A regular cup of peppermint tea may ward off Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research.
The herbal brew boosts both long term and working memory, a study of 180 adults found.
Peppermint is a favourite for many tea drinkers and has been used to treat cough, colds and fever going back to Roman and Greek times.
But there have been few studies on its health benefits so Dr Mark Moss and colleagues randomly assigned participants to receive a drink of peppermint tea, chamomile tea or hot water.
Before they consumed their drink they completed questionnaires relating to their mood. After a twenty minute rest the participants completed tests that assessed their memory and a range of other cognitive functions. Following the tests participants completed another mood questionnaire.
Analysis of the results showed peppermint tea significantly improved long term memory, working memory and alertness compared to both chamomile and hot water. Chamomile tea significantly slowed memory and attention speed compared to both peppermint and hot water.
Dr Moss, of the University of Northumbria, said: “It is interesting to see the contrasting effects on mood and cognition of the two different herbal teas.
“The enhancing and arousing effects of peppermint and the calming/sedative effects of chamomile observed in this study are in keeping with the claimed properties of these herbs and suggest beneficial effects can be drawn from their use.”
The finding presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Nottingham follows research last year suggesting high consumption of green tea may protect against dementia.
Peppermint is one of the world’s oldest and most loved herbs. Its origin are unknown, but the dried leaves have been found in the pyramids in Egypt, dating from as early as 1000 BC.
It didn’t become popular in Europe until about the eighteenth century. Peppermint is a hybrid of watermint and spearmint that was first cultivated near London in1750.
Peppermint tea has a long history as a digestive aid. It was cultivated by ancient Egyptians for its volatile oils.
The Greeks and Romans crowned themselves with peppermint as their feasts and used in their wines and sauces.
Its genus name, Mentha, is derived from Greek mythical nymph Mintha, who metamorphosed in this plant.
Ancient Arabs believed that peppermint works for better sex.