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Peppermint: Flavour, Food & Medicine

It's hard to imagine a world without Peppermint.

How drab would our morning oral routines be without this classic, minty-fresh herb that so wonderfully abolishes dragon breath? Chewing gum, cosmetics, my favourite shampoo, candy canes, and perhaps even Christmas - none would be the same without the beloved flavour and aroma of mint.

And I don't even want to live in a world where chocolate chip mint ice cream doesn't exist. 

So yeah - I think we can all agree that mint is pretty mighty. But hopefully you also know that there is so much more to mint than simply its flavour. Read on to learn more about the many uses and health benefits of peppermint!


Family: Lamiaceae (Mint)

Latin Name: Mentha piperita

Common Names: Peppermint, Brandy Mint, American Mint, Lamb Mint

Parts Used: Dried leaves, or fresh in season

Energy & Flavours: Cooling and drying. Peppermint has a strong sweetish odour and a warm pungent taste with a cooling aftertaste.

Biochemical Constituents: Volatile oil (2%) containing menthol, menthone and jasmone; tannins, bitter principle, phenolic acids (rosmarinic, chlorogenic, caffeic), flavonoids (luteolin, rutin, hesperidin), gum, resins, nutrients (carotenes, choline, vitamin E, minerals)

Medicinal Actions: 

  • Carminative (relieves flatulence)
  • Antispasmodic (relieves spasm of involuntary muscle)
  • Anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation)
  • Antimicrobial (kills or slows the spread of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoans, or fungi)
  • Diaphoretic (inducing perspiration)
  • Decongestant (relieves nasal congestion)
  • Antacid (preventing or correcting acidity, especially in the stomach)
  • Nervine (calms the nerves)
  • Antiseptic (prevents the growth of disease-causing microorganisms)
  • Anti-tussive (prevents or relieves a cough)
  • Peripheral vasodilator (widens the blood vessels in outer (peripheral) parts of body such as arms or legs)
  • Choleretic (stimulates liver to produce bile)
  • Cholagogue (promotes the flow of bile from the gall bladder into the duodenum)
  • Emmenagogue (stimulates or increases menstrual flow)
  • Anti-pruitic (relieves itching)
  • Analgesic (pain-killing)
  • Local Anesthetic (inducing insensitivity to pain)
  • Antiemetic (antinauseous; preventing vomiting)
  • Aromatic (emitting a pleasant and distinctive smell; containing aromatic compounds)
  • Digestive tonic (aids digestion)
  • Febrifuge (reduces fever)
  • Refrigerant (cools the body's tissues)
  • Stimulant (quickens and enlivens physiological activity in the body) 
  • Stomachic (promotes the appetite or assists digestion)

Medicinal Preparations: Compress, cream, essential oil, hydrosol, jelly, oil infusion, poultice, salve, soak, steam, syrup, tea/infusion, tincture

Habitat & Growing Conditions: Thought to have originated in Northern Africa or the Mediterranean, Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is found throughout Europe and North America in moist conditions along stream banks and waste lands, and is now cultivated in many regions of the world.

Wild mint (Mentha arvensis) can be found in Canada from coast to coast, as well as in NWT, Yukon, and Alaska, south to California. It grows in meadows, moist ditches, riverbanks, and lakeshores. 

The History of Peppermint: Peppermint dates back to at least 1500 B.C. Archaeologists have discovered 3,000-year-old dried peppermint leaves in the inner chambers of Egyptian pyramids. Many experts believe ancient people first began cultivating the leafy green for use in foods and as herbal remedies.

The Greeks and Romans crowned themselves with Peppermint at their feasts, decorated their tables with it, and flavoured both their sauces and wines with the herb. 

Monks in the Middle Ages were known to use peppermint as a tooth polisher and during the same period, cheese makers learned that the strong smell of peppermint would keep rats and mice out of the storeroom.

Peppermint came into general use in medicine in Western Europe in the eighteenth century, when its medicinal properties were quickly noticed. At the end of the eighteenth century, over 100 acres of London land were cropped with Peppermint, and by 1850 there were about 500 acres under cultivation. 

Medicinal Uses of Peppermint: Peppermint is one of the best carminatives available, meaning that it has the potential to relieve a variety of gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain or cramping, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, nausea, vomiting due to pregnancy or motion sickness, intestinal colic, flatulent dyspepsia, and more.

One of my favourite American herbalists, Susun Weed, has this to say about peppermint:

Peppermint, and all its sisters help bring health to the digestive tract, including the stomach, liver, gall bladder, and intestines. Mint tea is a popular after-meal drink around the world. It helps prevent heartburn and counters the formation of gas. Modern medicine endorses the use of mint-oil capsules in some serious intestinal conditions as well as minor indigestion.

