Peppermint is a hybrid plant between Mentha (watermint) and piperita (spearmint) that is native to Europe and the Middle East. It is a fast-growing plant that has dark green leaves with reddish veins that are whorled around the stem. Because of its sweet and pungent aroma, it is used to flavor confectioneries and beverages, and as a fragrance for hygiene and skin care products.
Since the ancient times, peppermint has been used for its medicinal and nutritional benefits. The essential oils that are extracted from the peppermint leaves are used to soothe headaches, relieve respiratory problems, and treat wounds and sores, among many other illnesses.
History of Peppermint
Greek mythology attempts to tell the origin of peppermint through the love triangle between the god of the underworld Hades, his wife Persephone, and a nymph named Minthe. While Hades was riding his chariot across the Cocytus River, he came upon the lovely Minthe and was about to seduce her when Persephone caught them. Enraged, the goddess of the underworld turned Minthe into a plant that people would constantly trample on. Hades imparted to the plant an aroma that would disperse every time it was stepped upon so that the people would always remember the sweet and lovely sea nymph.
Peppermint was already cultivated by the ancient Egyptians in as early as 1000 B.C. The Greeks and Romans also grew this herb and used it to add flavor to their wines and sauces, and adorned their tables with sprays of peppermint leaves. It was introduced to Europe during the 18th century where it began being commercially used for its essential oils.
Over the course of years, people have discovered more and more ways to use peppermint oil in medicinal practices and in the commercial industry. Today, the United States produces 75% of the world’s peppermint oil that is used for candies, toothpaste, gum, liquor, cough syrup, shampoo, and soap.
Peppermint Nutrition Facts
For every 28 grams (1 ounce) of fresh peppermint leaves, you will get the following nutrients:
- 6 Calories (1% Daily Value)
- 14.8 From Carbohydrate
- 2.2 From Fat
- 2.6 From Protein
- 2 grams Total Carbohydrate (1% Daily Value)
- 2.2 grams Dietary Fiber (9% Daily Value)
- 3 grams Total Fat (0% Daily Value)
- Saturated Fat (0% Daily Value)
- 0.0 Monounsaturated Fat
- 0.1 Polyunsaturated Fat
- 122 milligrams Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- 19.3 milligrams Total Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- 0 grams Protein (2% Daily Value)
- 1189 IU Vitamin A (24% Daily Value)
- 9 milligrams Vitamin C (15% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Thiamin (2% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Riboflavin (4% Daily Value)
- 5 milligrams Niacin (2% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Vitamin B6 (2% Daily Value)
- 9 micrograms Folate (9% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Pantothenic Acid (1% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Calcium (7% Daily Value)
- 4 milligrams Iron (8% Daily Value)
- 4 milligrams Magnesium (6% Daily Value)
- 4 milligrams Phosphorous (2% Daily Value)
- 159 milligrams Potassium (5% Daily Value)
- 7 milligrams Sodium (0% Daily Value)
- 3 milligrams Zinc (2% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Copper (5% Daily Value)
- 3 milligrams Manganese (16% Daily Value)
- 6 milligrams Phytosterols
- 0 grams Water
- 5 grams Ash
Top 13 Health Benefits of Peppermint
Treats fungal infections
Fungi can grow in the nails and skin to cause an infection; once it becomes severe and enters the systemic circulation, the fungal infection can be fatal. Studies have shown that topically applying peppermint oil on the affected area will effectively kill the fungus and prevent it from recurring.
Clears nasal blockage
Having a cold can be extremely uncomfortable, especially if your nasal airway is congested. Inhaling the scent of peppermint oil will clear the blockage in your nose because the menthol acetate in it triggers the TRPM8, or the cold and menthol receptor.
Relaxes sore muscles
Massaging peppermint oil on the back, limbs, and temples can help in relaxing tensed muscles due to stress and minor injuries. The volatile compounds in the peppermint essential oils soothe pain while the calming scent induces sleep and relaxation.
Relieves gastrointestinal problems
For people with gastrointestinal problems such as colic and irritable bowel syndrome, taking peppermint will relieve the pain by relaxing the intestinal walls due to its antispasmodic properties.
The cooling effect and anti-inflammatory properties of peppermint oil can soothe headaches and relieve nausea when it is applied on the temples. People who are prone to motion sickness may also inhale it to induce calmness and relaxation.
Heals respiratory problems
Cold balms which are made from peppermint oil can effectively treat respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, and sinusitis. The menthol found in peppermint helps clear the respiratory tract since it also has expectorant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Treats urinary tract infections
Peppermint possesses excellent anti-bacterial properties that can treat urinary tract infections while its analgesic properties can relieve the pain during urination.
Controls the heart rate
Increases blood circulation
Peppermint has been proven to stimulate proper blood circulation and deliver oxygen throughout the body’s organs, thereby reducing the risk of neural and cardiac diseases caused by poor oxygenation.
Relieves allergies and itch
The cooling effect of peppermint relieves the redness, itchiness, and discomfort in the skin caused by allergic reactions. Simply apply a generous amount of peppermint oil or cold balm on the affected area. This can also be used to treat sunburns.
Freshens the breath
Peppermint is one of the main ingredients of mouthwashes and toothpaste for one good reason: it can effectively chase bad breath away and improve gum health. Gargle peppermint mouthwash for thirty seconds after brushing to maintain your oral health.
Shampoos that are infused with peppermint can visibly eliminate dandruff flakes, relieve itching, and remove grease from the hair. When mixed with other herbs, it can also kill lice.
Repels insects and bugs
Chamomile and peppermint go well together as natural insect and bug repellants. You can either use a peppermint lotion to repel mosquitos or make your own peppermint spray to keep bugs away from your home.
Potential Side Effects of Peppermint
- Peppermint oil is safe when consumed in amounts that are normally used in food, and is also safe when taken orally or applied topically as a medicine.
- Peppermint leaf is safe when used as a medicine for a short period of time.
- Peppermint can cause heartburn, mouth sores, headaches, and flushing.
- Peppermint oil, when taken orally in the form of pills as a medication, is safe for children who are 8 years and older.
- For pregnant and breastfeeding women, consuming peppermint in amounts that are normally used in food is safe. Taking it orally as a medicine is not advised.
- For people with achlorhydria, taking peppermint pills with an enteric coating is not advised, since the coating might dissolve too early in the digestive process.
- For people with diarrhea, taking peppermint pills with enteric coating could cause anal burning.
Peppermint Fun Facts
- National Peppermint Latte Day is celebrated on December 3rd.
- The Ancient Greeks believed that peppermint can heal hiccups.
- During the earliest times in Egypt, peppermint was used as a form of currency.
- The Ancient Greeks also believed that peppermint increased the libido and forbade its consumption by soldiers in order to maintain control.
- Pliny the Elder wrote about peppermint saying that it“should be bound into a crown around the head in order to stimulate the mind and the soul”.