Peppermint – Mentha piperita
As one of the most familiar and widely used essential oils, it would be difficult to find someone who is not familiar with the aroma and taste of peppermint. This spicy and versatile herb makes appearances in a variety of food from gum to ice cream to meat garnishment. Peppermint is a native to the Mediterranean, but is now cultivated throughout the world. A perennial herb, it can grow up to three feet high and is characterized by small serrated leaves with pinkish flowers. Although throughout the centuries, peppermint self-hybridized, leading to over over twenty varieties, they all share the same distinctive minty smell and taste.
The oldest evidence of mint was found in an Egyptian tomb, dating to 1000 BC. The ancient Egyptians used to dedicate the mint herb to the god Horus, while the Greeks personified it as the nymph Mentha, the mistress of Pluto, god of the underworld. Pluto’s jealous wife, Persephone, changed Mentha into a plant and trampled on her. Pluto then decreed that the more Mentha/mint was trampled on, the stronger and sweeter it would smell.
Historical records show that peppermint has also been cultivated since ancient times in Japan and China. In 1879, the British Medical Journal noted that the aroma of menthol (the primary component in peppermint) was effective at treating headaches and nerve pain. The Greek physician Galen claimed that peppermint was an aphrodisiac and this assertion has led to divided camps among herbalists throughout the years.
Peppermint has a sharp, fresh menthol aroma that is cool and slightly camphoraceous. The oil is extracted by steam distillation from the fresh or partly dried plant and the oil is pale yellow with a watery viscosity. Peppermint blends well with benzoin, eucalyptus, lavender, marjoram, lemon and rosemary.
Peppermint effectively relieves stress and mental fatigue. The cool and refreshing aroma stimulates mental activity and clears the mind for increased concentration. It can be used to reduce the pain of a headache or migraine and also has significant success in giving symptomatic relief for vertigo and faintness.
Peppermint oil has long been known as a helpful aid for digestion. It can settle an upset stomach as well as eliminate painful gas within the system. It is helpful for increasing the appetite and is a great natural alternative for treating nausea, motion and morning sickness. Peppermint oil is also a very helpful treatment for dental care. Its antiseptic properties eliminate bad breath while fighting hazardous germs.
Peppermint oil is an anti-fungal and is often used to treat fungal nail infections. Traditionally, peppermint oil has been used to treat urinary tract infections. It is theorized that its wealth of antibacterial qualities make it so effective, however studies are still being done to understand the details of this particular benefit.
Menthol, which is the one of the main components in peppermint oil, is very effective at clearing the respiratory tract and acts as an expectorant. It is often used in cold rubs and balms. Peppermint oil is very cooling and can be used to bring down a fever, reduce swelling and relieve pain. This oil also has the ability to strengthen weak immune systems. It’s antibacterial and antiviral properties make it useful in many alternative treatments. Peppermint oil can be diffused, taken internally, or diluted and applied directly to the area of concern.
Although peppermint oil is non-irritant and non-toxic in low dilutions, the menthol may cause sensitization in some individuals. Keep peppermint oil away from the eyes and mucous membranes and do not use on children under the age of seven. Pregnant women should not use peppermint oil.