Mentha Piperita (usually known as Peppermint). King of all mints.
It belongs to the family Lamiaceae.
Used plant part: Leaves.
Origin: Peppermint is a (usual sterile) hybrid from water mint (M. aquatica) and spearmint (M.spicata). It is found sometimes wild in Central and Southern Europe (where mint rubbing originated), but was probably first put to human use in England, whence its cultivation spread to the European continent and Africa.
Cultivation: Peppermint is much cultivated in many countries of Europe, Western and Central Asia for the production of menthol. Northern Africa is also a main cultivation area. In most of these countries, peppermint entered local cuisine, replacing in part native mints.
Sensoric quality: Characteristically pure and refreshing odour, pungent and burning taste. Thetypical `mint scent' is most pure in peppermint, of all mints.
Main constituents: The essential oil of peppermint (up to 2.5% in the dried leaves) is mostly made up from menthol (ca. 50%), menthone (10 to 30%), menthyl esters (up to 10%) and further monoterpene derivatives (pulegone, piperitone, menthofurane). Traces of jasmone (0.1%) improve the oil's quality remarkably. Menthol and menthyl acetate are responsible for the pungent and refreshing odour; they are mostly found in older leaves and are preferentially formed during long daily sunlight periods. On the other hand, the ketones menthone and pulegon (and menthofurane) have a less delightful fragrance; they appear to higher fraction in young leaves and their formation is preferred during short days.
Growing mint is a simple proposition; it is keeping it from taking over the garden that takes work.
Given medium rich, moist soil and shade to dappled sunlight, mint will thrive and soon form a lush,thick carpet. Keep it cut back, especially once it begins to bloom, otherwise it will become invasive.
Since many of the varieties propagate from underground runners, you may have to just pull out wandering plants. Most mints thrive as house plants as well.
The stolons of mint are some of the most aggressive in all the plant world. If you plant it in the ground, the first year you wonder what all the fuss is about. The second year you find a few stray sprouts and by the third year it is climbing in the bedroom window. Mint will grow 20 feet under weedblock and come out the other side and with no water in mid summer. Mint spreads two ways, by runners and by seed.
Mint likes full sun and lots of water. If you put your mint in the shade, it will grow floppy and the flavor will not be as strong as when you grow it in the sun. Mint is hardy to zone 5 and likes almost any garden soil. It enjoys a damp location, though, and rich soil. Mint planted outdoors should be mulched heavily to protect against frost. Mint is a perennial herb and when grown in pots needs to be divided every year.
Harvesting mint: When you cut Mint, cut all the way back to the ground. If you want to enjoy the many different colors of flowers, cut them off before the seed is ripe. Remember that when an herb is flowering it is not making lots of nice leaves to cook with. Shear your mint to the ground in the fall and it will emerge shining and ready for gourmand use in the spring.
When harvesting mint leaves, cut back alternate plants so you always have small tender leaves available. The peppermints or red mints are very strong flavored and should be dried before usingor used sparingly if fresh.
Pests and Diseases: Caterpillars can usually be handpicked. They are repelled by wormwood spray or insect spray.
Rust appears as bright orange markings on the foliage of herbs such as mint and chives. Destroy all affected foliage. Do not place diseased plants or foliage in the compost bin. If a mild commercial copper spray does not curb the disease, destroy the plants.
Uses for Health:
Peppermint is the mint of choice for medicinal purposes. Recently more and more health care professionals are acknowledging the health benefits of many herbs and essential oils. Studies have shown vast and consistent results that bear up the traditional use of such natural medicines.
Researchers are ever searching for the cures for what ails us, and many drugs have their origins in ethnic medicinal practices. In fact, a quarter of all pharmaceuticals contain botanicals.
Traditionally, peppermint essential oil has been used to treat indigestion, headaches, colic, gingivitis, irritable bowel syndrome, spasms and rheumatism. This volatile and potent essential oil has very diverse uses because of its many properties. It relaxes muscles; has antiviral and bactericidal qualities; increases stomach acidity (to aid digestion); is an analgesic and counterirritant; and is a carminative (eases intestinal cramping).
Analgesic (topical), antiinflammatory, antiulcer properties, blocks calcium influx into muscle cells causing inhibition of isolated contractions, calms and strengthens nerves,calms an upset stomach, decreases flaccidity in the GI tract, digestive aid, dissolves gallstones,eliminates heartburn, improves solubility of bile, increases bile acid and lecithin levels in the gallbladder, inhibits and kills micro-organisms (Candida albicans, Herpes simplex, Influenza A viruses, Mumps virus, Pseudomonas acruginosa, Streptococcus pyogenes, Staphylococcus ureus), inhibits constipation, inhibits diarrhea, inhibits hypercontractility of intestinal smooth muscle, mild anaesthetic to stomach wall, normalizes gastrointestinal activity, prevents congestion of blood to the brain, reduces bile cholesterol levels, stimulates circulation, stimulates contractile activity and bile secretion in the gallbladder.
Peppermint's many health uses include the following:
- The menthol in peppermint soothes the lining of the digestive tract an stimulates the production of bile, which is an essential digestive fluid. A hot cup of herbal tea is an excellent way to settle your stomach after a big meal.
- There is a very good reason that peppermint is the flavoring of choice for toothpaste. Peppermint is an excellent breath freshener. When using peppermint tea as a breath freshener, increase the effectiveness by adding a pinch of anise, caraway or cinnamon. Mint is also a good remedy for gingivitis.
- Peppermint is reputed to have the calming, sedative effect.
- Peppermint and its relatives are mostly known as a medicine and popular herbs for infusions.
Menthol vapors are famous for relieving nasal, sinus and chest congestion. Remember those mintysmelling ointments your mother rubbed on your chest when you were a child with a cold? You can also get relief with a steaming cup of peppermint tea. For a more effective cold remedy, combine peppermint with elder flower and yarrow. For a hacking cough, drink 3 to four cups of cool peppermint tea throughout the day, taking a sip every 15 to 30 minutes.
- Digestion problems/ Nausea/ Excess Gas: One drop of essential oil in a glass of water, or on a sugar cube, taken orally.
- Colic: Traditional therapy is to make a peppermint tea, but be cautious with infants because the strong menthol could possibly cause a choking reaction.
- Tension Headaches: 1-2 drops in carrier oil applied to temples when headache starts and once an hour after, if needed. Some people might find it more effective to apply a drop behind each ear,depending on the type and cause of headache. If the headache is related to digestives problems,also drink a glass of (preferably warm) water with a drop (or 2) of mint oil in it.
- Mental Fatigue: Mint is a stimulant similar to caffeine, but won't cause jitters. Try a drop at the back of the tongue. Too much at once can be overwhelming; try a SMALL drop first. Mint is also known for lifting the mood, bringing cheer. Also throughout history has been used in cases of hysteria and shock.
- Mint contains Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
- Essential peppermint oil is anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-reducer), and a counterirritant.
Essential oils promote formation of white cells and acts against microbial germs, while being completely harmless to skin tissue. All these factors are at work in healing skin conditions.