Peppermint (Mentha Piperita) – Peppermint is a common herb often used in chewing gum, mouthwash, toothpaste, and candy. It has many medicinal properties and is used in the treatment of stomach problems, headaches, congestion, muscle spasms, gingivitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint is also used in the treatment of indigestion and intestinal cramps.
Peppermint contains menthol, a rich volatile oil that is considered a mild anesthetic. Peppermint also contains tannins and “bitters”. These compounds kill many harmful microorganisms and boost mental alertness. They are also known to ease anxiety and tension.
Peppermint can be taken internally in tea form or the essential oil vapors can be inhaled. The scent is uplifting and relaxing at the same time.
Peppermint contains high levels of manganese, vitamin C and vitamin A. The herb also contains trace amounts of fiber, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, riboflavin, and copper.
For an excellent headache remedy, try combining peppermint oil with eucalyptus oil. Dilute the mix with olive oil and apply to the temples every few minutes until relief is noted.
Peppermint tea can be used as a wash to sooth irritated skin. It can help reduce pain and improve blood flow.
Records show that peppermint was first cultivated near London in 1750. It is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint. Peppermint grows abundantly almost everywhere. There are two types of peppermint. Black peppermint has purple colored leaves and stems that contain high oil content. White peppermint has pure green leaves and a milder taste.
Peppermint flowers are heavy nectar producers and thus attract many honeybees. A mild, delicious honey is produced if there are enough plants.
All members of the mint family have square stems. In the North Georgia Mountains we have a near relative of peppermint that grows wild. Old timers call it horsemint or mountain mint. It is white looking and has tiny purple spotted blooms during August. (The white tint almost looks like a powdery mildew but is actually the plants natural coloring.) This wild relative can be used as a substitute for peppermint but is not as strong.
Most mints can be substituted for peppermint. There are many new varieties including lemon mint, chocolate mint, and pineapple mint.
Peppermint loves the shade and spreads quickly by underground rhizomes. If you grow mint in the garden or flower border, it is best to plant in a container. Peppermint can rapidly take over and become a nuisance. The plants like moist soil.
For medicinal purposes, collect leaves and tops as soon as the flowers begin to open. Dry completely and store in air tight containers.
*Avoid peppermint in cases of chronic heartburn. Use caution when treating infants or children as the menthol may cause choking. Always consult with a physician before using any herbal remedy.
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