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Peppermint Medicine

Peppermint is one of the most widely cultivated and used herbs. It is grown commercially to produce oils that are used in everything from toothpaste and confectionary, to herbal medicine.

The following is an extract from our medicinal herbs eBook, written by the academic staff at this school.

Mentha x piperita


Common Name: Peppermint

Origin: Europe and the Middle East.

Appearance: A rhizomatous perennial reaching about 30-50 cm tall but sometimes to 1m. The leaves are lance-shaped green and to 9cm long and 4cm wide. They have purplish red veins and toothed margins. The flowers are small to 8mm and pinkish-purple in colour borne on whorls forming spikes.

Culture: They grow well in most temperate climates. Like most mints, they can become invasive and so are often best grown in pots or other containers. They prefer a partly shaded to shaded site and moist soil. They don't tolerate drought or strong sun very well.

Chemistry: The key active constituents are menthol and menthone (significantly higher than spearmint). Also menthyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, menthofuran, limonene, pulegone, flavonoids, tocopherols, carotenoids, betaine, choline, azulenes, rosmarinic acid, beta-pinene and beta-caryophyllene.

Peppermint oil possessed antiradical activity with respect to DPPH (diphenyl picryl hydrazyl) and hydroxyl (OH*) radicals, exercising stronger antioxidant impact on the OH* radical. The concentrations required for 50% inhibition of the respective radical (IC50) were 860 microg/mL for DPPH and 0.26 microg/mL for OH*. Peppermint essential oil demonstrated antioxidant activity in a model linoleic acid emulsion system in terms of inhibiting conjugated dienes formation by 52.4% and linoleic acid secondary oxidized products generation by 76.9% (at 0.1% concentration).

Parts used: Leaves and stem tips.

Uses: The oil has been found to aid with digestion. In particular it has use as an antispasmodic and may combat irritable bowel syndrome. It also relieves symptoms of catarrh and inflammations of the upper respiratory tract. The high concentration of menthol in the oil helps to cool the skin and sooth pain when applied to the skin. There is anecdotal evidence that it may relieve headaches, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Pulegone, and to a lesser degree menthone, in the oil provide a natural pesticide. It can also help to combat bad breath.

It is widely used to flavour foods such as ice cream and chocolate. It is also used to flavour tea, sauces and chewing gum. It is also an ingredient in toothpastes and soaps.    

Properties: Carminative, analgesic, stimulant, expectorant, skin tonic, insecticide.

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