermint oil or other similar products may have emmenagogue and abortifacient effects, so it would be wise not to use peppermint oil without your physician’s approval.54

Infants and children 7 years old and younger — Peppermint oil must not be used undiluted because there isn’t enough information regarding its safety for them.55,56

Diabetics — Using peppermint oil may raise your risk of low blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia.57

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and hiatal hernia patients — Peppermint can relax the sphincter between the stomach and the esophagus, and cause acid to move up to the esophagus.58

People with gallbladder problems — Peppermint oil may cause gallbladder inflammation; those diagnosed with gallstones should consult a physician before using peppermint oil.59

People taking antacids — These drugs can cause peppermint oil capsules to break down easily, increasing the risk of heartburn.60

Side Effects of Peppermint Oil

Take utmost care when using peppermint oil or other related products, since you may experience the following side effects:61,62,63

  • Allergic reactions like skin rashes
  • Slow heartbeat64
  • Abdominal pain and diarrhea
  • Mouth ulcers or sores
  • Eye irritation
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting and nausea65
  • Heartburn
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Brain damage
  • Seizures

If you are experiencing insomnia or other sleep disorders, avoid using peppermint oil because it can interfere with sleep.66 While it can offer profound benefits, I recommend speaking to a health care provider before using it for therapeutic applications.

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Group challenges ruling requiring doctors to give referrals for services that clash with beliefs

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Ontario doctors challenging a court ruling that found physicians must give referrals for medical services that clash with their moral or religious beliefs say there is no proof that removing that requirement would hamper patients seeking treatment.

A group of five doctors and three professional organizations is appealing a divisional court decision that upheld a policy issued by the province’s medical regulator, arguing the lower court made several errors.

The group, which includes the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies and Canadian Physicians for Life, is asking Ontario’s highest court to strike down the policy. The case is set to be heard in Toronto on Monday and Tuesday.

Last year, the divisional court found that while the policy — which requires doctors who have a moral or religious objection to treatments such as assisted dying, contraception or abortions to refer patients to another doctor who can provide the service — does limit doctors’ religious freedom, the breach is justified.

The court said the benefits to the public outweigh the cost to doctors, who could delegate the referral to staff or choose to practise a specialty where such issues are less likely to arise.

In court documents filed ahead of Monday’s hearing, the group said the ruling was unreasonable because it gave more weight to an assumed problem with access to health care than to a real infringement of doctors’ rights.

“The (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario) elected to provide no objective, quantifiable evidence that mandatory referrals actually result in enhanced access to care,” it said.

There was also “no objective evidence of actual harm either before the policies or in any other jurisdiction in Canada,” it said.

Some doctors will leave Ontario, group says

It further argued the court erred in finding that any violation of doctors’ rights stemmed from their decision to practise in an area where moral conflicts could emerge, saying that presumed physicians could easily switch jobs.

“A consequence of these policies is that a number of physicians will be required to either retrain (notwithstanding severe personal consequences and no guarantee of finding work) or else leave Ontario altogether,” the group said.

“Can a policy which takes physicians out of Ontario rationally relate to the promotion of equitable access to health care?”

The college, meanwhile, said in court documents that practising medicine is a privilege, not a right, and argued the policy aims to balance the moral beliefs of individual physicians while ensuring access to care, particularly for vulnerable patients.

“The appellants’ claim that any patient capable of contacting their physician is capable of finding a second treating physician is directly contrary to the evidence,” the regulator said.

“It ignores that vulnerable or frail patients may still be living at home, relying on family members for assistance…who may not support the patient’s choice. It ignores that care options may be more limited in remote or rural areas. It ignores that some patients with mental, emotional or linguistic challenges may be unable to advocate for themselves,” it said.

“And it ignores the very real feelings of judgment, shame and stigma that patients experience when their physicians fail to provide the individualized care a patient seeks.”

By comparison, it argued, the burden imposed on doctors through the policy is an administrative one, since the referral can be handled by other staff members.

