Peppermint is a cross between spearmint and water mint. People are familiar with peppermint because of its menthol flavoring, which is used for candies, teas, and chewing gum. Mint also makes your mouth feel cool because menthol activates cold receptors in our tissues.
Less known is that it can also be used to aid people suffering from indigestion, colic, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, travel sickness, infectious diseases, arthritis, colitis, Crohn’s disease, painful periods, catarrh, skin itching and inflammation, and non-ulcer dyspepsia. As a carminative, it soothes muscles, stimulates bile and digestive juice secretion, and reduces the inflammation of the digestive tract. It also acts as a mild anesthetic to the stomach wall, which helps with travel sickness or vomiting. If migrane headache is associated with digestion, it may help, either taken internally or used as an inhalant. Peppermint tincture or fresh leaves can be applied to alleviate pain associated with arthritis, gout and other general body aches. It may be taken internally for menstrual pain and tension. People with colds, flu or other viral illnesses may drink peppermint tea and/or tincture to improve circulation and breathing and to kill viruses. It is also active against bacteria and fungi. Peppermint also contains bitters, which cleanse and stimulate the gall bladder and liver. Skin problems, such as ringworm or cold sores, are treated with peppermint because of its antiseptic properties. It relieves itching. It may be used as an inhalant for nasal catarrh or some headaches.
Common Name of the Herb: Peppermint
Latin Name: Mentha Piperita
Parts Used: Fresh or dried leaves and their essential oil.
Actions: Analgesic, astringent, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hepatic, insect repellant, nervine, rubefacient, stimulant, anti-catarrhl, anti-emetic, anti-spasmodic, anti-galactogogue, anti-microbial.
Preparation and Use: Pour one cup of boiling water onto a teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves and let it infuse for ten minutes. This can be taken as often as desired. As a tincture, take one to two droppers-full three times a day. Peppermint oil, salve or ointment may be used externally. Steam from tea or peppermint oil may be used as an inhalant.
Cautions and limitations of use:
- Avoid the use of peppermint with infants. Peppermint oil applied to or near the face may cause spasms that make breathing difficult. The strong menthol in peppermint tea may cause choking.
- Peppermint oil may also cause a rash when applied to the skin.
- Pure menthol is poisonous if taken internally, and peppermint oil contains large amounts of menthol. The forms of peppermint safe for internal use are tincture and tea.
- Peppermint tea may cause a burning sensation in the mouth.
- Don’t take peppermint if you’re suffering from gastro-esophageal reflux disease or hiatal hernia, because the herb can relax the sphincter and stomach acids might flow back into the esophagus.
- Pregnant women who are susceptible to miscarriages should avoid high doses of peppermint and other herbs that contain volatile oils that may irritate the uterus. This does not mean they should not drink some peppermint tea, take some occasional tincture for digestive problems or use peppermint to flavor food. It means they should avoid using a lot of peppermint in strong medicinal strength. If in doubt, consult a doctor who specializes in herbology.
- Peppermint is actually used when a nursing mother has an over-supply of milk, because it decreases the milk supply.
- Caution for all herbs and foods: Stop using if you experience symptoms of allergy. Seek emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction including difficulty breathing; closing of your throat; swelling of your lips, tongue, or face; or hives. People who are allergic to other foods in the mint family may be allergic to peppermint.
- If in doubt about the safety of any herb, consult a doctor with special knowledge and experience with herbs.
· Constituents: Peppermint volatile oils include menthol, menthone, and jasmone. (Its minty aroma comes from those small traces of jasmine.) Also it contains menthyl esters and other monoteroene derivatives, such as pulegone, menthofurane and piperitone. It contains tannins and a bitter principle.
· How to gather: Take the leaves and stems.
· Other English Common Names: White Peppermint, American Peppermint, Black Peppermint, and Northern Mint.
· Where it grows: Peppermint is indigenous to Europe and Asia, but it can now be cultivated in moist, temperate areas. Some varieties are native to Australia, South Africa, and South America.
· How to identify: Peppermint plants grow up to two or three feet tall and bloom with purple flowers from July to August.