The more than thirty species of mint are the most widely used and best-known of herbs. The Pharisees paid their tithes with peppermint. Romans crowned themselves with wreaths made of it, and the Greeks used it in their temple rites. Antispasmodic, carminative, and digestive, peppermint stimulates the flow of bile, is analgesic, quells nausea, and promotes sweating while cooling the body internally.
Taken after dinner as tea or infusion, peppermint soothes the stomach, relieves indigestion, acts as an antacid, and helps expel gas. Slowly sipping a cup of peppermint infusion helps settle a stomach overcome by nausea and spasms, motion sickness, and morning sickness. Its antispasmodic properties also make it effective against uterine or menstrual cramps.
The Chinese use Mentha arvensis, called bo he, as a cooling remedy for colds, fevers, sore throat and headache. They also consider it a liver herb, using it to move stagnant energy. Ayurvedic physicians have used peppermint for centuries as a digestive tonic and a treatment for colds, coughs, and fever. Hildegard of Bingen used peppermint to relieve indigestion and gout.
American Indians also used peppermint to treat colds, coughts, and chest congestion. Menominee used peppermint against pneumonia, Cree used it to soothe sore throats, Cherokee and Montagnais to relieve headache. Delaware used it to relieve menstrual disorders.
Peppermint's antibacterial properties fight infection. Menthol, one of mint's volatile oils, is germicidal and decongesting, relieving nose, sinus and chest infections. Essential Oil of peppermint inhibits herpes simplex virus.
All mints are mineral-rich. Peppermint offers very high amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin A; abundant calcium, iron, niacin, potassium, protei, sodium, selenium, and vitamin C. In addition to volatile oils like menthol, cineol, and azulene, peppermint contains resins, tannin, tocopherols, choline, flavonoids, and a bitter principle.
In Arab countries, a strong mint tea is taken after dinner to ease digestion and ensure virility. In fact, all the mints are considered to be sexual stimulants.
Added to the bathtub or a foot bath, peppermint is analgesic and energizing. This is an excellent way to take in its benefits when dealing with a cold.
Peppermint opens pores and is great for people with oily skin. The freshly powdered dried herb or a drop or two of essential oil leaves skin glowing and fresh.
To stop the pain of an infected tooth, we put a tiny drop of essential oil of peppermint directly on the tooth and surrounding area. Essential oils are rarely applied this way, but this situation calls for it.
Avoid too much peppermint when nursing as it may reduce milk flow. Peppermint is a bit strong for small ones. Catnip (Nepeta cataris) is a better choice for them.
Old wives say that mints bring pleasure, success, and protection when planted nearby or hung in bunches inside. Peppermint has long been considered a visionary herb. I burn it at sunset and to bring dreams of prophecy. I keep some in a special pouch to enhance my intuitive skills and drink peppermint tea to nourish my abilities in the magical and healing arts. Peppermint makes a wonderful ritual water sprinkler.
Peppermint flower essence brings an active, awake, alert state of mind, and overcomes mental lethargy or sluggishness.
Mints make good companion plants in the garden, seem to keep nearby plants healthy and do an excellent job of deterring harmful insects.
Peppermint is very easy to grow just about anywhere, but is particularly happy in a humus-rich, moist area. It is easier to get going from roots than from seeds. Roots spread in no time, while seedlings are tiny.
We don't sow mint seeds directly in the ground, as they are slow to grow and quickly overcome by weeds. We seed them in the greenhouse and transplant 6-8 weeks after germination.
Peppermint plants have stout, reddish-purple, square stems, green, finely-toothed leaves, and a light violet flower plume at mid-summer. Peppermint can easily reach three feet or more, and is a rampant grower, so plant it where it can spread. I find that just smelling the low hedges as I walk by is energizing and stimulating.
I cut peppermint tops a few inches from the ground in summer after they begin to flower and while the leaves are still green. I hang the sprigs upside down to dry for use in teas and infusions. I tincture freshly cut peppermint immediately in alcohol, put some vinegar, or infuse it in oil or honey.
You'll find peppermint in our Balance & Well Being, Breathe Deep and Mintea Mainea Herb Teas. We occasionally carry it as a glycerite.