Wednesday, September 3, 2008

When Foods Can Soothe, Calm and Heal

Living with food allergies and sensitivities is, first of all, learning what you should not eat. After that, you begin to learn not just what you can eat but also what foods can be more than just nutrition. You get to know foods that can soothe, assist, boost and otherwise enhance your body and your overall well-being.
Is this unique to people with special diets? Nope. But I think it is safe to say that those of us who pay more attention to our diets tend to be more aware of the ‘beyond-eating’ aspects of food. So, just as I occasionally address what it is about a food that can be a problem for a person, I think it is worthwhile to take a look at foods that have more to offer than a full stomach.

To that end, today we’ll look at peppermint. This is probably familiar to most of us but did you know that the study of peppermint has gone beyond things our grandmothers told us or what our neighbor’s aunt used to say? Let me give you a couple of links. First, have a look at the University of Maryland Medical Center site and what they have to say about peppermint. Also, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has weighed in.

Reading both these sites, it becomes apparent that the most common use for peppermint is to soothe the stomach and aid digestion. I can attest to the efficacy of this. Feeling a little queasy after a big, beautiful meal? Say hello to an after dinner mint. Personally, I prefer something a bit stronger and, if possible, sugar free. However, the important part is the cooling, soothing sensation of the peppermint. However, I can also attest to the potential for acid reflux. Overdoing the peppermint can certainly be a problem and if you have GERD, be sure you ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S DIRECTIONS with regard to peppermint. Of course, this is always the case, no matter what your situation. I have never tried enteric peppermint but I’d be very interested in hearing your experiences. Anyone have any light they can shed on this? Let’s hear from you.

Peppermint for headaches is a winner, too. Definitely. The cooling sensation on the skin when applied topically, is wonderful. The scent is calming and a big help when trying to ease tension, whether it is causing the headache or brought on by it. Again, a nice cup of peppermint tea can provide real relief.

So, do you turn to peppermint to calm, soothe or relieve? Tell us about it. How do you use it? How does it work for you?

Of course, for those of us with allergies, some caution should be exercised when trying out a food for it’s medicinal benefits. Proceed with caution and gradually. In fact, I think I see the subject of the next entry here. Next time we’ll talk about the right way to introduce a new food into the diet of a person with food allergies or sensitivities.

Until then, let’s go eat that!


Maggie said...

We use peppermint oil in a hot mist humidifier when someone in the family has a sniffly cough. Eucalyptus oil is more commonly used but we all found that it didn't seem to help. The peppermint really seems to help a lot. We also add a few drops to a hot bath for the same reason.

Sandra Gordon said...

Maggie, that's a good one. I've been in the habit of using eucalyptus and adding some lavendar for the headache that usually goes with a stuffy head. But peppermint makes a lot of sense when you think of how many cough drops and so on include menthol. I'll have to make a note of that, especially now that we're coming into cold season!

Bentoist said...

My sister and I were plagued with stomachaches growing up, and it was an elderly lady whom we met on our travels who suggested chamomile tea to soothe. It worked and that turned me on to listening to my body, and the kinds of foods that calm me. Ginger is another food I consume regularly since it is good for my digestion.

Sandra Gordon said...

Chamomile must be very nice when you have a stomachache. I've been reading up on ginger and you are, of course, quite right about it's ability to aid digestion. Even better, it can do even more than that. Can't wait to get that blog entry up!

Laurie said...

I grow peppermint in my garden, mostly for cooking, but I can see I need to think about it as a home remedy. Question: can it be kept effectively in ...stay...the freezer? Or should i make an oil out of it? The growing season is almost over and I won't have fresh mint again until next spring.

Sandra Gordon said...

I've never tried freezing peppermint but, honestly, I suspect it wouldn't work all that well. I think it is very likely to be wilted and squishy when thawed. Of course, you could always give it a try by tossing a few sprigs in the freezer. Drying it would probably work better. The dried leaves could be crumbled and used that way. After all, that's what you'd find in a peppermint tea bag. You might be able to extend the refrigerator life of your peppermint if you vaccuum seal it. Reynold's has put out a small and inexpensive system. I just picked one up, myself. If you have one or are willing to get one, you could stretch your peppermint crop well into the cooler season by saving it in the vaccuum sealed bags. There might be a way for you to extract the essential oil at home. Unfortunately, I don't know how to do that. Feel up to a bit of research? ;) If you do find a way, please be sure to share it!