Peppermint and ginger are both well known, highly effective remedies for digestive distress.
Peppermint was used as a medicine in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It is commonly used to neutralize acid, and to relieve nausea, indigestion, constipation, gas, and abdominal pain. Many over-the-counter digestive remedies include peppermint as an ingredient. Scientists are currently studying peppermint’s effects on heartburn, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome, and early studies seem promising. In clinical trials, about 75 percent of irritable bowel syndrome sufferers who took capsules of peppermint oil experienced relief from their symptoms. Research also supports the use of peppermint in cases of mild constipation. If peppermint tea is not handy, spearmint tea can also be used. Spearmint is somewhat milder than peppermint.
Ginger has been used in Asian medicine for more than 2,000 years to relieve abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Many digestive remedies sold over the counter in the United States contain ginger as one of their main ingredients. Ginger is also commonly used as a remedy for morning sickness, is sometimes used to relieve the nausea of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and is sometimes used to relieve motion sickness. There is some scientific evidence that ginger reduces nausea and vomiting in general, and quite a bit of evidence that it relieves the nausea caused by morning sickness.
Although mint-ginger tea is an effective remedy for most kinds of gastrointestinal distress, it cannot help if your discomfort is caused by vertigo or an inner ear infection. On the other hand, studies have shown that ginger is more effective than the motion sickness medicine Dramamine for reducing the nausea associated with motion sickness.
Using Mint and Ginger Tea to Improve Digestion
- After a large meal that might cause indigestion, make a peppermint and ginger tea. One simple way to do this is to put one peppermint teabag and one ginger teabag in a small teapot, and fill with boiling water. Let the tea steep for 10-15 minutes. Then add a little honey.
- Relax and sip the tea slowly.
- In a pinch, if you cannot find mint-ginger tea, you can also try sipping ginger ale slowly.
Why It Works
Peppermint and ginger both act in ways that may seem paradoxical -- they both stimulate and relax the intestines. Both herbs contain chemicals that stimulate peristalsis, helping stomach and intestinal contractions to occur in a regular, rhythmic pattern, and preventing digestive muscles from tensing erratically at seemingly random moments. People complaining of nausea or irritable bowel syndrome tend to have an irregular pattern of muscular contractions in their digestive tracts -- normalizing those contractions reduces nausea and pain.
Peppermint also improves the flow of bile, which is used by the body to digest fats.
Ginger contains a chemical called oleoresin, which is often used in over-the-counter digestive, antitussive, antiflatulent, laxative, and antacid compounds. Oleoresin and other chemicals in ginger cause an increase in circulation, helping various organs of the body to eliminate toxins more readily. Ginger acts on constipated intestines by stimulating peristalsis, encouraging the release of gas, and improving circulation to intestinal tissues. Some scientists think that ginger also reduces nausea by blocking the action of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in nerve cells in the gut. Some also think that ginger stimulates the production of stomach acid in people who have low levels of acid in their stomachs.
Peppermint and ginger are both food herbs and are generally regarded as safe. In addition, the amount of peppermint and ginger used to make tea is fairly small and extremely unlikely to lead to an overdose. Whenever taking an herb that you have not taken before, however, watch for possible allergic reactions. If you are taking a prescription medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist about possible drug interactions that might be caused by peppermint or ginger -- both can interfere with the body’s processing of certain drugs.
Some people report an increase in heartburn after taking peppermint. If you have heartburn caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or a hiatal hernia, you should not take peppermint in any form. Peppermint’s action as a muscle relaxant can relax the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach, allowing stomach acid to pass into the esophagus and making heartburn symptoms worse.
Occasionally, people taking powdered ginger report an increase in gas, bloating, heartburn, or nausea. People with ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, or blocked intestines should avoid ginger. In very rare cases, it is thought that ginger could be associated with heart arrythmias and depression. Gingeri is also well known as a blood thinner, and should not be used by people with bleeding disorders or by those who are about to have surgery. Children under the age of two should not take ginger.