Herbalists say mint is pain-killing (anodyne), relieving of spasms and cramps (antispasmotic) especially in the abdominal area, able to expel intestinal gas (carminative), helpful in digesting fats and increasing the output of bile (cholagogue), cooling, useful to counter nausea, and tonifying. Mint is one the world's most cherished headache remedies. It is also known as a mild aphrodisiac. (Source)

Similarly to the leaf, Peppermint oil has stimulating, carminative and stomachic properties, making it valuable for flatulence and colic. It is also employed for stomach cramps and treatment of cholera and diarrhea. A strong infusion of peppermint leaf is a great remedy if the stomach ache is due to overeating or other food issues.

Both Peppermint oil and the herb is often used to disguise the taste of other unpalatable ingredients, as it makes anything it is added to taste like peppermint. 

Peppermint is good at raising internal heat and making you sweat, so drinking plenty of peppermint tea will help when you feel a cold coming on! Also try an infusion of peppermint and elderflower to banish any influenza attack within thirty six hours. And because Peppermint contains menthol, a known muscle relaxant, it makes a great choice for relieving sore muscles and body aches from fever.

Food Uses: Peppermint is a delicious addition to many dishes - it can be used fresh or dried, meaning you can use it all year long. Here are a few favourites: 

Infuse fresh mint leaves into honey for a delicious treat that will give additional flavour to hot teas and baked goods. 

Combine peppermint with chocolate - duh - it's always delicious! My achilles heel is, and always will be, a really good quality bar of peppermint dark chocolate. Adding fresh peppermint leaves to anything chocolately - be it brownie batter or hot chocolate - is always a good idea! Or use a strong peppermint tea to replace the liquid portion of some recipes, from baking to drinks like hot elixirs or smoothies. Yum!

Toss chopped peppermint leaves into vinaigrette for a refreshing and flavourful green salad, or try a cooling watermelon salad with mint and lime for a quick summer dessert. Add mint to vegetable salads, pestos, salsas, sauces, marinades, and any grain or pasta salads. Sprinkle fresh mint over sliced garden vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt.

Add sprigs of fresh peppermint to homemade iced tea, lemonade and cocktails during hot summer days to cool down! Try mint ice cubes for a fun twist in cocktails, and for the kids, place a fresh mint leaf in the bottom of a popsicle mold for a cool treat.

The flavour of mint is featured in savoury ethnic dishes like hummus and Indian chutneys, and traditionally complements lamb and poultry. It is widely used in Middle Eastern and Greek dishes, including salads, side dishes, and sauces. Lebanese Tabbouleh (or tabouli) is a healthy vegan Mediterranean appetizer made with bulgur, parsley, mint and chopped vegetables.

Mint jelly is a classic pair with roasted leg of lamb, other meats like pork, on crackers with cheese, various desserts, and fresh sweet peas!

Cosmetic Uses: Mint can be used in a variety of ways to treat your skin. One of my personal favourites is peppermint hydrosol, employed as a cooling face toner or a refreshing body spray on a hot summer's day. Peppermint hydrosol makes a great choice for a hot flash spray!

Mint helps to stimulate sluggish skin and clarify oily skin types, making it a great addition to facial steams, bath soaks, face creams, and shampoo treatments specifically designed for treating dandruff. The cooling and antiinflammatory properties of mint can assist acne eruptions, too.

What toothpaste would be complete without the fresh flavour of mint? The tingly fresh sensation that mint provides makes it a popular choice for deodorants, soaps, salves, and more. 

Finally, mint acts as a natural bug repellent against ants, mice, mosquitoes, flies, and spiders. 

Products we make featuring Peppermint: Our refreshing and energizing Auroroa's Delight Tea and our nutritious Moon Glow Tea both feature organic peppermint leaf. 

Get headache relief by using our Epione's Release Roller on your temples and tight neck - peppermint oil is the main ingredient! Our Liger Balm muscle salve pounces on sore muscles and joints for the rest of the body.

Our lip tints and Frosted Kiss Lip Balm feature peppermint essential oil for a gently cooling sensation on the lips.

Goddess on Fire Cooling Mist provides an icy cool blast for women suffering with hot flashes, or for spritzing on overheated skin after a big day of gardening or outdoor play.

For respiratory support, our essential oil blend called Deep Breath can help clear congestion & soothe airways. And Christmas Candy is an aromatic essential oil blend that perfectly captures the magic of Christmas.

Safety Class: (Herbs that can be safely consumed when used appropriately and that have a history of safe traditional use).

Interaction Class: A
(Herbs for which no clinically relevant interactions are expected).

Pregnancy and Lactation: No information on the safety of peppermint leaf in pregnancy or lactation was identified in the scientific or traditional literature. Although this review did not identify any concerns for use while pregnant or nursing, safety has not been conclusively established.

Other Precautions: Although peppermint leaf has an encouraging safety profile, peppermint essential oil has added precautions. The oil has been shown to relax the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract (McKay and Blumberg 2006), which may exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux or hiatal hernia. Use the oil with caution in persons with gastrointestinal ulcers, or significant gastrointestinal inflammation.

Sources: The Naturopathic Herbalist, A Modern Herbal, The Modern Herbal Dispensatory by Thomas Easley and Steven Horne, Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook Second Edition, and The Boreal Herbal by Beverley Gray

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