Even as far back as ancient Greece, herbal practitioners have pointed towards the peppermint plant - mentha piperita - as a cure for digestive disorders. Now scientific research is backing up some of their claims.
Last week, the British Medical Journal reported that almost half of sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) found their symptoms disappeared after taking peppermint oil.
Symptoms of IBS include severe abdominal cramps as well as gastric problems and the condition affects about eight million people in the UK. But because the exact cause is not understood, it is often difficult to treat.
Peppermint oil is a pure oil extracted from the peppermint plant. Its constituents include the organic compounds menthol, menthone and eucalyptol, which have a wide range of pharmaceutical uses - as topical pain relievers and decongestants, among others. It can be taken as neat oil in water or as Colpermin, a prescription or over-the-counter drug with an enteric coating so that it dissolves in the intestines rather than the stomach.