There are several different varieties of mint: peppermint and spearmint are the two that are used in aromatherapy. Peppermint is a perennial herb, a cultivated hybrid grown all over the world. It is easy to grow and spreads rapidly from underground runners. Some gardeners find this aspect of an otherwise useful herb rather irritating. The peppermint plant is bushy, growing to approximately 3 feet (0.9 meters) in height, has soft, fragrant green leaves and small, white flowers. Peppermint belongs to the plant family Lamiaceae (Labiatae). Peppermint is grown commercially for production of its essential oils in several countries, including England, France, Italy and Russia. Peppermint is one of the oils for which an organic option is easily available. (peppermint oil)
Peppermint has a long history of use in herbal medicine. There is evidence that the herb was used by the ancient Egyptians, and in various countries it has been used as a treatment for various complaints, including indigestion, colic and flatulence, nausea (in particular during pregnancy), headaches and sore throats. The herb is often drunk in an infusion, as peppermint tea.
Essential oil of peppermint is produced by the process of steam distillation. The herb is harvested while in flower and the leaves, stems and flowers are used in the process. Peppermint oil is pale greenish-yellow and has a strong, fresh minty smell. Essential oil of peppermint is widely used as a flavoring ingredient in the food and drinks industries and by the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries as a flavoring and/or fragrance in toothpastes, soaps, mouthwashes, bath products, perfumes and colognes.
Peppermint oil has various therapeutic uses and can be used to treat disorders of the respiratory system and the digestive tract as well as musculo-skeletal pain, in addition to being a valuable oil to use in skin care.
The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of the oil can benefit muscular pain and neuralgia, particularly when used in massage. Peppermint oil will also help to stimulate the circulation.
The anti-inflammatory properties of peppermint oil can also help to ease the irritation of pruritis when used in bathing. Peppermint oil is astringent and will be of particular benefit to oily skins. It is, however, irritating to some sensitive skins and should be used in dilution of no more than 1 per cent in a massage blend. Three drops are quite sufficient for bathing.
As a digestive aid, essential oil of peppermint works effectively in massage to stimulate a sluggish digestion, to relieve dyspepsia and nausea and also to ease stomach cramps and colic.
Used in steam inhalation, peppermint oil has a marked anticatarrhal and expectorant action and can do much to relieve colds and bronchitis. In a mouthwash, it can deodorize bad breath.
Peppermint oil refreshes the mind as well as the body and will help to lift the spirits, give courage and focus and clear muddled thoughts.
Suitable methods of use
- Skin care
Nontoxic and generally nonirritant if used in appropriate dilution. A small chance of sensitization in some individuals. Warning: Avoid during pregnancy. Do not swallow mouthwash.