Monday, November 5, 2012



Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is likely native to the Middle East.
There are several varieties of peppermint, from which peppermint oil
is derived for flavoring and medicine. The two main forms are black
mint, which has purplish leaves; and white mint, which has very green
leaves and milder oil. The plant grows up to four feet high, with
little violet flowers on top. It is cut just before flowering, in
late summer, and is used dried or for essential oil (recipe below).

Peppermint was cultivated in ancient Egypt and Greece. The ancient
Greeks used mint widely in medicine. The herb began to be cultivated
in northern Europe in the 1700s. Now peppermint grows wild throughout
Europe and the United States in moist places.


Peppermint is a digestive, decreasing the amount of time that food is
in the stomach and preventing bloating after a heavy meal. The oil
and the dried tea are used for abdominal cramping, gas, non-ulcer
indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. Menthol, an active
constituent, anesthetizes the stomach nerves, which prevents nausea
and vomiting. Old-time sailors took peppermint oil to avert
seasickness. It is also used for menstrual cramps.

When used topically, peppermint oil stimulates the skin by improving
blood flow to that area. It relieves pain, and the menthol cools the
skin. Fresh leaves can be crushed and placed on the temples to
relieve tension headaches. The oil is used for arthritis.
Peppermint's antiseptic properties make its oil ideal for
toothache and gingivitis.

Peppermint tea is powerful against a cold or mild flu. The menthol
stimulates the body's natural detoxification system. It raises
body temperature and stimulates perspiration, to release toxins
through the skin. It also boosts bile flow to cleanse the liver.
Releasing toxins takes a load off the immune system so that the body
is better able to combat illness. Peppermint is a mild anti-
bacterial. The oil is used as an inhalant for decongestion and to
soothe a cough or allergies.


Make a Tincture: Add ½ cup peppermint leaves to 1-cup high-proof
vodka in an airtight glass jar. Shake daily for two weeks, then
strain. Store in the refrigerator. For digestive problems, take 5 to
15 drops in hot water.

Make an Infusion (peppermint tea): pour 1 cup boiling water over a
heaping teaspoon of dried leaves, and steep 5 to 15 minutes. Drink 3
cups daily after meals.

Try Oil (recipe below): To take internally, add no more than 3 drops
oil to a sugar cube. For inhalation, add 5 drops oil to 1-cup hot
water. For topical use, dilute a drop of oil with a few drops of
vegetable oil and rub into skin.

Do not use peppermint if you have liver damage, gallbladder problems,
ulcers or chronic heartburn. Do not use pure menthol except under a
doctor's supervision.


If you have access to lots of fresh peppermint, you can make
essential oil. The leaves contain up to 4% oil, which can be removed
by solvent extraction. Pick 2 cups of fresh peppermint leaves. Gently
rinse them to remove any pesticides or spores. Pat them dry with a
paper towel and allow to air-dry overnight on a rack (this prevents
mold growth). Loosely fill a glass jar with leaves, then fill it with
vodka. Close the jar tightly and keep it in a cool, dark place. Shake
gently every day for two weeks, then strain into a clean jar. Use
cheesecloth to squeeze extra liquid from the leaves. Discard the
leaves, and put the jar of liquid in your freezer for three hours.
The essential oil will freeze, the alcohol will not. Carefully pour
the alcohol into a clean jar for the next batch. Store the oil in
glass in a cool, dark place. Do not use it undiluted. Use the
oil as medicine, as flavoring, or in soaps, perfumes, massage oils,
and bath salts.

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