Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) is a hybrid plant obtained from crossing watermint (Mentha acquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). It is native to Europe and the Middle East, though today peppermint is the most popular, widely cultivated and consumed species of the Mentha genera.
They have a long history of use in cooking thanks to their distinct flavour and taste, which is the result of naturally occurring flavour compounds like menthol and menthone.
They are also one of the oldest plants that have been used in medicine, and in the manufacture of medicinal products. Peppermint is popularly processed into teas (peppermint tea), oils (peppermint oil) or tisanes (a mixture of other herbs with peppermint tea or oil) (1).
Peppermint tea is one of the most popularly consumed single-ingredient teas around the world due to its pleasant aroma and warming effect. It is made by steeping fresh or dried peppermint leaves in boiled water for typically five minutes (or as desired) and straining the leaves thereafter. Most people add a tablespoon or so of honey and sometimes lemon juice to their peppermint tea for added flavour and taste (2).
Drinking peppermint tea has numerous health benefits including relieving cold and flu symptoms (like nasal congestion), relieving headaches, and stomach upsets. Peppermint also has several beneficial effects for diabetics and there are many human and animal research studies that have proven this fact. This is because peppermint leaves have many phenolic compounds such as flavonoids (eriocitrin, luteolin, and hesperidin) and rosmarinic acid, which have beneficial biological activities in the body (3).
Peppermint tea is a calorie-free way to hydrate the body and maintain a good way to optimize blood sugar control. Unsweetened peppermint tea is thus a great alternative to sugary drinks like sodas or other sweetened beverages like coffee or caffeinated sweetened drinks, that may spike blood glucose levels in diabetics (4).
Encourages water drinking and hydration
Besides, tea drinking encourages water drinking and keeping the body hydrated is a great way to manage blood sugar levels. More water in your blood dilutes sugar concentrations, which gives good diabetic control.
Mild dehydration which is most times not felt has been reported to increase blood sugar levels by 50 to 100 mg/dL. Consistent dehydration will cause diabetics to take in more insulin to reduce blood sugar levels than if they were drinking enough water (5).
Prevent oxidative stress
Peppermint tea polyphenolic compounds like flavonoids, are powerful antioxidants that prevent the body from getting into a state of oxidative stress by preventing excessive oxidation reactions. They capture free radicals, which are unstable atoms, thus making them unavailable for oxidation reactions. Free radicals play a crucial role in insulin resistance and impaired insulin signalling the reason why oxidative stress is associated with the development of diabetes and diabetes complications in diabetics (6).
Oxidative stress decreases insulin resistance and damages the beta cells of the pancreas. Damaging of the beta cells implies less insulin is produced to drive glucose from the blood vessels to the cells. Oxidative stress induced by hyperglycemia causes memory complications like cognitive impairment in diabetics. Therefore, the drinking of peppermint tea has been shown to reduce the risk of development of type 2 diabetes, as well as improve insulin sensitivity in many studies. The majority of the current diabetes treatment drugs show antioxidant activities in addition to whatever primary pharmacological activity they possess (6, 7).
Moreso, rosmarinic acid also present in peppermint tea shows antioxidant activities and has been demonstrated to be successful in the treatment of diabetes. Animal research studies have reported enhanced insulin sensitivity and glucose utilization upon administration of rosmarinic acid, with a marked hypoglycemic effect. Besides, rosmarinic acid is known to protect the endothelial cells thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, preventing possible diabetic complications (8).
Farther, tea polyphenols increase the concentrations of plasma antioxidants like glutathione which play a crucial role in reducing oxidative stress in the blood. Patients with type 2 diabetes have been reported to record reduced concentrations of blood glutathione in many studies. Infusions of glutathione have been successful in directly potentiating insulin secretion in patients with both impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance (9).
Controlling spikes in glucose levels
Peppermint naturally contains compounds like luteolin which has inhibitory effects against α-glucosidase and α-amylase, two enzymes that spike postprandial glucose levels by increasing carbohydrate digestion and absorption.
Luteolin was reported to significantly decrease blood glucose by more than 50%, increase blood insulin levels by about 2.5 folds and elevate pancreatic insulin production in one study. This is why dietary supplementation of α-glucosidase and α-amylase is a clinically accepted method for controlling spikes in postprandial glucose levels (10).
Luteolin has also been recently reported to activate the PPARγ (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma) pathway. PPARs play a very important role in the metabolism of both glucose and lipids. They improve insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes by improving insulin action and influencing the production of adipokines (cytokines) in adipose tissues.
Adipokines are cell signaling molecules in the adipose tissues that modulate many processes like appetite and satiety, glucose metabolism, energy expenditure and activity, adipocyte function, fat distribution, chronic inflammation, and insulin sensitivity amongst others. Leptin for example is an adipokine that which inhibits hunger, thereby regulating energy balance in the body and consequently reducing fat storage in the adipose tissues (11).
Relieve anxiety and stress
Peppermint tea has a calming effect which makes it effective in helping to relieve anxiety and stress. Stress is reported to cause spikes in blood glucose levels, making diabetic control difficult. When the body is under stress, hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, glucagon, and growth hormone are stimulated and the body prepares itself by ensuring the ready availability of sugar or energy.
Insulin levels then fall, leading to a rise in levels of glucagon and adrenaline which triggers the release of more glucose from the liver. Simultaneously, the levels of cortisol and growth hormone also rise causing muscle tissues and fat tissues to be resistant or less sensitive to insulin. Consequently, blood glucose. Moreover, menthol in peppermint is known to have a relaxing effect on the muscles, relieving anxiety and stress. (12, 13).
