Peppermint

- By: Sarah Wu

Mentha Piperita

When we venture down various paths of learning we begin by stepping through a door, or a gateway. Peppermint for many is the gateway herb, one that leads them down the culinary and medicinal road on the long journey to wellness. A gentle, yet potent plant, this diverse member of the Lamiacea family is thought to be a hybrid of Mentha spicata (Spearmint) and M. aquatica (Watermint), cultivated originally in the Mediterranean basin, perhaps by the Egyptians, as dried leaves were discovered in several pyramids, though the exact origins are unknown. Peppermint has a long history of use among human beings, with extensive writing by Arabic physicians between the fifth to 15th centuries CE and numerous accounts by Roman physicians.

The leaves and stems of Peppermint contain volatile oils that give the plant its pungent fragrance and taste. The oil contains menthol, which is responsible for the characteristic hot and cold sensation. Peppermint grows easily from cuttings and from root separation, thriving in moist climates at a moderate elevation, and grows wild and prolifically throughout Europe and North America. Peppermint can be aggressive in the garden, I recommend always keeping it contained in a planter box or bordered garden. At three years, the number of active constituents in the plant significantly decreases, so regular cultivation is necessary to have the most potent medicine and food.

Named for the Greek water nymph Minthe, lover to the god of the underworld, Pluto. Minthe was brutally murdered by Pluto’s betrayed wife. Pluto loved Minthe so, that he brought her back to life as the water loving, aromatic plant. Peppermint, in particular, refers to the pungent taste of Mente piperita. There are many hybrid mints and other aromatic members of the Lamiacea family, all having the same square stem, alternate leaves, and produce little to no seed.  Most common aromatic members of this family are pretty much every culinary herb you know: Peppermint, Spearmint, Chocolate Mint, Catnip, Lemon Balm, Pennyroyal, Sage, Rosemary, Basil, Marjoram, Hyssop, and Lavender. Non-aromatic members of this family, are Motherwort, Vitex, and Coleus, to name a few.

In Culpepper’s English Herbal “[Peppermint] is an herb of Venus. Dioscorides saith it hath a healing, binding and drying quality, and therefore the juice taken in vinegar, stays bleeding. It stirs up venery, or bodily lust; two or three branches thereof taken in the juice of four pomegranates, stays the hiccough, vomiting, and allays the choler. It dissolves imposthumes being laid to with barley-meal. But if a spirit (alcohol extract or distillation) thereof be rightly and chymically drawn, it is much more powerful than the herb itself.”

My favorite way to use Peppermint medicinally is as Peppermint Spirits, the alcohol extracted dried plant material with the Essential Oil. For a 2-ounce bottle of tincture, add 10 drops Essential Oil. I often mix Peppermint Spirits with unpleasant flavored herbs to make the formula more palatable and familiar, it easily overpowers strange flavors.

1721 English Pharmacopoeia first named the plant Mentha piperitis sapore, when it became widely cultivated in Western Europe and the United Kingdom. Peppermint is now cultivated globally in all temperate climate zones with large amounts commercially produced in the Balkans. Pangea’s organic Peppermint Essential Oil is sustainably grown and distilled in the United States

Peppermint is one of the top ten most commonly purchased Essential Oils, used in a variety of beverages and foods such tea, chocolate, confections, chewing gum, jellies, and sauces. The tobacco industry uses Peppermint Oil as a flavoring agent for its cooling sensation in cigarettes, cigars, and chewing and pipe tobacco. It is found extensively in body care items and cosmetics such as soap, shampoo, lotions, lip balm, detergents, and perfumes. The diluted essential oil is safe for consumption with 15 or less drops per dish. One of my favorite desserts is a rich, vegan Chocolate Mint Avocado Mousse. In a food processor or blender, mix: 1 whole Avocado, with ¼ Cup organic Cacao Powder, 2 Tbsp. Coconut Oil, ¼ Cup organic Sugar, 15 drops Peppermint Essential Oil, and a pinch of Sea Salt. Blend until smooth. Serve cold, garnished with fresh Mint leaves.

Peppermint is a favorite carminative for preventing gas, relieving spasms, treating diarrhea, and enteric-coated Peppermint Oil capsules have been shown to be effective for treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome. With extreme nausea, a dab of diluted Peppermint Essential Oil on the lips and inhaled through the nose can ease symptoms. I love adding Peppermint to formulas to treat the common cold and flu, for allergies, headaches, and lower and upper respiratory infections (as a chest rub) to open airways. The diluted Essential Oil mixed with Lavender and Rosemary applied to the temples, forehead, and back of the neck is an effective remedy for tension and sinus headaches. Topically, the Essential Oil stimulates small capillaries and assists in the healing of wounds with its alternating hot and cold sensation. Along with Tea Tree, Chamomile, and Lavender Essential Oils, Peppermint relieves itching from rashes and contact dermatitis. With Ginger and Clove, it is a lovely massage oil for muscle soreness and injuries. When massaged into the scalp, Peppermint stimulates circulation and is a treatment for hair loss and dandruff.

Inhaled, it helps to relieve nervousness, is antispasmodic, and a bronchial dilator. The fresh aroma is a gentle stimulant, uplifts the mood, helps mental fatigue, increases alertness, clears fogginess, supports memory, and alleviates motion sickness, nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, anxiety, and shock.

Peppermint is considered a Top Note and blends beautifully with Lavender, Basil, Citrus, Cacao, Geranium, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus.

Energize yourself and keep the flu at bay by purifying the air these dark Winter months by diffusing Pangea’s Peppermint, Cardamom, and Eucalyptus organic Essential Oils throughout your home while sipping a hot cup of Peppermint Tea to keep your body healthy through the seasons.