Although peppermint (Mentha x. Piperita) is a popular culinary herb, most people don’t realize that it’s a natural hybrid of water mint (M. aquatica) and spearmint (M. spicata), making it a relatively new member of the mint family of plants. As its common name implies, the herb has a flavor and aroma profile that includes the bright freshness of mint as well as a peppery note.
Peppermint has a long history of medical use due to the analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antioxidant and vasoconstrictor actions of its volatile oils. The primary constituent of the herb is menthol, which is found in the leaf at a concentration of up to 78 percent. Taken internally, peppermint oil is exceptionally beneficial for IBS and other gastrointestinal conditions. However, in order to reach its target before being absorbed in the small intestine, it must be taken as an enteric coated supplement. A cup of strong peppermint tea, on the other hand, is also soothing to the gut and pleasing to the palate.
New research indicates that the stimulating action of menthol from peppermint may enhance athletic performance. In recent studies with young male athletes, the consumption of water laced with peppermint oil improved performance and endurance compared to placebo, or plain cold water. Further, drinking water infused with peppermint deterred athletic fatigue typically experienced in warm and humid weather.
7 Practical Uses for Peppermint Leaf and Peppermint Oil
Make tea! Hot or cold, alone or in combination with other herbs, peppermint will make your heart happy. It also fights nausea and intestinal inflammation associated with IBS.
Use the dried leaf in baking.
Rub the oil across your forehead to counter tension headache.
Use the oil to make analgesic liniments and sprays for sprains and sore muscles.
Add peppermint oil or powdered leaf to natural dental products.
Use peppermint oil as a decongestant in nasal inhalants and chest rubs.
Combine with witch hazel and/or aloe vera gel to relieve razor burn and sunburn (it promotes a cooling sensation on the skin).