Peppermint may help in relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects up to a fifth of the population.
For the first time, the researchers from the University of Adelaide”s Nerve-Gut Research Lab have explained how peppermint activates an ‘anti-pain’ channel in the colon, soothing inflammatory pain in the gastrointestinal tract.
IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder, causing abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation.
While naturopaths have commonly prescribed peppermint for many years, there has been no clinical evidence until now to demonstrate why it is so effective in relieving pain.
“Our research shows that peppermint acts through a specific anti-pain channel called TRPM8 to reduce pain sensing fibres, particularly those activated by mustard and chilli. This is potentially the first step in determining a new type of mainstream clinical treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS),” said Stuart Brierley.
“This is a debilitating condition and affects many people on a daily basis, particularly women who are twice as likely to experience Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” he said.
“Some people find their symptoms appear after consuming fatty and spicy foods, coffee and alcohol, but it is more complex than that. There appears to be a definite link between IBS and a former bout of gastroenteritis, which leaves nerve pain fibres in a heightened state, altering mechanisms in the gut wall and resulting in ongoing pain,” he added.
The findings may be lead to new treatments for a range of intestinal diseases.
The study is published in the international journal Pain.