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Of all the mints, peppermint (Mentha piperita) is the most widely used due to its high content of menthol. Peppermint has an antispasmodic effect that soothes stomachaches and is effective in colic and flatulence. It is a fragrant perennial plant with stems up to four feet tall and square. Leaves are opposite, toothed and hairy on the underside. The pinkish flowers are in whorled clusters in the axils of the upper leaves. Flowers rarely produce viable seeds. Propagation is by underground stolons making the plant very spreading in nature. M. piperita is a hybrid of two other mints, possibly spearmint (M. spicata) and water mint (M. aquatica).
- Common Names: English: Peppermint; Chinese: Bo he; French: Menthe
- Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
- Habitat: Mentha piperita is cultivated in many parts of the world but grows well in damp and shady areas.
- Parts Used: Leaves
- Constituents: Volatile oils (menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate, menthofuran, limonene, pulegone, cineol and azulenes); Flavonoids (methoside and rutin); Carotenes (tannins, betaine and choline)
- Medicinal Actions: stimulant, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, antiseptic, antiemetic, aromatic, antitussive, decongestant, analgesic, choleretic, antipyretic, anxiolytic sedative, nervine, antimicrobial, antipruritic, bitter, cholagogue, emmenagogue, rubefacient, tonic
Mints have been used worldwide for centuries as medicinal and culinary herbs. M. piperita does not have the same history in the Western world because it is a hybrid and was not grown in England until the mid 1700's. M. piperita is native to the Mediterranean region and may have been cultivated as long ago as the time of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Due to its penetrating odour, it has been used as a stimulant and nerve tonic. M. piperita can also be used in treating mouth sores, nausea and impaired digestion. M. spicata, spearmint, also has a pungent volatile oil but is reputed to be less powerful and may be better suited for children and for treatment of general upper respiratory infections.
M. piperita is commonly used for the effects from its volatile oils, mainly menthol.
- menthol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (also known as the cardiac sphincter) to release pressure from the stomach.
- menthol inhibits the hyperactivity of intestinal smooth muscle through blocking the influx of calcium into the muscle cell.
- It is used to treat gas, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's (enteric-coated capsules), colic, and dyspepsia.
- as a Digestive Bitter M. piperita stimulates digestive secretions through its bitter and choleretic properties. The bitter principle enhances pancreatic secretions and the choleretic effects stimulate the flow of bile and increases the solubility of bile. These effects may stimulate the release and shrinkage of gallstones (M. piperita may be contraindicated in some cases of gallstones. If gallstones are present or if there is a history or symptoms of gallstones, consult a doctor before use.). (Please note that gallstones may be asymptomatic.)
- The antiseptic and diaphoretic qualities of M. piperita make it valuable in the treatment of colds and flu, bronchitis, coughs, sinusitis
- Warm peppermint teas will encourage perspiration and recovery.
- The volatile oils are antiseptic and antiviral.
- M. piperita also reduces the catarrh from head colds.
- Other Conditions
- Topically, peppermint oil may be used as a counter irritant to produce analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
- The oils stimulate nerve perception of cold while pain perception is decreased. To the skin this feels like an initial sensation of cool, followed by warmth. This treatment is useful in musculoskeletal conditions, headaches and toothaches. It is used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, hysteria, and a sense of being overheated.
- To ease breathing peppermint oil may also be used topically as a chest rub for coughs and asthma. The oil will help ease breathing through relaxing the smooth muscles of the bronchioles.
- Peppermint is used to treat nausea of pregnancy, hysteria, dysmenorrhea and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
- Peppermint is used a culinary herb and in personal care products.
- insect repellent
The information provided is intended to augment the treatment from a naturopathic doctor or other trained medical professional. Although most herbs are generally safe, it is recommended that you avoid self-prescribing especially when there is an underlying ongoing medical condition, if you are on any prescription medications or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Formulations and Preparations
- Infusion - 1-2 tsp/cup as desired
- Tincture - (1:5, 40%) three times daily
- Oil - 0.2-0.6mL/day essential oil in enteric-coated capsule or 2-3 drops essential oil in 10mL water (topical use)
- Generally considered safe.
- Side Effects: Allergic reactions have been experienced. The most common reaction is contact dermatitis, although other signs such as bradycardia and muscle tremors have been noted. These reactions have a higher incidence of occurrence if the oil is used in conjunction with a heating pad.
- Pregnancy: Avoid oil of peppermint during pregnancy.
- Contraindications: The use of M. piperita oil for infants and young children may be contraindicated because of an increased risk of choking due to laryngeal spasms. Use by individuals with a predisposition to heartburn and LES reflux is also contraindicated because the oil will most likely worsen the condition. Even though in most cases M. piperita is safe to use, the volatile oil can be quite toxic. Consult a practitioner before use.
- Drug-Herb Interactions.
- Non-heme Iron - reduced absorption
- Doxorubicin - reduced cardiotoxicity (extract, mice)
- Phenacetin - reduced metabolism (rats)
- Warfarin - antagonizes (due to vitamin K content)
- CYP 1A2 and 2E1 - inhibits conversion
- Boon Heather, Smith Michael (2009) 55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs: The Complete Natural Medicine Guide Second Edition Institute of Naturopathic Education and Research, CCNM Toronto.
- Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul, Barlow Kerry, Gowan Matt (2011) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Advanced Botanical Medicine. V3 CCNM Press, Toronto.
- Stargrove Mitchell Bebell, Treasure Jonathan, McKee Dwight L (2008) Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions: Clinical Implications and Therapeutic Strategies.
- Brinker Francis (1997) Herbal Contraindications and Drug Interactions: Plus Herbal Adjuncts With Medicines, 4th Edition Eclectic Medical Publications.