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Whether you've seen adverts that stress the importance of probiotic foods like yoghurt and kimchi, or your doctor has advised you not to overuse antibiotics, odds are you've been told by someone to look after your gut health. But despite gut health becoming a trending topic, very few people seem to understand why looking after your gut is so important. With so many products being marketed as 'gut friendly', it can also be challenging to understand what steps need to be taken when looking after your gut and it's all-important microbiome.
So, to help alleviate some of this confusion, in this article, we're going to be looking at two natural gut-friendly ingredients: CBD and mint. Since both of these herbal agents contain qualities that are understood to potentially benefit our microbiome in different ways, we're going to analyse how they might support gut health while also pointing out what conditions they've been shown to remedy. But before we delve into the gastrointestinal advantages of CBD and mint, we need to understand why looking after your gut is so important. We're going to explore a little bit more about the gut's complex microbiome because, as it turns out, supporting its health can benefit a whole lot more than just our digestion.
What is your gut microbiome?
Composed of organs including our mouth, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, and intestine (to name a few), your 'gut', or gastrointestinal tract, is a crucial biological system that helps our body digest food. While its principal function is to aid healthy digestion by helping nutrients to be effectively absorbed into our bloodstream, the gut has also been linked to immune activity, brain and heart health, weight control, and mental disorders like anxiety and depression. This is all to do with what is called a microbiome.
A microbiome is a collection of genetic material that lives on and inside the human body. This includes a variety of microbial matter such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. These microbes have evolved alongside humans for centuries, and because of their ability to aid bodily processes while detoxifying harmful chemicals, without their existence, it's unlikely we would be able to survive. They outnumber human cells in the body by 10 to 1, and while microorganisms exist throughout the human body, the vast majority are located in the gut's microbiome.
To be specific, around 100 trillion bacteria live inside your gut. And if you find that number a bit hard to comprehend, if combined, these microbes would weigh as much as 2-5 pounds (roughly the weight of a human brain). So, by joining forces, this precious microbial matter in your digestive system basically acts as an extra organ, and in doing so, it plays a large role in your overall health. To explain this in more detail, next, we'll identify the specific ways that the gut microbiome affects our physical and mental processes.
How your gut's microbiota influence your health
The primary way our gut's diverse collection of microbes benefits our body is by improving our digestion. By communicating with the intestinal cells, our microbiome is able to help our body to digest vital carbohydrates like starch and potatoes, as well as crucial sources of fibre such as fruit and veg. Perhaps most crucially, due to bacterial enzymes' unique structure, our microbiome also plays a fundamental role in helping our body to break down sugar polymers into glucose, as this research outlines.
Aside from aiding digestion, a healthy microbiome is also linked to higher levels of immune function. As this study points out, by communicating with immune cells and encouraging homeostasis, the bacteria can alter the way your body responds to infection. Conversely, when these microbial communities are disrupted, immune dysregulation is more likely to take place, which, in turn, can make us much more susceptible to various autoimmune disorders.
But the influence of our gut's microbiota isn't just confined to the body. Due to its close relationship with our nervous system, our microbiome is also understood to affect our brain's health, as well as our overall mental well being. When our digestive system is performing poorly, our nerves can become overstimulated, and this can contribute to an influx of information being sent from the stomach to the brain. As a result, an under-functioning gut is known to be linked to conditions such as depression and anxiety, as well as a variety of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, as this study implies.
So, with a fully functioning gut being integral to our physical and mental health, you might be wondering: what's the best way to promote a healthy and diverse microbiota? Well, while there's not just one way to look after your gastrointestinal tract, eating gut-friendly food is an excellent way to support its function.
So, with this in mind, next, we will explore the natural remedy CBD to glean a more in-depth insight into how its uses may support the health of our gut and, crucially, its precious microbiota.
What is CBD?
Otherwise known by its scientific name 'cannabidiol', CBD is one of approximately 113 other cannabinoids which derive from the cannabis Sativa plant. Commonly extracted from the hemp variety of the plant due to the naturally higher concentrations of cannabidiol it contains, CBD is a non-intoxicating chemical compound that, much like many of its fellow cannabinoids, is recognised to have the potential to elicit a range of relaxing and therapeutic effects when consumed. Understood by many scientists to balance out the paranoia and anxiety associated with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabinoid is widely used to help people lower their levels of anxiety. Additionally, due to it's supposed therapeutic and anti-inflammatory properties, the compound has also been linked to reduced cases of chronic pain symptoms, lowering the swelling associated with symptoms of some inflammatory disorders, and relieving instances of insomnia symptoms.
