- Scientific Name: Mentha x piperita
- Plant Family: Labiatae
- Parts Used: Aerial parts
- Actions: Anodyne, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Carminative, Cholagogue, Diaphoretic, Refrigerant, Stomachic, Tonic. Vasodilator
- Constituents: Up to 2 % volatile oil containing menthol, menthone and jasmone; tannins, bitter principle
There are several varieties of Peppermint. The two chief, the so-called ‘Black’ and ‘White’ mints are the ones extensively cultivated. Botanically there is little difference between them, but the stems and leaves of the ‘Black’ mint are tinged purplish-brown, while the stems of the ‘White’ variety are green, and the leaves are more coarsely serrated in the White. The oil furnished by the Black is of inferior quality, but more abundant than that obtained from the White, the yield of oil from which is generally only about four-fifths of that from an equal area of the Black, but it has a more delicate odor and obtains a higher price. The plant is also more delicate, being easily destroyed by frost or drought; it is principally grown for drying in bundles – technically termed ‘bunching,’ and is the kind chiefly dried for herbalists, the Black variety being more generally grown for the oil on account of its greater productivity and hardiness.
White Peppermint is a very important and commonly used remedy, being employed by allopathic doctors as well as herbalists. It is also widely used as a domestic remedy. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used in the treatment of fevers, headaches, digestive disorders (especially flatulence) and various minor ailments. An infusion is used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, digestive problems, spastic colon etc. Externally a lotion is applied to the skin to relieve pain and reduce sensitivity.
The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic and strongly antibacterial, though it is toxic in large doses. When diluted it can be used as an inhalant and chest rub for respiratory infections. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is “Cooling”.
Peppermint is one of the best carminative agents available. It has a relaxing effect on the visceral muscles, anti-flatulent properties and stimulates bile and digestive juice secretion, and so can relieve intestinal colic, flatulent dyspepsia and other associated conditions.
The volatile oil acts as a mild anesthetic to the stomach wall, which helps to relieve the vomiting of pregnancy and travel sickness. Peppermint plays a role in the treatment of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It is most valuable in the treatment of fevers and especially colds and flu.
As an inhalant it can be used as a temporary treatment for nasal catarrh. Where migraine headaches are associated with the digestion, this herb may be used. As a nervine it eases anxiety and tension. In painful periods it relieves the pain and eases tension. Externally it relieves itching and inflammation.
Peppermint oil is useful in combating flatulence and mild indigestion. Many over-the-counter stomach aids contain Peppermint to both enhance the taste as well as the effectiveness of the medicine. However, in a strange bit of irony, Peppermint is something of a trigger food for many suffering from acid reflux and may cause their symptoms to worsen.
How does it work? Peppermint oil seems to reduce spasms in the digestive tract. When applied to the skin, it can cause surface warmth, which relieves pain beneath the skin.
Habitat and Cultivation:
The plant is found throughout Europe, in moist situations, along stream banks and in waste lands, and is not infrequently found in damp places in England, but is not a common native plant, and probably is often an escape from cultivation. In America it is probably even more common as an escape than Spearmint, having long been known and grown in gardens.
A plantation lasts about four years, the best output being the second year. The fourth-year crop is rarely good. A crop that yields a high percentage of essential oil exhausts the ground as a rule, and after cropping with Peppermint for four years, the land must be put to some other purpose for at least seven years. In some parts of France the plantations are renewed annually with the object of obtaining vigorous plants.
Seed – sow spring in a cold frame. Germination is usually fairly quick. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Mentha species are very prone to hybridization and so the seed cannot be relied on to breed true. Even without hybridization, seedlings will not be uniform and so the content of medicinal oils etc will vary.
When growing plants with a particular aroma it is best to propagate them by division. Division can be easily carried out at almost any time of the year, though it is probably best done in the spring or autumn to allow the plant to establish more quickly. Virtually any part of the root is capable of growing into a new plant. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. However, for maximum increase it is possible to divide the roots up into sections no more than 3cm long and pot these up in light shade in a cold frame. They will quickly become established and can be planted out in the summer.
The herb is cut just before flowering, from the end of July to the end of August in England and France, according to local conditions. Sometimes when well irrigated and matured, a second crop can be obtained in September. With new plantations the harvest is generally early in September.
Harvesting should be carried out on a dry, sunny day, in the late morning, when all traces of dew have disappeared. It should be cut shortly above the base, leaving some leaf buds, and not including the lowest shriveled or discolored leaves and tied loosely into bundles by the stalk-ends, about twenty to the bundle on the average, and the bundles of equal length, about 6 inches, to facilitate packing, and dried. Two or three days will be sufficient to dry.
Chew the leaves to relieve toothache or infuse as Peppermint tea, a refreshing, safe treatment for indigestion and dyspepsia, colds and flu. It is best not to drink it at night as it can cause insomnia.
Mint leaf juice drops are effective in ear and nose infections. Externally Peppermint can be used to soothe itching and inflammation of the skin such as mosquito bites and rashes.
The local anesthetic action of Peppermint oil is exceptionally strong. It is also powerfully antiseptic, the two properties making it valuable in the relief of toothache and in the treatment of cavities in the teeth. Powdered dried mint leaves mixed with salt should be used as tooth powder for all kinds of dental problems.
