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Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita L.) in the mint family (Lamiaceae) is a natural hybrid of M. aquatica and M. spicata first found in a field of spearmint in England in 1696; it is vegetatively propagated since it does not breed true from seed.1 Peppermint has escaped cultivation and can be found growing wild in moist areas throughout Europe and North America.2 It is a vigorous, creeping perennial, sometimes purple-tinged, with smooth, toothed leaves and lilac-pink, usually sterile flowers.3,4
History and Traditional Use
According to records from the Greek, Roman, and ancient Egyptian eras, mint leaves have been used in medicine for several thousand years.2 Pliny the Elder documented the use of mint by the ancient Greeks and Romans who crowned themselves with the leaves during feasts, and flavored sauces and wines with its essence.4 Peppermint has been used in Eastern and Western traditional medicine as an aromatic, antispasmodic, and antiseptic in treating indigestion, nausea, sore throat, colds, toothaches, cramps, and cancers.5
Modern Medicinal Use
Peppermint leaf is approved for internal use by the German Commission E for spastic complaints of the gastrointestinal tract as well as the gallbladder and bile ducts; peppermint oil is approved for internal use for spastic complaints of the gastrointestinal tract, gallbladder, and bile ducts, irritable colon, inflammation of the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract, and inflammation of the oral mucosa.6 The Commission E has approved external use of peppermint oil for myalgia (muscular pain) and neuralgia (sharp pain along a nerve). The characteristic antispasmodic action of the volatile oil is more pronounced in peppermint than in any other oil, which accounts for its ability to relieve pain.4 Because peppermint improves appetite and digestion and relieves intestinal gas, it is used in the treatment of disturbed digestion, flatulence, colic (severe abdominal pain), cholera, and diarrhea. Clinical studies have been done on the use of peppermint oil internally to treat irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia, and tension headaches.7
Modern Consumer Use
Peppermint is the most extensively used volatile oil, both commercially and medicinally.4 Today peppermint is still used in cosmetics such as soaps, shampoos, and shower gels. It is used for both cooling and warming in over-the-counter topical preparations, for musculoskeletal pain, in shaving creams, and to treat headaches when rubbed on the temples. The oil is used as a flavoring in chewing gum, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and cough and cold preparations.5 Peppermint is also one of the most popular herbs for use in teas, flavorings, and candies.7
1 Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal, 4th ed. New York: Haworth Herbal Press;1999.
2 Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, editors. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; Newton (MA): Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
3 Bown D. The Herb Society of America New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited; 2001
4 Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Volume 1. New York: Dover Publications, Inc; 1971.
5 DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA. The Review of Natural Products, 3rd edition. St. Louis (MO): Facts and Comparisons; 2001.
6 Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS, editors. Klein S, Rister RS, translators. The Complete German Commission E Monographs&emdash;Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communication; 1998.
7 Blumenthal M, Hall T, Goldberg A, Kunz T, Dinda K, Brinckmann J, et al, editors. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; 2003.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.