Stress can also be caused by infections and illnesses, and peppermint tea has been reported to have antibacterial actions boosting the body’s immunity. Menthol in peppermint has antibacterial and antifungal properties, effective in preventing tooth decay and mouth infections.
This is why menthol is a common ingredient in most toothpaste, mouthwashes and other products that enhance oral hygiene and enhance fresh breath. Consuming peppermint tea will therefore also help to prevent bacteria infection and consequently certain illnesses, thereby preventing stress that comes from them (14).
Besides, it is more difficult to manage blood glucose when a person is sick compared to when they are healthy. This is because when a person is sick, their body releases hormones to combat the illness which may, in turn, increase blood sugar levels, causing the person to take much more insulin. Additionally, certain medications that a person takes while sick can interfere with diabetic control.
For example, some diabetic persons who get so sick with coronavirus are treated with steroids (like dexamethasone) which raise blood sugar levels and increase insulin resistance. Moreso, in a state of sickness, people may forget to take their insulin shots or medicines on time or regularly due to the inconveniences and discomfort generally associated with being sick, further making diabetic control difficult (15).
Peppermint tea helps with weight loss. Regular drinking of peppermint tea is popularly associated with weight loss, a theory that has been adequately demonstrated in numerous clinical research studies. Luteolin in peppermint regulates the activities of leptin, which is an important hormone in maintaining energy balance in the body. Leptin sends signals to the central nervous system to reduce food intake as well as increase energy expenditure.
These activities contribute to weight loss in the long run, making peppermint tea a great addition to your weight loss diet plan. Less fat in the adipose tissues improves insulin resistance which is typically helpful for diabetic control. This is one of the reasons why diabetics are encouraged to eat healthy as well as exercise so that they can lose some weight and improve their insulin sensitivity (16).
Leptin resistance has been observed in obese and overweight individuals in some clinical trials. Congenital complete leptin deficiency, which arises from leptin gene mutations, for example, was found to trigger the onset of extreme obesity in patients very early in life. Recombinant leptin treatment in such patients was successful in significantly reducing body fat through appetite reduction, which consequently led to a reduction in food intake (17, 18).
Reduce the anxiety and pain
Peppermint aroma which you can inhale by whiffing your peppermint tea has been proven to help reduce the anxiety and pain caused by intravenous catheter placement. So, for diabetics who use a catheter, it might do them good to inhale some peppermint aroma, before placing their catheter (19).
Peppermint tea is a great beverage for people with diabetes. Unsweetened peppermint tea is a great alternative drink to sugary or other sweetened coffee or teas or beverages which can spike blood glucose levels. It encourages water drinking and keeping the body hydrated, which is important for keeping blood sugar levels under control.
Peppermint tea is also loaded with bioactive compounds that have potent antioxidant properties, protecting the body from the harmful effects of oxidative stress which contributes to the development of diabetes and worsens diabetic complications. Drinking unsweetened peppermint tea regularly is thus a great way to spike your insulin levels and get good diabetic control.
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- Sisodiya, A. (n.d.). Peppermint tea. Retrieved June 13, 2022, from Vaya.in website: https://vaya.in/recipes/details/peppermint-tea/
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- Özyurt, H., Luna, C., & Estévez, M. (2016). Redox chemistry of the molecular interactions between tea catechins and human serum proteins under simulated hyperglycemic conditions. Food & Function, 7(3), 1390–1400. doi:10.1039/c5fo01525a
- Bahmani, M., Zargaran, A., & Rafieian-Kopaei, M. (2014). Saki Ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants used in the management of diabetes mellitus in the Urmia. Northwest Iran Asian Pac J Trop Med, 7(1), 348–354.
- Runtuwene, J., Cheng, K.-C., Asakawa, A., Amitani, H., Amitani, M., Morinaga, A., … Inui, A. (2016). Rosmarinic acid ameliorates hyperglycemia and insulin sensitivity in diabetic rats, potentially by modulating the expression of PEPCK and GLUT4. Drug Design, Development and Therapy, 10, 2193–2202. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S108539
- Barbagallo, M., Dominguez, L. J., Tagliamonte, M. R., Resnick, L. M., & Paolisso, G. (1999). Effects of vitamin E and glutathione on glucose metabolism: role of magnesium: Role of magnesium. Hypertension, 34(4 Pt 2), 1002–1006. doi:10.1161/01.hyp.34.4.1002
- Ye, X.-P., Song, C.-Q., Yuan, P., & Mao, R.-G. (2011). Α-glucosidase and α-amylase inhibitory activity of common constituents from traditional Chinese medicine used for diabetes mellitus: <I>α</I>-glucosidase and <I>α</I>-amylase inhibitory activity of common constituents from traditional Chinese medicine used for diabetes mellitus. Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines, 8(5), 349–352. doi:10.3724/sp.j.1009.2010.00349
- Ahmadian, M., Suh, J. M., Hah, N., Liddle, C., Atkins, A. R., Downes, M., & Evans, R. M. (2013). PPARγ signaling and metabolism: the good, the bad and the future. Nature Medicine, 19(5), 557–566. doi:10.1038/nm.3159
- Peppermint tea. (2014, April 4). Retrieved June 9, 2022, from Diabetic Health Clinic | Lifestyle Designed To Help Normalise Blood Sugar Levels website: https://www.diabetichealthclinic.org/peppermint-tea/
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- Akbari, F., Rezaei, M., & Khatony, A. (2019). Effect of peppermint essence on the pain and anxiety caused by intravenous catheterization in cardiac patients: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Pain Research, 12, 2933–2939. doi:10.2147/JPR.S226312