Peppermint is also known by the names Mint, Balm Mint, Curled Mint, Lamb Mint and Brandy Mint. The plant is found throughout Europe, in moist areas along stream banks and in waste lands.
Mint is one of the oldest medicinal herbs. Ancient Athenians rubbed mint leaves on their arms to improve endurance. The Greeks and Romans crowned themselves with peppermint at their feasts and adorned tables with its sprays. They also flavored their sauces and wines with its essence. Two species of mint were used medicinally by the ancient Greek physicians, but some writers doubt whether either was the modern peppermint, though there is evidence that peppermint was cultivated by the Egyptians. It is mentioned in the Icelandic Pharmacopoeias of the thirteenth century but only came into general use in the medicine of Western Europe about the middle of the eighteenth century.
The primary chemical constituents of peppermint include essential oils (menthol, menthone, methyl acetate, limonene, pulegone), tannins, flavonoids, choline and potassium. Peppermint leaves contain about .5 – 4% volatile oil composed of 50-78% free menthol and 5-20% menthol combined with other constituents.
Peppermint is more than just a candy flavour. Peppermint is frequently used in herbal teas and capsules. The essential oil of this plant contains menthol, which also displays healthful powers and is often found in throat-soothers and topical vapor rubs. Peppermint:
- promotes healthy digestion by soothing and comforting the stomach and relaxing the muscles of the digestive system
- combats flatulence
- stimulates bile and digestive juice flow
- relieves intestinal colic, flatulent dyspepsia and associated conditions, and headaches associated with digestion
- helps treat ulcerative conditions of the bowels
- relieves nausea and vomiting, including that associated with pregnancy and travel sickness. The volatile oil in peppermint acts as a mild anesthetic to the stomach wall and allays feelings of nausea and the desire to vomit.
- relieves anxiety and tension
- eases menstrual pain and associated tension
- relieves itching and inflammation when used externally
- provides relief of fevers, colds and influenza. When used as an inhalant, provides temporary relief from nasal catarrh. Peppermint oil is a great expectorant.