Top Benefits and Medicinal Properties of Peppermint

Peppermint Foodhyme

Peppermint is popular! If someone has only one herbal tea in the house, it most often is peppermint. It’s famous in candies such as peppermint drops and candy canes and is a frequent flavoring in chewing gum, liqueurs, and even over-the-counter medicine.

When is the last time you had a strong brew of peppermint tea? If it has been a while,we recommend trying some now.

Drinking hot peppermint tea is a fun experience in herbal energetics. What you might notice is that even though you are drinking a hot tea, you’ll feel a distinctly cooling feeling travel from your mouth to your esophagus and into your stomach.

Go on, drink some more.

You truly have to feel this sensation in order to fully appreciate it. This distinctly cooling action is due to the plant’s high menthol content. This volatile oil is present in many mints and is one way this plant offers us powerful medicine.

Botanical name: Mentha x piperita
Family: Lamiaceae
Parts used: aerial portions (mainly leaves, flowers)
Energetics Variable: warming to cooling, drying
Taste: pungent
Plant properties: aromatic, carminative, analgesic, stimulating nervine, antispasmodic, stimulating diaphoretic, antiemetic
Plant uses: stomach upset, hiccups, bad breath, colds, flu, fever, sinus congestion, gas, nausea, spasms, headaches, externally to soothe itching and inflammation of the skin
Plant preparations: tea, tincture, wash, essential oil, culinary

The x in the botanical name Mentha x piperita lets us know that this plant is a hybrid. Peppermint is a cross between spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatic). While many different mints have been in use throughout human history, it was only in the late 17th century that peppermint was recognized as a distinct species in England. It was added to the England pharmacopeia in 1721.

Medicinal Properties

Peppermint in one form or another is readily found at coffee shops and grocery stores. It is a spicy yet cooling plant that tastes great while offering powerful benefits for digestion, fevers, and even mood. It can offer profound relief to someone suffering from the painful symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or nerve pain.

1) For Digestive Issues

Peppermint tea strongly relieves many types of common digestive complaints, and it has the added bonus of freshening your breath.

  • Have a tummy ache? Try a cup of peppermint tea.
  • Have a nervous stomach? Try a cup of peppermint tea.
  • Have diarrhea? Try a cup of peppermint tea!
  • Have gas and bloating after a meal? You guessed it—try some peppermint tea.

Try some the next time you have a stubborn case of the hiccups. Peppermint doesn’t just help with your everyday, run-of-the-mill tummy aches. It has also been clinically shown to be helpful for people suffering with severe digestive disorders such as IBS.

For these more serious digestive problems, you may find the most benefit from taking enteric-coated capsules of peppermint essential oil.  “Enteric” means that the capsule has a special coating that is strong enough to pass through the stomach to dissolve in the intestines, where the effects are needed most.

While peppermint oil doesn’t cure IBS, it can dramatically reduce uncomfortable symptoms associated with the condition, such as bloating and abdominal pain. Enteric-coated capsules of peppermint oil are safe and effective to use even for children with IBS.

One study concluded: “In a randomized, double-blind controlled trial, 42 children with IBS were given pHdependent, enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules or placebo. After two weeks, 75% of those receiving peppermint oil had reduced severity of pain associated with IBS. Peppermint oil may be used as a therapeutic agent during the symptomatic phase of IBS.”

2) For Improved Mood and Alertness

Simply smelling peppermint has benefits! One study showed that smelling peppermint essential oil helped improve memory and alertness. Another study showed that smelling peppermint essential oil relieved mental exhaustion and moderate burnout.

In Rosemary Glad star’s Medicinal Herbs:

A Beginner’s Guide, the author writes, “Peppermint is often referred to as ‘a blast of green energy.’ It renews, refreshes, and energizes without depleting or using up energy reserves.” And it’s not used just internally. It’s an old tradition to wash dinner tables with peppermint tea as a way to improve the appetites and moods of the diners.

3) For Relieving Pain

Peppermint works wonderfully to soothe pain. It is commonly used in the form of a fomentation to ease headaches, especially those related to tense muscles. A fomentation is an herbal preparation that involves soaking a cloth in an herbal tea and then applying it to a specific area.

Peppermint oil can relieve even intense nerve pain. Although human clinical trials are lacking, We’ve seen numerous people benefit from peppermint essential oil applied to painful feet due to diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage).

Peppermint oil has also relieved post herpetic neuralgia, which is the nerve pain felt after an outbreak of herpes zoster (shingles). Peppermint can also relieve the itching and inflammation of sunburns, poison oak/ivy, and hives. You can use the tea as a wash or add a strong brew to bathwater.

4) For Colds and the Flue

Peppermint has long been used in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western herbalism to address fevers that accompany the flu. It opens the pores of the body, allowing the heat to escape, which makes it a great choice for fevers when the patient is restless and feels hot.

A traditional Western herbal formula is the combination of elderflowers (Sambucus nigra, S. cerulea), peppermint, and yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

To break up congestion in the lungs, essential oil of peppermint or an herbal steam with peppermint can be inhaled with similar effects. To make an herbal steam, place a handful of fresh or dried peppermint in a medium bowl.

Pour just-boiled water over the leaves, then place your face above the bowl with a towel draped over your head in order to catch the steam rising. The temperature under the towel should be as warm as possible without burning you. Breathe deeply, and keep a box of tissues nearby to blow your nose as needed.

How To Use Peppermint

Both fresh and dried peppermint leaves work equally well for all purposes. If substituting one for the other in a recipe, use twice as much fresh herb than dried. Peppermint makes a delicious tea, which can be enjoyed simply for taste or to improve digestion. Infuse 1 to 3 teaspoons or more of dried leaves into 1 cup of just-boiled water, and allow to steep for 3 to 5 minutes in a covered container to decrease the loss of volatile oils.

The peppermint leaves can also be used to create a poultice or fomentation. The scent of peppermint essential oil can be inhaled to break up lung congestion, and the oil can be used externally in ointments or taken internally. (Consuming essential oil can cause serious problems if used incorrectly, so please use caution and work with an experienced practitioner.)

You can infuse peppermint leaves into oil to rub onto sore muscles for relief from pain and cramping.

Recommended Amounts

The therapeutic amount for peppermint is: As tea: 1 to 3 teaspoons (dried) or 2 to 6 teaspoons (fresh), 3 to 5 times per day As tincture: 1:5, 30% alcohol, 3 to 6 mL, 2 or 3 times daily

Special Considerations

Peppermint can cause or exacerbate heartburn in some sensitive individuals, so avoid it if you have active symptoms of GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease). Taken in excess, it could dry up breast milk.

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