How might CBD work in our bodies?
The main reason CBD is understood to work in our bodies is due to its relationship with something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Simply put, our ECS is a biological system that is composed of a series of enzymes, receptors, and endocannabinoids (cannabinoids naturally produced by the body) that are located throughout every organ in the body, including areas like the immune system, the central nervous system, and the digestive system. While much about the ECS is still unknown, recent studies suggest that it regulates a range of physical and mental processes associated with homeostasis, such as sleep, mood, appetite, memory and mood response.
The ECS works to maintain a state of balance irrespective of whether CBD is consumed; however, when the herbal agent is in our system, it's understood to possibly further the system's potential by mimicking our bodies' natural endocannabinoids. So, by helping the system to work harder, this is the main reason why CBD is understood to elicit its possible relaxing, therapeutic, and pain-relieving qualities.
What gastrointestinal issues might CBD be able to help with?
Improved digestive function
So, how does gut health tie into all of this? Well, since the ECS's receptors are present throughout a series of organs in the gastrointestinal tract, when CBD is consumed, it's understood to potentially impact a range of beneficial processes within the gut. Among these purported benefits, CBD has been shown to possibly lower inflammation in the digestive system, and more specifically, to potentially restore motility within the intestine. By doing so, this purportedly helps to encourage healthy digestive function by relaxing the muscles that control the movement of food through the digestive tract.
What else may this benefit?
Aside from potentially supporting the microbiome's intestinal function, CBD is also understood to possibly influence a range of other processes because of the unique relationship between the ECS and our gut's diverse microbiota.
When our endocannabinoid system is functioning effectively, it helps to maintain a balance between healthy and unhealthy types of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract. This, in turn, helps more healthy bacteria to prosper, which reduces the chances of dysbiosis, or an 'imbalance' in the gut from occurring. By maintaining the health of the gut, the risk of mental and physical disorders associated with unhealthy gut microbiota lowers. Therefore, as our current scientific understanding suggests, by potentially improving the function of your gut, CBD may be able to contribute to a myriad of other benefits within the body, such as a stronger immune system, better heart and brain health, and improved quality of sleep. However, more research into their interaction needs to be conducted before conclusive results can be drawn in this regard.
Existing as one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common condition that affects the digestive system. Symptoms of IBS include, but are not exclusively: stomach cramps, bloating and diarrhoea. While there is no one cause for IBS, flare-ups are often more likely to take place if individuals are depressed, stressed, or responding to food intolerances.
As this 2011 study reveals, by lowering inflammation and regulating gut motility, CBD is understood to have the potential to reduce the pain and swelling symptoms often associated with IBS in a similar way to how it may aid general digestive function. Additionally, by influencing the neuro-immune axis, which is the pathway between the nervous and immune system, CBD may also be able to induce a healthy immune response without contributing to over inflammation, thus supplementing the body's ability to lower symptoms by itself.
Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that deteriorates the lining of the digestive tract, making it harder for nutrients to be absorbed into the body. While the condition can concern different areas of the gut for different people, common symptoms typically include abdominal pain, weight loss, severe diarrhoea, and fatigue. Fortunately, as this 2020 study points out, CBD may be able to mitigate some symptoms often associated with Crohn's disease by lowering levels of inflammation in the digestive system. The compound is understood to do so by increasing stimulation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS, as they are both responsible for regulating inflammation within the gut.
In addition to this, as this 2016 study reveals, by purportedly helping the mucous membranes in the gut to become less inflamed, CBD has also been shown to potentially help the body absorb more nutrients from food, while also slowing down the digestive processes and regulating irregular stool. By doing so, cannabidiol is understood to have the potential to address many symptoms of Crohn's disease, thus making the condition easier to endure. However, much evidence collected thus far is only preliminary, and further, more specific studies are needed before we can be truly confident regarding the effects of CBD for Crohn's disease.
