Natasha Richardson & Claire Goulding
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint must be one of the most easily found herbs in supermarket but we have really forgotten the massive medicinal uses it has.
Names: Brandy mint, Mint
Magical uses: Attract money, Purification, Sleep, Love, Psychic powers.
Actions: Digestive, Carminative, Antispasmodic, Diaphoretic, Anti-emetic, Mild sedative, Emmenagogue, Peripheral vasodilator, Enzyme activator, Nervine, Analgesic. Aromatic stimulant, Sudorific.
Physical Uses: Crohn’s disease, Diverticula, Travel sickness, Nausea, Flatulence, Anorexia (lack of appetite), Cramps, Spasm, Muscular pain, Low backache, Sports injuries, Stiffness, Insect repellant, Colds and Fever, Headaches, Mouth sores, Sore throat, Heartburn, Belching, Hiccups, Gallbladder colic, Griping pains, Menstrual cramps, Indigestion, Morning sickness, Mastitis, Hot or Dry joints, Shingles, Herpes, Hysteria, Dizziness, Fainting.
Emotional Uses: Balances excess melancholy, Strengthens expression of emotion, Helps those with a sense of sadness, Nervous and faint-hearted people.
Parts used: Leaves
Known constituents: Flavonoids, Acetic acid, Tannins, Resins, Gum, Triterpenes, Essential oils.
Legend & Tradition
The word mint doubles for a breath freshening sweet. Altoid being one of the best known brands. But it wasn’t originally created as a breath freshener. It was created in 1780 to relieve intestinal discomfort. Though we know now that the sugar in these sweets may off-set any medicinal benefit from the Peppermint essential oil they contain (Grieves, 1992).
It has been used since ancient times as a remedy for the stomach. The Greeks and Romans would bind it to their head during feasts. I wonder if this was not just for fun but because of its medicinal effects as well. It’s not the first time I’ve come across folklore of a plant being strapped to the head.
It is said by Scott Cunningham that if you wear the leaves around your head it will protect against headaches. Seems there was quite a lot of binding herbs to the head back in the day (Cunningham, 2006).
Whether it’s flatulence, bloating, nausea, heartburn or belching, Peppermint does it all (Cheema & Singh, 2021). I especially associate peppermint with gas. Whether that’s gas that causes flatulence or belching doesn’t much matter. This gas can make the stomach bloat and cause griping pains. It’s a gentle herb for children with Colic for whom griping pain is a big problem (Mohammadi, et al., 2019). Some say that it should be used when food is fermenting in the stomach and bowels. The symptom of gas and flatulence accompanies many gastrointestinal diseases such as; IBS, Crohn’s ideas and diverticula (Alammar, et al., 2019). Peppermint can be employed in all of these (Wood, 2008).
MUSCLES + JOINTS
Its ability to relax muscles in the digestion can be expanded to the whole body and used in problems such as cramps, spasm and muscular pain (Goel, et al., 2019). For instance, muscle tension can cause backache or stiffness alike. It can also lead to tension headaches and menstrual cramps (Wood, 2008).
Peppermint is an interesting herb because it is quite contrary. It’s hard to not recognise the taste of mint. It is, rather unusually, heating but this is followed by a cooling effect. This means it is a rare herb which energises but cools as well. Normally, cooling herbs have a tendency to relax or depress a person whereas hot herbs energise and uplift someone. The cooling effect of Peppermint is especially useful when someone has a fever (Mohammadi, et al., 2019). Paradoxically, it’s specifically used when that fever was brought on by a chill. It is a diaphoretic. This means that it helps to promote sweating with the end effect of lowering body temperature. It also warms the lymphatic system which has the end effect of cooling and moistening the body. The lymph is just one part of the immune system of course. A major organ that is often forgotten about is the spleen, which makes a lot of good bacteria for the gut as well as white blood cells. Peppermint stimulates the spleen and supports the fight against viruses like Herpes and Shingles (Liu, et al., 2017). It will also bring down the inflammation of infections such as Mastitis (Wood, 2008).
Peppermint, despite being stimulating, is also mildly sedating. Another one of its paradoxes. This seeming contradiction is actually a signifier of its changeability which is characterised energetically by wind. In traditional Chinese medicine wind would be characterised by changeability and the appearance of contradiction. It can be used for hysteria. This is an old fashioned term we don’t use anymore. It was used to describe a kind of manic nervousness. Usually it was women who were afflicted by it, and probably still are! (Wood, 2008).
Safety Considerations Do not use in first trimester of pregnancy (Laelago, 2018). Do not use with those who are anxious, neurotic or excitable. Shouldn’t be used in hot, dry conditions of the colon.
Alammar, N., Wang, L., Saberi, B., Nanavati, J., Holtmann, G., Shinohara, R.T. and Mullin, G.E. (2019) 'The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data', BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 21. [Online]. Available at https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-018-2409-0 10.1186/s12906-018-2409-0.
Chakraborty, K., Chakravarti, A. R., & Bhattacharjee, S. (2022). Bioactive components of peppermint (Mentha piperita L.), their pharmacological and ameliorative potential and ethnomedicinal benefits: A review. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, vol.11, no.1, pp.109-114.
Cheema, H. S. and Singh, M.P. (2021) 'The Use of Medicinal Plants in Digestive System Related Disorders: A Systematic Review', Journal of Ayurvedic and Herbal Medicine, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 182-187. [Online]. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.31254/jahm .
Goel, B. and Maurya, N.K. (2019) 'Overview on: Herbs Use in Treatment of Primary Dysmenorrhea (Menstrual Cramps)', .Advances in Zoology and Botany vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 47-52, DOI: 10.13189/azb.2019.070302
Laelago, T. (2018). Herbal medicine use during pregnancy: benefits and untoward effects. Herbal medicine. [Online] Available at 10.5772/intechopen.76896
Liu, Y., Ma, A. et al. In vitro antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities of the ethanol extract of Mentha piperita L.. Food Sci Biotechnol 26, 1675–1683 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10068-017-0217-9.
Mohammadi, G., Ghazanfarpour, M., Kargarfard, L. and Babakhanian, M. (2019) 'Effectiveness of Herbal Medicines Containing Phytoestrogens to Treat Infantile Colic: A Meta-analysis Review', Jpr, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 1-10. [Online]. Available at http://jpr.mazums.ac.ir/article-1-165-en.html 10.32598/jpr.7.1.1.Mahendran, G., & Rahman, L. U. (2020). Ethnomedicinal, phytochemical and pharmacological updates on Peppermint (Mentha× piperita L.)—A review. Phytotherapy Research, 34(9), 2088-2139.