Peppermint (scientific name: mentha piperita), a cross of spearmint and watermint, is a sterile, hybrid plant, indigenous to Europe though now widely cultivated across the world. Once it sprouts, it grows rapidly. In homes, it is normally grown in containers to restrict fast spread. Peppermint mainly contains menthol that gives it its minty, sharp, intense scent due to which it finds wide usage in the flavoring of foods, ice-cream, confectionery, soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics and many other products, including those for medicinal purpose. It has a cooling sensation when touched or tasted. Peppermint oil, extracted from the fresh or partially dried peppermint plant is a clear oil with a slight yellow tinge.
About 100g of peppermint contains 84% vitamin A, 52% vitamin C, 24% calcium, and 28% iron in addition to Vitamin B2, sodium, magnesium, potassium, manganese and copper. It has a high nutrient density. It is a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber and folate.
Peppermint in various forms (dried and fresh leaves / oil / drops) is used for treating a number of conditions, including dental plaque, urinary tract infection, oral inflammation, stomach upsets, skin problems to name a few.
- Peppermint oil’s carminative property helps to dispel gas and ease stomach and bowel spasms. It is the best cure for indigestion / upset stomach.
- The menthol in peppermint oil helps clear the respiratory tract and provides relief from cold, cough, asthma, bronchitis and sinusitis.
- It calms skin irritation and itchiness and reduces redness.
- Peppermint oil on the forehead is effective in distressing and providing relief from headaches.
- Its antiseptic nature helps treat dandruff, lice and keep skin healthy and blemish free.
- Helps treat toothaches and bad breath.
- Helps deal better with morning sickness and nausea during pregnancy.
- Helps alleviate the symptoms of nausea and vomiting experienced by cancer patients on chemotherapy.
- Inhibits growth of certain bacteria and fungi.
It is advisable to use fresh mint over dried form for better flavour. Choose vibrant, rich, green coloured leaves of fresh mint for use. The leaves should not have dark spots or start yellowing. Try to use organically grown mint whenever possible. Wrap fresh mint leaves in damp paper towels and keep inside a loosely closed plastic bag. Storing in the refrigerator should keep fresh for several days. Keep dried in tightly sealed glass containers in a cool, dark and dry place. It will remain fresh for about 9 to 12 months.
HOW TO USE
Add dry or fresh peppermint leaves to teas to soothe stomach and nerves. Add a few drops of peppermint oil to a glass of warm water and drink after your meal.
Rubbing cold peppermint oil on the chest or inhalation through a vaporizer helps remove nasal congestion.
It can be taken orally as a dietary supplement. Peppermint drops can be simple chewed or added to tea. A drop of peppermint oil on the tongue helps stop bad breath.
Apply peppermint oil containing soaps / oils / creams topically on the skin. A bath or shower after applying some drops of peppermint oil to your body refreshes and re energizes the body removing any body pain.
Add some fresh mint to fruit salad to give it a unique flavor. Add some chopped mint leaves to soups containing tomato. The fresh mint complements the tomatoes’ acidity.
To deter entry of pests, place 2 drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball and place along at their point of entry. To kill aphids (plant insects), add 4-5 drops of peppermint to about 120ml of water, shake and spray on plants.
Peppermint is not recommended for people who are diabetic, for children below 7 years, for those having gastro esophageal reflux disease, and those having a hiatal hernia.
For people taking any medication or supplements, it is advisable to talk to the doctor before using peppermint since peppermint can interact with the drugs or might trigger side effects in some individuals. If you are pregnant and plan to take peppermint in any form, talk to the doctor.