February 12, 2008

Could garden mint plant a part in fighting laminitis?

British researchers are conducting trials to see if agents in the herb could be useful in the treatment of the crippling and painful hoof disease.

The research is being funded by The Horse Trust in Britain, and is being led by Professor Sue Fleetwood-Walker, of the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

Scientists have yet to understand all the mechanisms that cause laminitis, which in serious cases can mean the euthanizing of a horse.

Professor Fleetwood-Walker is no stranger to mint research.

Mint-based products have long been used for pain relief, being available in many health stores as oils and balms. Greek and Chinese medicine were aware of the pain-killing properties of mint.

Professor Fleetwood-Walker's earlier research at the univeristy discovered that cooling chemicals which have the same properties as mint oil had powerful pain­killing effects when applied in small doses to the skin.

The compounds were likely to have minimal toxic side effects, being applied externally, and were likely to prove ideal for patients with chronic pain who found conventional painkillers ineffective.

Mint oil and related chemical compounds acted through a recently discovered receptor - a protein capable of binding with these chemicals - found in a small percentage of nerve cells in the human skin.

When the receptor is activated by the cooling chemicals or cool temperatures, it inhibits pain messages from the affected area to the brain.

Professor Susan Fleetwood-Walker jointly led that study with Dr Rory Mitchell.