Also known as intestinal permeability, a leaky gut is a digestive condition where bacteria and toxins leak through the gut into the intestinal wall. When this leak occurs, it causes inflammation, and in some cases, may even trigger a reaction from the immune system. Although the condition hasn't received full backing from the whole scientific community, there is evidence that supports its existence, with common symptoms including bloating, food sensitivities, fatigue, and skin problems.
Luckily, as research has revealed, cannabidiol has also been shown to potentially impact features of a leaky gut by protecting the lining of the gut. By doing so, the herbal agent is recognised to possibly keep out the harmful bacteria and pathogens that could damage the digestive system, while also purportedly helping to retain the healthy bacteria that live within the microbial community. However, before CBD can be used to alleviate symptoms of leaky gut, more research into its relationship with the condition needs to be first conducted.
Deriving from the Latin word 'mentha', mint is one of the best known and most commonly used herbs in existence. Native to the eastern Mediterranean, the plant is famed for its unique aromatic and cooling qualities, and, due to its ability to grow in harsh climates, it's a staple herb for many gardeners. Far from only taking one form, mint actually comes in over 600 distinct varieties, with the most notable being peppermint and spearmint.
Often used more frequently for culinary purposes, spearmint has softly rounded leaves and only contains 1% menthol, which gives it a milder flavour and prevents it from overpowering dishes. On the contrary, peppermint has sharper, more jagged leaves. Renowned for its comparatively stronger minty aroma, it contains around 40% menthol, and this higher potency is why the plant is often harnessed in the fields of alternative therapy and in the culinary world.
Medical applications of peppermint
With the mint variety first being listed in the London Pharmacopoeia in 1721, peppermint has been used as a staple in popular traditional medicine throughout both the Eastern and Western worlds for centuries. Due to the herb's purported coolant, antispasmodic, antiseptic, analgesic, and antiviral qualities, for many years, it has been used to herbally supplement a variety of conditions such as gas, morning sickness, menstruation pain, and intestinal colic. As the use of the herb has expanded, it's commonly used to soothe ailments such colds, sore throats, nausea, toothaches, and in remedies for symptoms of digestive issues like bloating and indigestion.
Among mint's varied therapeutic applications, the herb has also been found to have a beneficial relationship with our gut's microbiome. So, to understand more about how mint may be able to support our diverse microbiota, as well as our digestive function, next, we go on to explore why mint, specifically the peppermint variety, may be able to benefit our gut.
Gut-friendly qualities of peppermintAntibacterial properties
According to this 2015 research article, peppermint oil exhibits strong antibacterial properties. This is relevant to gut health because, by showing possible antibacterial qualities, it may be implied that peppermint oil has the potential to mitigate the damage caused by more harmful types of bacteria, such as H. pylori, E. coli, and Salmonella. Although most strains of these types of bacteria are not deadly when in moderation, if dangerous strains are present within the gut, it increases the chance of digestive issues like diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, and in some cases vomiting, from occurring. Therefore, by consuming ingredients that help protect the gut against more dangerous types of bacteria, the gastrointestinal tract and its microbiota are more likely to stay in better working order, and the gut is more likely to stay healthy.
Another way that mint may be able to maintain a healthy digestive function, is by relaxing your digestive system and relieving spasms in the gut. Stomach and intestinal spasms can be caused by anything from gas and dehydration to more serious conditions like norovirus and IBS. They are unpleasant to endure, and they require antispasmodic medication to be treated.
Fortunately, this 2002 study reveals that peppermint oil has been shown to generate possible antispasmolytic effects in humans, and this finding is backed up by this 1988 research article that concludes that peppermint may elicit a similar effect in guinea pigs too. This means that the herbal ingredient may hold medical potential in relieving spasms in smoothing muscles like the stomach, intestine and urinary bladder. Therefore, it's possible that peppermint oil may be potentially useful in remedying a range of conditions that feature stomach or intestinal spasms as a symptom.
What gut conditions might mint be able to help alleviate?
As we've previously addressed, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common gastrointestinal disorder that can feature a range of unpleasant symptoms. Luckily, similarly to the herbal agent CBD, peppermint has also been attributed with the potential to relieve many symptoms associated with IBS, such as constipation and bloating, as well as the pain that often accompanies the condition.
