Peppermint (Mentha × piperita), also known as M. balsamea Wild.) is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint. Peppermint was first described in 1753 by Carolus Linnaeus from specimens that had been collected in England; he treated it as a species, but it is now universally agreed to be a hybrid. The plant, indigenous to Europe, is now widespread in cultivation throughout all regions of the world. It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing to 30–90 cm (12–35 in) tall, with smooth stems, square in cross section. The rhizomes are wide- spreading, fleshy, and bare fibrous roots.
Peppermint plants grow to about 2 - 3 feet tall. They bloom from July through August, sprouting tiny purple flowers in whorls and terminal spikes. Dark green, fragrant leaves grow opposite white flowers. Peppermint is native to Europe and Asia, is naturalized to North America, and grows wild in moist, temperate areas. Some varieties are indigenous to South Africa, South America, and Australia.
Peppermint typically occurs in moist habitats, including stream sides and drainage ditches. Being a hybrid, it is usually sterile, producing no seeds and reproducing only vegetative, spreading by its rhizomes. If placed, it can grow anywhere, with a few exceptions.Outside of its native range, areas where peppermint was formerly grown for oil often have an abundance of feral plants, and it is considered invasive in Australia, the Galápagos Islands, New Zealand, and in the United States.
Peppermint generally grows best in moist, shaded locations, and expands by underground stolons. Young shoots are taken from old stocks and dibbled into the ground about 1.5 feet apart. They grow quickly and cover the ground with runners if it is permanently moist. For the home gardener, it is often grown in containers to restrict rapid spreading. It grows best with a good supply of water, without being water- logged, and planted in areas with part-sun to shade.
The leaves and flowering tops are used; they are collected as soon as the flowers begin to open and can be dried. The wild form of the plant is less suitable for this purpose, with cultivated plants having been selected for more and better oil content. They may be allowed to lie and wilt a little before distillation, or they may be taken directly to the still.
Peppermint has ahigh menthol content, and is often used in :- Tea Confectionery for flavouring Ice cream Chewing gum Toothpaste
Itching and Skin IrritationsPeppermint, when applied topically, has a soothingand cooling effect on skin irritations caused byhives, poison ivy, or poison oak. Tension HeadacheOne small study suggested that peppermint appliedto the forehead and temples helped reduceheadache symptoms. Colds and FluPeppermint and its main active agent, menthol, areeffective decongestants. Because menthol thinsmucus, it is also a good expectorant, meaning that ithelps loosen phlegm and breaks up coughs. It issoothing and calming for sore throats (pharyngitis)and dry coughs as well.
One animal study has suggestedthat Peppermint may have radioprotective effects in patientsundergoing cancer treatment. The aroma of peppermint has beenfound to enhance memory. As such, itcan be administered by instructors totheir students before examinations, toaid recall. Peppermint flowers are large nectarproducers and honey bees as well asother nectar harvesting organismsforage them heavily. A mild, pleasantvarietal honey can be produced ifthere is a sufficient area of plants.
Peppermint tea is prepared from dried leaves of the plant and is widely available commercially. Peppermint spirit (tincture) contains 10% peppermint oil and 1% peppermint leaf extract in an alcohol solution. A tincture can be prepared by adding 1 part peppermint oil to 9 parts pure grain alcohol. Enteric coated capsules are specially coated to allow the capsule to pass through the stomach and into the intestine (0.2 mL of peppermint oil per capsule). Creams or ointments (should contain 1 - 16% menthol)
Pediatric Do not give peppermint to an infant or small child. Peppermint oil applied to the face of infants can cause life-threatening breathing problems. In addition, peppermint tea may cause a burning sensation in the mouth. For digestion and upset stomach in older children: 1 - 2 mL peppermint glycerite per day. Adult Tea: Steep 1 tsp. dried peppermint leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes; strain and cool. Drink 4 - 5 times per day between meals. Peppermint tea appears to be safe, even in large quantities. Enteric coated capsules: 1 - 2 capsules (0.2 ml of peppermint oil) 2 - 3 times per day for IBS. Tension headaches: Using a tincture of 10% peppermint oil to 90% ethanol, lightly coat the forehead and allow the tincture to evaporate. Itching and skin irritations: Apply menthol, the active ingredient in peppermint, in a cream or ointment form no more than 3 - 4 times per day.
The use of herbs is a time honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider. Do not take peppermint or drink peppermint tea if you have gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD -- a condition where stomach acids back up into the esophagus) or hiatal hernia. Peppermint can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, allowing stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. (The sphincter is the muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach.) By relaxing the sphincter, peppermint may actually make the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion worse.
Peppermint, in amounts normally found in food, is likely to be safe during pregnancy, but not enough is known about the effects of larger supplemental amounts. Speak with your health care provider. Never apply peppermint oil to the face of an infant or small child, as it may cause spasms that inhibit breathing. Peppermint may make gallstones worse. Large doses of peppermint oil can be toxic. Pure menthol is poisonous and should never be taken internally. It is important not to confuse oil and tincture preparations. Menthol or peppermint oil applied to the skin can cause a rash.
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