Peppermint has a carminative activity, which refers to its ability to relax the gastrointestinal sphincters. Carminatives are thought to alleviate symptoms of bloating and gas by facilitating eructation and passage of flatus. The classic carminatives are essential oils, such as spearmint and peppermint. Studies from the 1950s on the effect of carminatives on the gut suggest that they work by inducing relaxation of the lower oesophageal sphincter (Massey 2001). A later study has shown that peppermint oil canalised into the gall bladder and duodenal areas was able to counteract morphine hydrochloride-induced constriction of the sphincter of Oddi (Giachetti etal 1988).

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