Mint earns respect in mainstream medicine

University of Adelaide researchers have shown for the first time how mint helps to relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which affects up to 20 per cent of the population.

In a paper published this week in the international journal Pain, researchers from the University's Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory explain how mint activates an "anti-pain" channel in the colon, soothing inflammatory pain in the gastrointestinal tract.

Dr Stuart Brierley says while mint has been commonly prescribed by naturopaths 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 mint 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)," he says.

IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder, causing abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and / or constipation. It affects about 20 per cent of Australians and costs millions of dollars each year in lost productivity, work absenteeism and health care.

"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," Dr Brierley says.