Latin: Mentha piperita
Chinese: Bo he (M. haplocalyx)
Sanskrit: Putani (M. arvensis)
WHAT IT DOES: Peppermint leaf is sweet and peppermint oil is sweet and slightly pungent in taste. Both are aromatic and cooling in action. Peppermint leaf cools and soothes the throat, lungs, stomach and mind. Peppermint oil reduces intestinal spasms internally, and calms itching externally.
RATING: Leaf -Silver / Oil – yellow
SAFETY ISSUES: Leaf – none known. Oil – As with all volatile oils, avoid direct contact of concentrated extracts to eyes, nasal membranes etc.
• Tea: one to two teaspoons of leaf per cup of water – drink freely
• Enteric-coated oil capsule: two milliliters (ml) two times per day between meals
The wonderful aroma of peppermint tea comes from the release of soothing volatile oils into the air. The immediate pleasurable reaction everyone has to this scent speaks volumes about what this plant can do. It has a mild anesthetic action on the intestine, so it is useful for treating nausea, morning sickness, vomiting, and stomach pain, especially when combined with ginger root. It also exhibits a mild anti-inflammatory action and can be used with honey or ginger as a simple remedy for colds, fevers and flu. Peppermint tea is good for bad breath, and TCM doctors use similar mint species to treat sore throat, red eyes, headache, and cough. Because it has a soothing effect on the mind, it is also a helpful in easing painful periods and lessening general anxiety.
Peppermint oil is prescribed specifically to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a problem which accounts for 50 percent of all visits to gastrointestinal doctors. Studies show peppermint oil directly relieves intestinal smooth muscle spasms and promotes rhythmic peristaltic movement, usually working within a few weeks (Hawthorne et al., 1988). It is a safe addition to more comprehensive treatments based on signs, symptoms and underlying causes.
Interestingly, using sufficient amounts of the oil to the popular candy called Altoids (unlike the diuted amounts used in other brands) is described on the cans as the secret ingredient that makes Altoids “curiously strong.” Altoids were first manufactured in England during the 19th century and advertised “to relieve intestinal discomfort.”
Before using the oil, make sure that you are truly suffering from intestinal spasms, and not a more serious inflammatory colitis. Menthol crystals can be extracted from mint oils, and these have a wonderful anesthetic action on the skin, due to a stimulation of the nerves that perceive coldness. You can apply a few drops of peppermint oil to a cloth and wipe down the body to cool down a fever.