Peppermint

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Mentha piperata (L)

 

Synonyms: brandy mint, lamb mint

Order: Labiatae

Description: Mentha is a perennial herb up to 60cm tall, with smooth leaves which are often purplish, and purple labiate flowers. The plant is a hybrid of M.aquatica (water mint) and M. spicata (spearmint), the latter being a hybrid of M. longifolia and M. suaveolens. The first known cultivation of M. piperata was in Mitcham in 1750. It is widely grown in temperate areas of the world, particularly in Europe and the USA.

Parts used: aerial parts, distilled essential oil

Collection: just before the flowers open, from the end of July to the end of August. 

Constituents: up to 1.5% volatile oil (at least 45% free menthol); monoterpenes (menthone, menthofuran, menthyl acetate, cineole and limonene; sesquiterpenes (viridoflorol); flavonoids (luteolin, menthoside, isorhoifolin, rutin, hesperidin); phenolic acids (caffeic, chlorogenic and rosmarinic); triterpenes (squalene, a-amyrin, ursolic acid, sitosterol); flavonoids; phytol; tocopherols; carotenoids; choline; betaine; azulenes; rosmarinic acid; tannin; minerals

Actions: spasmolytic, carminative, choleretic, diaphoretic, aromatic, nervine, antemetic, peripheral vasodilator with a paradoxical cooling effect, cholagogue, bitter. Locally antiseptic, antiparasitic, analgesic and antipruritic.

Indications: intestinal colic, vomiting of pregnancy, flatulent dyspepsia, biliary disorders, common cold, dysmenorrhoea.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Specifically indicated in flatulent digestive pains, Mentha has a notable action on the lower bowel. Externally, peppermint oil or menthol is used in pain-relieving balms, massage oils and linaments. Menthol is cooling and anaesthetic when applied to the skin, increasing blood flow to the area over which it is applied. It may be used to relieve itching and inflammations. Inhalations of the herb and oil in boiling water are effective against upper respiratory or bronchial catarrh. Inhaled, it has a drying effect on the mucous membranes and ingested it has a settling effect on the gastric and  intestinal mucosa. It is a useful remedy to increase concentration. It reduces nausea and is helpful in travel sickness. It promotes sweating in fevers and influenza. As a nervine it acts as a tonic, easing anxiety, tension and hysteria. In dysmenorrhoea it relieves the pain and associated tension.

The pharmacological actions of Mentha are largely due to the volatile oil, which is carminative and a potent spasmolytic, acting locally to produce visceral muscle relaxation. The volatile oil acts as a mild anaesthetic to the mucous membrane of the stomach, relieving nausea and the desire to vomit. It reduces the tone of the cardiac sphincter and relaxes the gastro-oesophageal sphincter, allowing expulsion of air in flatulent dyspepsia. It  relieves colonic spasm and bowel irritability. Chronic disease of the pancreas also responds well to peppermint, as do abnormal fermentation processes in the intestine, for example, when the bowel flora is abnormal. Menthol is bactericidal and antiparasitic. Dissolved in alcohol, it is effective against ringworm and other fungal infestations. It is also four times as powerful an antiseptic as phenol. The flavonoids contribute to the spasmolytic activity, and flavonoids and phenolic acids to the choleretic activity - it promotes liver and gallbladder function. 

Combinations: Mentha may be combined with Sambucus and Achillaea or Eupatorium perfoliatum in influenza.

Caution: Prolonged use of the essential oil as an inhalant should be avoided as Mentha can irritate the mucous membranes Do not give any form of mint directly to young babies. It can reduce milk flow, so should be taken with caution during lactation.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

Regulatory Status: GSL Schedule 1

Dried herb: 2-3g or by infusion

Tincture: 1:5 in 45% alcohol, 2-3ml

Concentrated Peppermint Water BP (1973), 0.25-1ml

Oil: 0.05-0.2ml

Additional Comments: There are at least thirty species of mint. Peppermint is a popular flavouring for confectionery and liqueurs, as well as for toothpastes, mouthwashes and medicines. Mentha arvensis is prescribed in Chinese medicine for colds, headaches, sore throats and conjunctivitis. Rats dislike the scent of peppermint. According to Pliny, the Greeks and Romans crowned themselves with peppermint leaves during feasts and used it as a culinary flavouring.

 

Bibliography

Bradley, P.R. (ed.) 1992 British Herbal Compendium, Volume 1, BHMA, Bournemouth.

BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Lust, J. 1990 The Herb Book, Bantam, London.

Mabey, R. (ed.) 1991 The Complete New Herbal, Penguin, London.

Mills, S.Y. 1993 The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine, Penguin, London (First published in 1991 as Out of the Earth, Arkana)

Mills, S.Y. 1993 The A-Z of Modern Herbalism, Diamond Books, London.

Ody, P. 1993 The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Polunin, M. and Robbins, C. 1992 The Natural Pharmacy, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Weiss, R.F. 1991 Herbal Medicine, Beaconsfield Arcanum, Beaconsfield.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.

 

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Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH

Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK

Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals