Peppermint

Mentha piperita

Description

This aromatic herb has been used for hundreds of years to treat stomach conditions, headache and colds. The Ancient Romans, for example, used it after meals to aid digestion. Today, peppermint is commonly used to soothe digestive disorders, relieve aching muscles and freshen stale breath. This natural hybrid of spearmint and watermint has squared-off stems and dark green or purple oval leaves that give off a distinctive fragrance when crushed.

Parts used

The parts of the plant that grow above the ground.

Constituents

Peppermint’s prime active ingredient is volatile oil, which comprises more than 100 compounds, mainly the fragrant chemical menthol, but also menthone and menthyl acetate.

Medicinal uses

In 2007, Italian researchers published the results of a study showing that 75% of the patients in their trial group who took peppermint oil capsules for four weeks had a major reduction in irritable bowel syndrome. (Published in Digestive and Liver Disease.) Another 2011 study showed that peppermint acts through a specific anti-pain channel called TRPM8 to reduce pain-sensing fibres. According to the German Commission E, peppermint oil is known as a digestive antispasmodic and as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, catarrh of the respiratory tract and inflammation of the oral mucosa.

Peppermint is prescribed to:

  • Ease the discomfort of indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Act as an anti-spasmodic, relaxing the muscles of the stomach and improving the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats.
  • Soothe flatulence by relaxing the muscles that allow painful digestive gas to pass.
  • Help soothe blocked nasal passages, relieving congestion brought on by colds.
  • May have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.
  • May help relieve headaches.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Taken in the correct dosage, peppermint appears to have few if any side-effects. Do not take it for indigestion if your discomfort is related to a condition called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, or if you have a hiatus hernia. Do not give peppermint to or apply peppermint oil to the face of an infant or small child as it may cause spasms that inhibit breathing. Peppermint may interact with certain medications to suppress the immune system, reduce stomach acid, treat diabetes or blood pressure, or which are metabolised by the liver. Always consult your healthcare provider before embarking on a course of herbal supplements.

Flora Force Products containing Peppermint

Domestic & culinary uses

Peppermint with ice cream
Peppermint is a popular flavouring for gum, toothpaste, sweets, ice cream and tea.

Cultivation

Peppermint is indigenous to Europe, but it is now cultivated widely throughout the world. It grows in moist, shaded locations.

Photo credits

  1. By Rillke (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
  • By Ewan Munro from London, UK (Tapas Brindisa, Borough, LondonUploaded by tm) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.