“The appellants put forward no evidence of a sincere religious objection to working with administrative staff who might connect patients with non-objecting providers, or to working in a practice group which can triage patients,” the college said.

“More importantly, they put forward no evidence of the actual burden — financial, logistical or otherwise — of making such administrative changes.”

What’s more, it said, “the relative power and privilege of physicians as compared to the vulnerable patients they refuse to assist” should be considered.

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5 ways to read more books this year

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How much time a day do you spend reading texts and alerts and notifications and emails and headline skims and flyby tickers and blog feeds and Twitter spews and Instagram comments? A lot? Me too. And that is truly garbage reading. Because what do you remember from it the next month or next year of your life?

We have to read more books. After all, books are still the greatest form of deep compressed knowledge on the planet.

Reading not only allows you to escape into an other world, studies show reading fiction can improve ones ability to empathize with others.
Reading not only allows you to escape into an other world, studies show reading fiction can improve ones ability to empathize with others.  (Dreamstime)

So how do you get more into your life?

Well, for the past two years I have shared three ways to read more books: centralize your books in your home, make a public commitment to read more and reapply the 10,000 steps rule. So, today I come back to you with five more! Because we all should read a little bit more. Let’s break it down:

5. Live inside a world of books. This involves a mindset change. Like most people, I have a bookshelf “over there.” That’s where the books live. Then, one day last year, my wife dumped a pile of about 10 picture books in the middle of our coffee table. What happened? Our kids started flipping through them all the time. So now we leave them there and just rotate the books. Path-of-least-resistance principle! Just like how Google leaves kale chips on the counter for employees while hiding the cookies in the cookie jars. We’ve put the TV in the basement, installed a bookshelf near our front door, slipped books into car seat pouches and, of course, placed one within reach of every toilet. (Want an epic toilet book? Try this.) Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges says: “I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books.”

4. Find a few trusted, curated lists. The publishing industry puts out around 1,000 new books a day. Do you have time to sift through all those? No, nobody does, so we use proxies like Amazon reviews. But should we get our reading lists from retailers? If you’re like me, and you love the “staff picks” wall in independent bookstores, there’s nothing as nice as getting one person’s favourite books. Finding a few trusted, curated lists can be as simple as opening an account at Goodreads or Reco or subscribing to Ryan Holiday’s email list, but with a bit of digging you can likely find the one that totally aligns with your tastes. Maybe you’ll like Bill Gates’s reading list or Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club or Ariel Bissett’s YouTube channel. I also run an online book club where I send out my recommendations once a month (sign up here), and host a podcast called 3 Books where I interview inspiring individuals and uncover their three most formative books in order to find the 1,000 most formative books in the world.

Read more:

Spring Preview: 20 books I can’t wait to read in 2019

Worried about that big to-read pile? Don’t! Matt Haig tells us why

Konmari or tsundoku? The unbearable lightness of getting rid of books

3. Change your mindset about quitting. It’s one thing to quit reading a book and feel bad about it. It’s another to quit a book and feel proud of it. All you have to do is change your mindset. Just say, “Phew! Now I’ve finally ditched this brick to make room for that gem I’m about to read next.” An article that can help enable this mindset is “The Tail End,” by Tim Urban, which paints a striking picture of how many books you have left to read in your lifetime. Once you fully digest that number, you’ll want to hack the vines away to reveal the oases ahead. I quit three or four books for every book I read to the end because I don’t see the point in reading a book you dislike. I do the “first five pages test” before I buy any book (checking for tone, pace and language) and then let myself off the hook if I need to stop halfway through.

2. Go red in bed. Yes, I’m talking about lighting up your bedroom like a bordello. Just go to MEC for a red-light camping headlight and strap it to your forehead like you’re in the jungles looking for the Predator. My wife, Leslie, generally falls asleep before I do and that’s when I strap my red reading light on my forehead and get my reading on. Why red? Michael Breus, PhD and author of The Power of When says “the theory is that red light aids melatonin production.” Melatonin is the hormone that regulates wakefulness. And bright lights have the opposite effect by decreasing our quality of sleep according to the Sleep Health Foundation of Australia.

