Information on Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Peppermint is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint and was first cultivated near London in 1750. Peppermint grows almost everywhere. The two main cultivated forms are the black mint, which has violet-colored leaves and stems and a relatively high oil content, and the white mint, which has pure green leaves and a milder taste. The leaves are used.

Recognized in the early eighteenth century, the historical use of peppermint is not dramatically different than its use in modern herbal medicine. Classified as a carminative herb, peppermint has been used as a general digestive aid and employed in the treatment of indigestion and intestinal colic.

Peppermint leaves contain about 0.5–4% volatile oil that is composed of 50–78% free menthol and 5–20% menthol combined with other constituents. Peppermint oil is classified as a carminative, meaning that it helps ease intestinal cramping and tone the digestive system. Peppermint oil or peppermint tea is often used to treat gas and indigestion. It may also increase the flow of bile from the gallbladder.

Peppermint oil’s relaxing action also extends to topical use. When applied topically, it acts as a counterirritant and analgesic with the ability to reduce pain and improve blood flow to the affected area.

Enteric-coated peppermint oil has shown benefit for people with irritable bowel syndrome, according to double blind studies. One double blind study found that combining peppermint and caraway oils in an enteric-coated tablet was superior to placebo for people with irritable bowel syndrome.

A tea of peppermint is a traditional therapy for colic in infants, and a double blind study has confirmed its effectiveness. The tea used in this study contained mint and also licorice, vervain, fennel, and lemon balm. However, peppermint should be used cautiously in infants. Check with your pediatrician.

A study of topical peppermint oil applied to the temples of healthy volunteers (with or without eucalyptus oil) found that peppermint oil had a muscle-relaxing action and it decreased tension. This may explain its usefulness in treating tension headaches. Peppermint oil alone reduced pain as well.

For internal use, a tea can be made by pouring 250 ml (1 cup) of boiling water over 1 heaped U.S. teaspoon (5 grams) of the dried leaves and steeping for five to ten minutes; three to four cups daily between meals can relieve stomach and gastrointestinal complaints. Peppermint leaf tablets, capsules, and liquid extracts are often taken at 3–6 grams per day. For treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, 1–2 capsules of the enteric-coated capsules containing 0.2 ml of peppermint oil taken two to three times per day may be preferable.

For headaches, a combination of peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil diluted with base oil can be applied to the temples at the onset of the headache and every hour after that or until symptom relief is noted.

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