What’s growing in your garden? Focus on Peppermint
Focus on Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Mint is a popular herb for medicinal and culinary purposes. You can start harvesting mint from late Spring through to Autumn. Now in summer, it’s growing in abundance. It can be used fresh, dried or as an essential oil. The high levels of menthol in the plant give it a distinctive and recognisable taste and smell as well as healing actions.
Did you know?
The x in the latin name means that the plant is a hybrid.Peppermint is actually a cross between spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatica).Peppermint has been in the British pharmacopeia since the early 1700s and is a key herb in the herbal dispensary.
Conditions Peppermint can benefit
The menthol and methyl salicylate in mint are antispasmodic helping the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract relax. This eases the pain of heartburn, dyspepsia, cramping, bloating, irritable bowel, colic, flatulence, Chron’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, cholelithias and cholecystitis.
Studies have also shown menthol to have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activity therefore it can be useful for healing gastroenteritis aka stomach bugs.
Nausea and vomiting
Inhalation of peppermint essential oil or peppermint tea has been shown to relieve nausea and vomiting. It is useful for morning and travel sickness and as an effective integrative approach to take in conjunction with chemotherapy treatment.
Colds and flus
The decongestant actions of menthol thin mucus and phlegm. The antispadmodic actions help relieve coughs, wheezing and asthma. The antibacterial and antiviral actions help overcome infections. The diaphoretic actions open pores in the body to relieve excess heat when you have a fever.
The rosmarinic acid in peppermint can help reduce allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy eyes and asthma.
Peppermint essential oil diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the forehead and temples can reduce headache and migraine symptoms. This is due to having a cooling effective on the skin.
Alertness and focus
Peppermint drunk or inhaled helps increase focus and mental alertness.
Inhaling peppermint essential oil can help reduce mental exhaustion and moderate burnout.
Menthol helps to reduce congestion in the body and relaxes muscles therefore peppermint can relieve menstrual pain and dysmenorrhea as well as help overcome amenorrhea. Spearmint tea can be useful in PCOS treatment.
Spritzing the diluted peppermint essential oil in water over your face, inhaling the oil via diffuser or on a cotton pad and drinking the tea can help reduce hot flushes due to it’s cooling effects.
The cooling effect of menthol is useful for inflamed skin conditions. A cotton pad soaked in mint tea or water with 2 drops of essential or tea/oil in a bath can help with stings, bites, hives and rashes.
Place 1-2 teaspoons or dried leaves or 2-6 teaspoons of crushed fresh leaves into a pot, pour over boiling water, cover the pot and allow to brew for at least 5 mins.
Add to fresh leaves to cocktails, mocktails, cordials, still or sparkling water.
Mint is lovely in all sorts of salads. One of my favourites for summer is:
1 cup well rinsed quinoa
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 crushed garlic clove
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 a cucumber cut into small cubes
1 large tomato cut into small cubes
2/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
Place quinoa and 1 1/4 cups of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Whisk lemon juice, oil and garlic in a small bowl/jug to make the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Once quinoa is cooled, place in a salad bowl, add the chopped cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, mint and lemon dressing. Gently mix together.
Chopped peppermint scattered over fresh fruit makes a quick, easy, healthy dessert. It also combines well with dark chocolate. You’ll find lots of recipes online.
Always ensure that you dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil (eg. olive, vegetable) or water. When applying to skin, always do a small patch test first to check that you don’t have a negative reaction to it.
Never ingest the essential oil unless in enteric coated capsules and at the dose stated on the package.
Caution if you have GERD as it can exacerbate heartburn in some people.
Over to you
Why not get a peppermint plant from the supermarket or plant nursery, make fresh mint tea and add it to a sweet and/or savoury dish.
Always seek a qualified Medical Herbalist before taking herbs and check with your doctor for any interactions with current medication.