Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2010
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Peppermint — Mentha piperita

Keep peppermint within reach to stay cool all summer! Added to iced tea, plain water or a frozen yogurt or ice cream treat, this herb will provide more than a tickle on the taste buds. Peppermint has the strongest medicinal actions of the mints, and packs a major cooling punch. After drinking a glass of peppermint tea, the body can cool down much sooner than it would on its own thanks to the cooling properties of the plant.

Peppermint is most known for its volatile oils, but has several actions on the body, including: topical analgesic, antispasmodic, carminative, antipruritic, counterirritant, digestive, expectorant, stimulant and vasodilator. Mint is an excellent herb for digestion, aiding in the digestive process while also calming any digestive disturbances, cramping or pain. It is used for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) along with stress-induced gastrointestinal disturbances when combined with valerian, catnip or chamomile. As a strong tea, it is noted to be one of the best remedies for hiccups.

The leaves and aerial parts are used to make water infusions and extracts. A water infusion of the fresh or dried leaves is an easy and an accessible option for its use. The fresh leaves can be used to make a fresh leaf tea by adding a handful or two of the clean leaves to a glass jar and covering with hot or cold water. A sun tea can be made by covering the herb with cool water and setting the covered container in the sun for an hour or two. Strain out the herb material and sweeten to taste or drink as is. Other edible berries, flowers or herbs can be combined with the peppermint, such as lemon balm, wood sorrel (oxalis stricta), linden flower, hibiscus, orange, rose hips, etc. Mint will help mask other more bitter herbs when combined in tea, as well. This is helpful when drinking a tea for its medicinal properties, as the mint will add a more desirable taste. The extract can be used medicinally as well as for culinary purposes, such as in ice cream, smoothies or shakes, coffee, chocolates, and baking recipes.

Peppermint Extract

Fresh peppermint leaves

Vodka

8-ounce Mason jar

Add the fresh peppermint leaves to fill an 8-ounce Mason jar. Fill the jar with vodka, leaving 1/2-1/4-inch headspace. Shake regularly for six weeks. After six weeks, strain out the plant material and store in an amber glass jar.

Further, the essential oil can be used topically for rheumatic pain, toothache, headache, postherpetic neuralgia, poison ivy and insect bites. The oil can be used topically for digestive disturbance when diluted in a carrier oil and rubbed onto the stomach. The oil can also be used as an inhalant for sinus congestion.

Peppermint has no known toxicity and has been proven safe for long-term use. It is contraindicated for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and hiatal hernias, as symptoms may be worsened with its use. The essential oil may be irritating when directly applied on the face or mucous membranes. The tea is safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding, although the essential oil use should be limited while pregnant and not used on children under the age of 2 as there is a risk of laryngeal or bronchial spasms. A nursing mother can drink the tea and the essential oils will reach the baby through the mother’s milk. Also, in the book, “The Essential Oil Safety” by Robert Tisserand and Tony Balacs, the authors state that peppermint essential oil is contraindicated for cardiac fibrillation.

Peppermint is an herbaceous perennial, grows easily in most soil types in our zone 4-5 climate. It spreads by underground rhizomes and may overtake a garden if not well managed. Many gardeners prefer to keep it in a pot rather than planting it directly in the ground. If you are hoping to add peppermint to an herb garden, look to purchase a plant from a knowledgeable nursery, as many of the seeds on the market are not true peppermint plant. Mints hybridize readily, and peppermint is no exception. It is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint. 

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet.


References: “Making Plant Medicine.” Oregon, Herbal Reads. Richo Cech. 2016.

“Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach.” Wolters Kluwer Health. David Winston et al. 2008.

“The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Laguna Beach, Basic Health Publications, Inc. Bridgette Mars. 2007.

“Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals.” New York, Churchill Livingstone. Tony Balacs et al. 1995.

Dana Schlies

Dana is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator and Community Herbalist. She is passionate about educating women about the many botanical and alternative methods to bring the body into balance and create vibrant, healthy living. She utilizes a comprehensive approach including environment, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and botanicals to bring support to the whole body. She is part of the team at Sweet Willow Naturals, and can be reached at 920-530-1188 or [email protected]

Website: www.sweetwillownaturals.com
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