stomach ailments, IBS, nausea, indigestion, colds.
Peppermint is one of those herbs that seem, well, very un-herb-like. We, or at least I often associate it first with candy and ice cream … Christmas, actually.
But peppermint has proven to be a powerful force in the medicinal herb world, and has held this honor for centuries.
Peppermint grows to about 20 inches tall, is an herbaceous perennial and also is a member of the mint family, of course. Its leaves are dark green with reddish veins. The flowers are purple and are about 5mm in diameter and bloom in mid to late summer. It grows best in moist, shady locations.
Ancient historians have tracked the migration of peppermint from Rome to England where early settlers brought it to America in the 17th century. It was then first grown commercially in Michigan in the 1760’s.
Long known to cure stomach ailments, peppermint was a stable in the medicinal gardens and apothecary shops of old.
Today, Harvard University says, “Several studies have shown that peppermint oil seems to be fairly effective at relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a collection of symptoms that includes abdominal cramping and pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.”
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine adds to the findings that peppermint also relieves symptoms of nausea, indigestion and colds.
While peppermint has many compounds, one of the most essential for medicinal purposes is menthol, which is a primary ingredient in many over the counter drugs.
Medicinally, both the leaves and the flowers are collected soon after the flower begins to open. They can be used either fresh or dried in tea, or distilled to create the essential oil of peppermint.
I found an interesting story regarding the distilling of peppermint. “Peppermint oil, whose major constituent is menthol, must be distilled from the peppermint plants. According to Michigan’s Department of Natural and Environment, growers there initially used “a copper kettle and a condenser pipe, much like the traditional moonshine stills of Appalachia. This caused problems during Prohibition, when mint distillers had to secure state and federal permits in order to carry on distilling.”
For additional fun facts regarding peppermint, visit this site.
Read more: Medicinal Herb series