Peppermint’s characteristic smell makes it one of the more popular perfuming herbs. It is an ancient herb used since antiquity for its culinary, medicinal and aromatic properties. The scientific name for peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is derived from the name Mintha, a Greek mythological nymph who transformed herself into the plant, and from the Latin piper meaning “pepper.”
While there are about 25 different species of mints, peppermint is actually a natural hybrid cross between Mentha aquatica (water peppermint) and Mentha spicata (spearmint). In addition to peppermint and spearmint, other plants in the Mentha genus include apple peppermint, orange peppermint, water peppermint, curly peppermint and Corsican peppermint.
While the Native Americans were using peppermint even before the arrival of the European settlers, the early colonists brought this prized herb with them from the Old World since they had long honored it for its therapeutic properties, as well as for the delicious hot tea beverage made from its leaves.
Top 18 Refreshing Healing Powers of Peppermint:
- Digestive Benefits: Peppermint is packed with antioxidants and phytonurients that helps digestion by making flow of bile more efficient, activates the salivary glands in our mouth, calms stomach cramps, helps beat acidity, acts as a carminative (eases bloating, gas and its associated symptoms), and helps relax the muscles in your digestive system. Peppermint oil capsules have been described as “the drug of first choice” in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) patients, as it safely helps alleviate symptoms like stomach cramping and pain and also in the treatment of colic in infants.
- Tuberculosis: Peppermint essential oil helps rapidly regress tuberculosis inflammation, and may help prevent recurrences and exacerbation of the disease.
- Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever): Extracts from peppermint leaves inhibit histamine release, the trigger for severe nasal symptoms that are associated with hay fever and seasonal allergies.
- Memory Problems: The aroma of peppermint has been shown to enhance memory and increase alertness, retention, and cognitive function.
- Chemotherapy and Radiation: Peppermint oil effectively reduces chemotherapy-induced nausea and protects against DNA damage and cell death caused by radiation exposure.
- Cancer Prevention: Peppermint oil contains perillyl alcohol, a phytonutrient (monoterpene) that has shown in clinical studies, the potential to prevent skin, colon, pancreatic, mammary, liver, and lung cancers. Menthol in peppermint may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer.
- Herpes Cure: Studies have shown that peppermint help inhibit the growth of drug-resistant herpes simplex virus type 1.
- Oral Care: Powdered peppermint leaves have also been used historically to freshen breath and whiten teeth. Their anti-bacterial, anti-germicidal and anti-inflammatory properties kill oral bacteria preventing tooth decay, fighting bad breath and keeping your tongue and teeth clean naturally.
- Respiratory Benefits: Peppermint oil acts as an expectorant and decongestant, clearing nasal congestion, expulsion of phlegm, relieving inflammation along the respiratory tract and reducing irritation which causes chronic coughing. Helps relieve the nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis (colds related to allergy).
- Asthma Care: Peppermint contains rosmarinic acid, whose antioxidant abilities neutralize free radicals, blocks the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, such as leukotrienes and encourages cells to make substances called prostacyclins that keep the airways open for easy breathing.
- Headaches and Pains: Peppermint is a naturally soothing substance, so it can alleviate the inflammation and temperature rise that is often associated with headaches and migraines. Peppermint may help to relieve muscle spasms and pain. Try massaging its essential oil onto sore muscles or adding it to your bath water for muscle pain relief.
- Hair and Skin: Peppermint oil contains salicylic acid that has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that can help cool your skin, rid it of acne and pimples, soothe and calm itchy and infected skin and to cure dandruff (and lice) from your scalp. Its anti-pruritic properties can be used for treating insect bites like those of mosquitoes, honeybees, hornets, wasps, and gnats.
- Eases menstrual cramps: Peppermint leaves purify blood and have an anti-spasmodic effect on the muscles of our body proving to be a great remedy to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps and relieving nausea associated with the condition.
- Prevents morning sickness in pregnant women: Peppermint oil activates the digestive enzymes relieving the nausea associated with morning sickness in pregnant women. Warning: Mothers should be careful not to have this post delivery as it is known to affect lactation.
- Boosts Immunity: Peppermint leaves are packed with nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous, vitamin C, D, E and small amounts of vitamin B complex. All these compounds put together improves the body’s immune system, keeping it safe from infections and inflammation.
- Stress and Depression buster: Peppermint is a natural stimulant,and releases a small amount of serotonin (the “good mood” chemical) in the brain that helps to ease depression. If you are feeling sluggish, anxious, depressed, or simply exhausted, peppermint and its derivative essential oils can help pep you up.
- Breast Feeding: Studies have shown that peppermint oil can heal nipple cracks and nipple pain that so often accompany breastfeeding.
- Anti-Microbial properties: Esssential oil of peppermint also stops the growth of many different bacteria like Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Side effects and Precautions:
- Achlorhydria:Avoid enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules if you suffer from achlorhydria, a stomach condition in which the stomach is not producing hydrochloric acid, making the capsules dissolve early during digestion.
- Diarrhea: Enteric-coated peppermint oil could cause anal burning, if you have diarrhea.
- Allergies: When used on the skin, peppermint oil has been associated with allergic/hypersensitivity reactions, skin rash/hives/contact dermatitis, mouth ulcers/sores, chemical burn, and eye irritation.
- Oral consumption: Peppermint oil taken by mouth may cause headache, dizziness, heartburn, anal burning, slow heart rate, or muscle tremor. Very large doses of peppermint oil taken by mouth have resulted in muscle weakness, brain damage, and seizure.
- GERD: Peppermint oil should be used cautiously by people with G6PD deficiency or gallbladder disease. Use in infants or children is not recommended due to potential toxicity.
- Menthol: Menthol, a constituent of peppermint oil has been associated with multiple adverse effects, such as serious breathing difficulties, asthma, skin bruising (purpura), mouth sores and also brain damage. Use on the skin may also cause rash, severe skin damage (necrosis), or kidney damage (interstitial nephritis). Inhalation of large doses of menthol may lead to dizziness, confusion, muscle weakness, nausea, or double vision.