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Is Peppermint Tea The Savior It Claims To Be?

Refinery29 logo Refinery29 2/8/2019 Cory Stieg
a person posing for the camera: Refinery29 © Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet. Refinery29

I've never been one for aromatherapy, but I do love inhaling a cup of hot peppermint tea. Brewing a cup of peppermint tea has become one of my relaxing bedtime rituals, along with watching Schitt's Creek and taking CBD oil. I don't know if drinking peppermint tea does anything at all from a health perspective, but it smells amazing, helps me chill, tastes better than other teas, and soothes any weird stomach rumbles after a meal.

In truth, peppermint does have promising health benefits, including some gastrointestinal perks, says Diane McKay, PhD, FACN, assistant professor of nutrition science at Tufts University, who has studied the health effects of peppermint. So, here's the tea on peppermint tea.

We know that peppermint oil, which is in peppermint tea in small amounts, may help alleviate indigestion and reduce symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome, Dr. McKay says. In chemotherapy patients, peppermint oil has been shown to curtail nausea and vomiting, and it's also a go-to for pregnant people combating morning sickness. The reason why peppermint tea feels so good on your stomach has to do with peppermint's natural "antispasmodic activity," she explains. In other words, peppermint "calms muscle spasms in the gastrointestinal tract," which soothes an upset stomach, she says. (Although, for people with heartburn or GERD, this could trigger symptoms, she says.)

As far as the other relaxing qualities of peppermint go, Dr. McKay says she hasn't seen any research on "the calmative properties of peppermint tea." Some people find that using peppermint essential oils in aromatherapy can boost your mood, although the studies on that are hazy. That said, we know that the ritualistic aspect of drinking a warm beverage before bedtime may be helpful when turning in, she says. And since peppermint tea doesn't have any caffeine added, it's a smart pick.

Real peppermint proponents claim that peppermint tea can also fight bacterial infections, but Dr. McKay says that's a stretch. While peppermint does have antimicrobial and antiviral properties in a test tube, they're probably not going to translate to your cup of tea, she says.

Given everything we know about the health benefits of peppermint, if you're like me and you enjoy a peppermint tea nightcap, keep doing you. Sipping peppermint tea at the end of the day will let your stomach chill after a big meal, and possibly help you sleep. And hey, brewing a cup of peppermint tea is way cheaper and easier than making a fancy moon milk.

Related Video: The World's Most Coveted Tea (Provided by Saveur)

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