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By Stephen Luntz

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Mint Relief of IBS Revealed
The mechanism by which peppermint soothes gastro-intestinal pain has been found, opening the way to more potent protection.

Peppermint tea has long been a folk remedy for stomach pains, and clinical research has found a benefit. Some countries now allow peppermint extracts to be sold with therapeutic claims although the mechanism of relief remains unknown.

In work published in Pain, Dr Stuart Brierley of Adelaide University’s Nerve–Gut Research Laboratory used a concentrated version of the peppermint component icilin to seek the channel by which the body responds.

“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,” Brierley says.

The body has a large family of related ion channels that respond to different herbs, of which TRPM8 is one.

Brierley says he does not know if icilin appears in any other plants, but thinks it is rare. He says he chose to study icilin because peppermint’s cooling sensation is well-known, and the clinical evidence for peppermint’s effectiveness indicated it was a promising line of research.

Having established the...

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