1. Make your phone disgusting. The most popular articles I wrote for the Star last year were about cellphone addiction. It’s hurting us all. So what’s the solution? Make it disgusting. Put your phone in black and white. Move all the apps off the main screen so it’s blank when you open it. Leave your cracked screen cracked. Move your charger to the basement so it’s an extra step in your low resilience nighttime and morning moments. Enable Night Mode to automatically block calls and texts after 7 p.m. Slowly, slowly, slowly pry that cellphone out of your fingers.

So are you raring to go?

Or do you need some rock-solid science to give you a final push? Well, how about a 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology that shows reading triggers our mirror neurons and opens up the parts of our brain responsible for developing empathy, compassion and understanding. This will make you a better leader, teacher, parent and sibling. Or another study from Science Magazine in 2013 that shows reading literary fiction helps improve empathy and social functioning. And, finally, a 2013 study at Emory University which shows MRIs taken the morning after test subjects were asked to read sections of a novel showed an increase in connectivity in the left temporal cortex. What’s that? The area of the brain associated with receptivity for language. The MRIs were done the next day. Just imagine the long-term benefits of cracking open a book every day.

Most of us want to read more books. And we can. Use these five ways to get started down the path. Let’s have a happy reading year together.

Neil Pasricha is the #1 bestselling author of six books including The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation. His research and writing focus on living intentionally. Join 35,000 other people to get his bi-weekly articles at www.neil.blog/newsletter

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Mother of 3-year-old killed by flu shares story, advocates for vaccine

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When Caylee Donovan took her three-year-old daughter Gracie to the hospital, worried her fever had lasted for five days, she was sent home.

“They just said keep her hydrated, keep trying to feed her and wait for the fever to break,” she said. “Basically they just ignored us.”

Weeks later, Gracie died.

It’s been 10 years since Donovan lost her daughter, but she wants to make her family’s story public so she can advocate for flu vaccines.

Gracie Donovan was just three years old when she died as a result of the flu virus. (Caylee Donovan)

Gracie was diagnosed with influenza after her mother took her back to the doctor repeatedly trying to get help. She was sent to the hospital in Nanaimo, where her family was living at the time, so she could be assessed by pediatricians.

One doctor told Donovan her child didn’t have the flu. She was just an angry child. But Donovan said it was because of the fever that she was acting unusually.

When another doctor decided to treat Gracie for the flu, she was relieved. But a couple of days later, Gracie’s condition worsened, and she was taken to a hospital in Victoria. It’s there that Donovan first learned her daughter might not make it.

“She was put on a ventilator that night and remained on it for 18 days,” Donovan said. “She fought it. They had 14 different medications in her little body.”

An abscess formed on Gracie’s lung, and between that and the other symptoms she was suffering from, she succumbed to the virus.

“It was hard on us, the family,” Donovan said.

“But she’s no longer suffering, and, now, I use her story and our family’s experience to advocate for having the flu vaccination.”

‘Things get misconstrued on the Internet’

Donovan wants other parents and people to understand the impact not vaccinating themselves or their children can have. Though her family had been vaccinated for influenza in years prior, they had not yet had the flu shot in 2009 when Gracie fell ill.

“Our family never really got sick. We were kind of that family that said this will never happen to us.”

She notices people asking for advice on Facebook and other social media forums and said her biggest piece of advice for others is to get their information about influenza and the flu shot from medical professionals, as opposed to the Internet.

“A lot of things get misconstrued on the Internet,” she said.

“It takes one person to say ‘there’s mercury in a vaccination.’ Society, these days, believes those stories and they take it to heart, and, then, they make decisions for their family that might not be in the best interests of their family.”

She hopes that by sharing her daughter’s story, people will take the virus more seriously.

“I would just like to see people educate themselves legitimately going to their health professionals, going to people who know the truth and can help you make the right decision for you. It may be to get a vaccine and it may be to not get the vaccine.”

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