For toothaches, boil six tablespoons of Peppermint leaves in two glasses of water, for fifteen minutes. Strain and cool the water. Divide it into two parts and take each part after three to four hours.
Boiled in milk and drunk hot, Peppermint herb is good for abdominal pains. Peppermint tea has also been said to relieve menstrual cramps and the general tension associated with PMS. Its strong and delightful smell can freshen breath and the steam from the tea can be inhaled to relieve sinus congestion.
Strong brew of Peppermint tea or tincture can be used for relieving a stubborn case of hiccups. Fresh leaves are crushed and sniffed for dizziness. Soak two tablespoons of chopped leaves in a glass of hot water for 30 minutes and strain. Use the infusion as a mouthwash.
Oil of Peppermint has been recommended in puerperal fevers. 30 to 40 minims, in divided doses, in the twenty-four hours, have been employed with satisfactory results, a stimulating aperient preceding its use.
One of the primary components of Peppermint is menthol, which is the active ingredient in most over-the-counter muscle rubs. Make your own Peppermint salve and use liberally on your sore feet, back, or other overworked, over-stressed muscles. This salve can also be rubbed on the chest to relieve congestion and sooth the infirm to sleep. For treating arthritis, take some fresh leaves and heat on low flame. Pound them and apply on the painful joints or muscles, when still warm.
Soak cotton balls or rags with Peppermint (or clove) oil and place them where ants may be entering or hiding out. Take a quick whiff of Peppermint oil for nausea. Diffuse Peppermint oil in aroma lamps to clear the air in stuffy rooms. A few drops of Peppermint essential oil in a cold compress cools the body and relieves a tension headache.
Menthol is used in medicine to relieve the pain of rheumatism, neuralgia, throat affections and toothache. It acts also as a local anaesthetic, vascular stimulant and disinfectant. For neuralgia, rheumatism and lumbago it is used in plasters and rubbed on the temples; it will frequently cure neuralgic headaches. It is inhaled for chest complaints, and nasal catarrh, laryngitis or bronchitis are often alleviated by it. It is also used internally as a stimulant or carminative. On account of its anesthetic effect on the nerve endings of the stomach, it is of use to prevent sea-sickness, the dose being 1/2 to 2 grains.
The bruised fresh leaves of the plant will, if applied, relieve local pains and headache, and in rheumatic affections the skin may be painted beneficially with the oil. Peppermint also makes a good additive for a foot bath. Crushed and bruised Peppermint leaves are used in treating insect bites.
It serves as a good blood cleanser, since it is antiseptic and anti-bacterial, and plays a significant role in alleviating swollen gums, mouth ulcers and toothaches.
Modern Medical Uses:
Relaxing the colon during medical exams, including barium enemas. Using Peppermint oil as an ingredient in enemas seems to relax the colon during barium enema examinations. Also, taking Peppermint oil by mouth before the start of a barium enema also seems to decrease spasms.
Breastfeeding discomfort. Research suggests that breastfeeding women who apply Peppermint oil on their skin have less cracked skin and pain in the nipple area.
Heartburn (dyspepsia). Taking Peppermint oil by mouth together with caraway oil seems to reduce feelings of fullness and stomach spasms. A specific combination product containing Peppermint (Iberogast, Medical Futures, Inc) also seems to improve symptoms of heartburn, including severity of acid reflux, stomach pain, cramping, nausea, and vomiting. The combination includes Peppermint leaf plus clown’s mustard plant, German chamomile, caraway, licorice, milk thistle, angelica, celandine, and lemon balm.
Spasms caused by endoscopy. Research shows that Peppermint oil can reduce pain and spasms in people undergoing endoscopy, a procedure used to see within the gastrointestinal tract.
Migraine headache. Applying a Peppermint solution to the skin at the start of a migraine and again 30 minutes later seems to increase the percentage of patients who experience headache resolution.
Tension headache. Applying Peppermint oil to the skin seems to help relieve tension headaches.
Preparation and Dosage:
Infusion: Pour a cup of boiling water onto a heated teaspoon of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. This should be drunk as often as desired.
Oil: Make a flavored oil by macerating fresh leaves in oil for 6 to 8 weeks.
Salve: A simple salve or cream can be made by adding 5 drops of Peppermint essential oil to 1 cup warmed coconut oil. Allow it to cool and use daily for dry skin, as a rub for sore muscles or arthritic pain. Olive oil may also be used as well as a mixture of olive and coconut oils.
Tincture: Take 1 to 2 ml of the tincture three times a day.
Soothing Bath: Make a strong tea or infusion from Peppermint. Strain the plant material and add the liquid to the bathwater. To apply directly, soak a washcloth with the tea and lay over the affected area, or simply use it as a wash.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- BY MOUTH:
For upset stomach: Peppermint oil 90 mg per day has been used in combination with caraway oil. A specific combination product containing Peppermint leaf and several other herbs (Iberogast, Medical Futures, Inc) has been used in a dose of 1 mL three times daily.
- APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
For tension headaches: 10% Peppermint oil in ethanol solution applied across the forehead and temples, repeated after 15 and 30 minutes, has been used.
- BY ENEMA:
For decreasing colonic spasms during barium enema: 8 mL of Peppermint oil was added to 100 mL water along with a surface active agent, Tween 80. The insoluble fraction was removed, then 30 mL of the remaining Peppermint solution was added to 300 mL of the barium solution.
For colds and influenza, it may be used with Boneset, Elder Flowers and Yarrow. Peppermint is often combined with caraway to help indigestion.
As a food source:
Leaves are edible, raw or cooked. A mild Peppermint flavor, they are used as a flavoring in salads or cooked foods. An essential oil from the leaves and flowers is used as a flavoring in sweets, chewing gum, ice cream etc. A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves.
Peppermint, like other members of the mint family, is found often in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. Use it to season lamb, curry, couscous, or your favorite vegetables. Mint has many culinary uses and can be used as a flavoring agent in curries or as an appetizer in the form of chutney or jal-jeera drink.
Pliny tells us that the Greeks and Romans crowned themselves with Peppermint at their feasts and adorned their tables with its sprays, and that their cooks flavored both their sauces and their wines with its essence. Two species of mint were used by the ancient Greek physicians, but some writers doubt whether either was the modern Peppermint, though there is evidence that M. piperita was cultivated by the Egyptians. It is mentioned in the Icelandic Pharmacopoeias of the thirteenth century, but only came into general use in the medicine of Western Europe about the middle of the eighteenth century, and then was first used in England.
Folk and Common Names:
- Brandy Mint
- Corn Mint
- Field Mint
- Japanese Mint
- Wild Mint
- Yerba Buena
Peppermint has been valued as a symbol of wisdom and virtue. Peppermint has also been valued as a magical plant for passion and love, using the power of the goddess, Venus.
- In English folklore, finding a flowering mint plant on Midsummer’s Day brought eternal happiness.
- In French folklore, carrying a bouquet of mint and St. John’s Wort protected you from wicked spirits.
- In Italian folklore, using Peppermint helped to protect children from sickness and silk worms from evil spells.
If leaves are burned or rubbed upon household items and corners of home walls,to clear them of negative energies or for protection from evil forces is achieved, which has been an old belief concerning the power of the Peppermint leaf.
In the 1900’s, Sanitary engineers used Peppermint oil to test the tightness of pipe joints. It has the faculty of making its escape, and by its pungent odor betraying the presence of leaks. Before the use of modern pesticides, it was well known that rats dislike Peppermint, a fact that was made use of by rat catchers, who, when clearing a building of rats, would block up most of their holes with rags soaked in oil of Peppermint and drive them by ferrets through the remaining holes into bags.
An essential oil obtained from the whole plant is used in perfumery. It is also an ingredient of oral hygiene preparations, toiletries etc. Peppermint leaves are used as an ingredient of potpourri. They were formerly used as a strewing herb The plant repels insects, rats etc. Rats and mice intensely dislike the smell of mint. The plant was therefore used in homes as a strewing herb and has also been spread in granaries to keep the rodents off the grain.
Home made tooth paste may be kept almost any length of time by the use of the essential oil of Peppermint to prevent mold.
Special Precautions and Warnings:
Peppermint and Peppermint oil are LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in food, when taken in medicinal amounts, or when applied to the skin. The leaf is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken in amounts used for medicine short-term (up to 8 weeks). The safety of using Peppermint leaf long-term is unknown.
Peppermint can cause some side effects including heartburn, and allergic reactions including flushing, headache, and mouth sores.
Peppermint oil, when taken by mouth in pills with a special (enteric) coating to prevent contact with the stomach, is POSSIBLY SAFE for children 8 years of age and older.
A stomach condition in which the stomach is not producing hydrochloric acid (achlorhydria): Don’t use enteric-coated Peppermint oil if you have this condition. The enteric coating might dissolve too early in the digestive process.
Diarrhea: Enteric-coated Peppermint oil could cause anal burning, if you have diarrhea.
Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) interacts with Peppermint
The body breaks down cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) to get rid of it. Peppermint oil might decrease how quickly the body breaks down cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune). Taking Peppermint oil products along with cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) might increase the risk of side effects for cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune).
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver
Peppermint oil and leaf might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking Peppermint oil along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking Peppermint oil, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver
Some medications that are changed by the liver include
- amitriptyline (Elavil), haloperidol (Haldol), ondansetron (Zofran), propranolol (Inderal), theophylline (Theo-Dur, others), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, others), omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), pantoprazole (Protonix); diazepam (Valium); carisoprodol (Soma); nelfinavir (Viracept); diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), ibuprofen (Motrin), meloxicam (Mobic), piroxicam (Feldene); celecoxib (Celebrex); amitriptyline (Elavil); warfarin (Coumadin); glipizide (Glucotrol); losartan (Cozaar); lovastatin (Mevacor), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), fexofenadine (Allegra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding:
It is LIKELY SAFE to take Peppermint in amounts normally found in food during pregnancy and breast-feeding. However, not enough is known about the safety of taking larger amounts used for medicine. It’s best not to take these larger amounts if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.