Botanical: Mentha piperita
Parts Used: leaves
Historically, peppermint has been known for its medicinal uses, and its impressively long history often gives it the prestigious title as the world’s oldest medicine. It is known to have multiple medicinal values long into the world’s history. Not just ancient Europe, but was also in use in China and Japan as local herb medicine.
Peppermint is actually believed to be a naturally occurring hybrid of spearmint and water mint. While some claim peppermint was not hybridized and cultivated until the 18th century in England, peppermint is referenced in ancient texts. The confusion seems to be that it is mentioned interchangeably with spearmint and the generic term mint. Peppermint has a long history of cultivation and has been used in cooking and herbal medicine since about 1500 BC. Until 1696, peppermint was not classified as its own subspecies, but most historians believe it is reasonable to assume that the mint mentioned in many historical texts is peppermint.1
It is said that the smell alone of peppermint is enough to deter mice (fresh or dried), and that they will leave the place where it is scattered.
How to Use Peppermint
Mint teas are a stimulant for the stomach, as it aids in digestion. The crushed and bruised leaves can be used as a cold compress, made into a salve, or added to the bath water which relieves itching skin. Cherokee healers also use an infusion of the leaves and stems to lower high blood pressure.
Most find peppermint tasty and enjoy it in a wide variety of foods. Of the 40 plus members of the mint family, peppermint is by far the most popular. Peppermint herb is an excellent source of minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, manganese and magnesium. 3 or so ounces of fresh peppermint provides 569 mg of potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. The herb also contains vitamins including beta-carotene, vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin E.
A great way to use peppermint is an herb for your infused water. Many people simply do not enjoy drinking “plain” water so it is a terrific way to get herbs “into” you! Want to eat it with chocolate? Try Angela Justis’ recipe for Fresh Mint Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chips
Mint is also used as a flavoring base in ice cream and other yummies.
Hair Care Using Peppermint
There are several reasons why peppermint oil is often found in commercial shampoos and conditioners. It possesses considerable regenerative and stimulating effects that can relieve scalp irritation, promote hair growth and rejuvenate existing hair. It also creates a cooling sensation on the scalp that makes the whole head feel refreshed and invigorated.
Here’s a simple natural shampoo recipe for you to try…
- 6 oz aloe vera gel
- 3 tbsp organic olive Oil
- 10 tbsp baking soda
- 20 drops rosemary Oil
- 10 drops peppermint Oil
- 8 oz container (you choose 🙂
- Mix these five ingredients together.
- Store in your container
- Note: if you would rather use castille soap, substitute the first 3 ingredients for ½ cup castille soap and ½ cup distilled or filtered water.
Either way you make this shampoo it is far more nourishing than commercial shampoos and is free from chemicals that strip the hair of its natural oils.
Natural Nail Care
Peppermint oil can support the healing of fungal nail infection due to its substantial anti-fungal properties. Apply the peppermint oil to affected areas once or twice daily until the infection improves.
Using Peppermint for Wellness
The delicious and sprightly peppermint is loaded with useful properties, including..
- analgesic – eases pain
- antispasmodic – calming nervous and muscular spasms or convulsions
- antimicrobial – helps your body fight infection
- carminative – helpful to relieve stomach or intestinal gas
- digestive – supports digestion
- diaphoretic – helps to promote perspiration by stimulating peripheral circulation
- nervine relaxant – helps to calm tension and irritability in the nervous system
- nervine stimulant – assists in stimulating the nervous system
The herb parts contain many essential volatile oils like menthol, menthone, menthol acetate. These compounds effect on cold-sensitive receptors in the skin, mouth and throat, the property which is responsible for the natural cooling-sensation that it initiates when inhaled, eaten, or applied on the skin.
Peppermint oil has analgesic, local anesthetic and counter-irritant properties. It has been used in the preparation of topical muscle relaxants, and analgesics.
Peppermint essential oil is often used for a natural mosquito repellent or for a very relaxing aroma therapy. Use in moderation, and dilute the oil as not to irritate the skin.
Since peppermint oil is a proven antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic, it can help kill many of the harmful microorganisms in our mouth that contribute to tooth decay. Moreover, one of the main active ingredients in peppermint oil, menthol, is shown to treat bad breath.
To create a mouthwash using peppermint oil, mix 3 or 4 drops into a small amount of purified water and swish the solution around your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds. For even better results, consider adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the mix; this will boost its tooth whitening properties.
“It is the destiny of mint to be crushed.”
– Waverley Lewis Root
Clinical Research on Peppermint
- Cappello, G.; et al. (2007). “Peppermint oil (Mintoil) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial”. Digestive and Liver Disease 39 (6): 530–536.
- Akdogan, Mehmet (2004). Investigation of biochemical and histopathological effects of Mentha piperitaLabiatae and Mentha spicata Labiatae on liver tissue in rats”. Human & Experimental Toxicology 23 (1): 21 – 28.
- Sharma, Ambika et al. (2007). Protective Effect of Mentha piperita against Arsenic-Induced Toxicity in Liver of Swiss Albino Mice”. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology 100 (4): 249 – 257.
- Rayment, W.J. History of Peppermint. http://peppermint.indepthinfo.com/history-of-peppermint. Accessed April 27, 2014.
- Cherokee Medicinal Herbs. http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/Culture/General/CherokeeMedicinalHerbs.aspx. Accessed February 09, 2015.
- Anne McIntyre, The Complete Herbal Tutor: The ideal companion for study and practice
- http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/peppermint.html (n.d.)
- Early effects of peppermint oil on gastric emptying, July 2007