It's understood to be successful at doing so, because of the purported antispasmodic properties of the menthol contained within peppermint. As this research paper points out, by helping to relax the intestinal smooth muscle, peppermint oil may be able to prevent spasms from disrupting healthy digestive functioning. Also, according to this 2011 study, when it comes to lowering the pain associated with the condition, the cooling qualities of menthol may be able to excite the anti-pain channel called TRPM8 that is located in the gut. Since this channel causes pain-sensing fibres in the gut to become less sensitive, triggering their response may help to relieve abdominal pain associated with gastrointestinal conditions like IBS. So, due to peppermints potential in maintaining healthy digestive function while mitigating the pain associated with many GI conditions, it makes the herbal ingredient a likely useful supplement for those suffering from IBS.
Nausea and vomiting
Mint has been used as a traditional method to relieve cases of nausea and vomiting for centuries. But as modern research begins to mount, the cooling herb is becoming increasingly validated in its ability to possibly alleviate nausea symptoms- which may be specifically useful in cases of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV).
Defined simply as nausea and vomiting that occurs directly from surgery and anaesthesia, PONV is an unpleasant condition that causes many patients discomfort. Luckily, in addition to many mainstream pharmaceutical options, peppermint oil has also been shown to potentially supplement this condition, due to its purported antiemetic and spasmolytic effects on the gastrointestinal system.
As this study in the Cyprus Journal of Medical Sciences concludes, when peppermint oil was inhaled by 56 patients suffering from PONV, the substance was able to significantly reduce the severity of nausea associated with the condition. These results also correlate with this 2012 study into postoperative nausea in women, and this 2014 study into the effectiveness of aromatherapy for postoperative nausea relief, which suggest the ingredient holds significant potential in lowering instances of nausea and vomiting symptoms, especially in cases regarding symptoms of PONV.
How can you reap the possible benefits of CBD and mint together?
For those interested in testing out the prospective gastrointestinal benefits of CBD and mint, there's a variety of different options out there. Here are just a few of our favourites:
Mint-infused CBD oil
CBD oil infused with pure peppermint extract is one of the best ways to consume cannabidiol and mint in unison. By dropping a few drops of the product under your tongue using the sublingual method, herbal extracts are able to take effect quickly, due to the oil being directly delivered into your system. This makes mint-infused CBD oil a favourable option for those looking for a fast and effective way to remedy gastrointestinal issues such as pain, extreme bloating, or nausea.
CBD mints are delicious candied sweets that feature pre-measured doses of cannabidiol. For those looking for a quick way to sample the purported benefits of CBD and mint when they're on the go, CBD mints could be an excellent option. Due to their discreet and convenient nature, they're easier to consume than CBD oil, and due to the way edibles travel through our system, they may be able to deliver you with potential gastrointestinal (GI) benefits for longer than other methods.
CBD infused mint tea
For many years, mint tea has been used as a supplement for a range of digestive problems. Most notably being harnessed as an anti-nausea remedy, the famous herb is likely to be even more gut-friendly when paired with the potentially relaxing qualities of CBD. Also, since CBD and mint have been shown to possibly elicit naturally energising effects, waking up with a cup of CBD infused mint tea could be a welcome alternative to a morning cup of coffee.
So, if you're as excited as us about gut health and the purported benefits of CBD and mint, you may be interested in what we offer here at Amphora. To find out more about what we do, and to have a look at our wonderful vape pens, CBD products, and CBD vape cartridges, feel free to browse our site here.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD oil.
Contributors | Angus Taylor + Dr Gaylord Wardell
IPI is a pharmaceutical ingredient company that cultivates cannabis strains curated to extract specific cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids for the formulation of effects-based health and wellness products. Angus is an experienced public speaker, engaging stakeholders, governments and media. Angus was the co-founder of NewLeaf Cannabis, Canada’s most successful retail brand to date, and has been established as a well-known and recognized expert in the field.
Dr Wardell is a practising physician with over 40 years of clinical and educational experience in pain management, medical practices and education. Dr Wardell is past President of the Pain Society of Alberta, and current President of the Alberta Medical Association, section of Pain. He is a popular public speaker, an active blogger on medical and pain-related issues, and proponent for scientific validation for patients experiencing pain.
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.