Peppermint

Mentha piperita

Parts Used

Leaf (fresh or dried)


Herbal Actions

Aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, analgesic, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, nervine, antioxidant.

Energetics

Diffusive, drying

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Diffusive Mint

That minty tingling sensation is often identified as cooling, but if you really sit with a cup of peppermint tea you might notice a sensation that is somewhat spicy and you may feel a warm in your belly. If you read the herbal literature on peppermint you will find countless references to its carminative action. Carminatives warm the digestive tract and get the digestive secretions moving by increasing circulation to the surface of the gut wall. So, you might ask, "why do we so often think of mint as cooling?".

To answer this question the best thing to do is take a large handful of dried mint place it in a jar, top it off with boiling water, cover it with a lid, let it sit for a couple hours, strain it, and then sip and notice the sensations that you feel in your body. First thing you'll notice is that what I've just described is not just a cute little cup of tea, but a medicinal strength water extract called an infusion. The second thing you'll notice is that when you drink this your belly will feel really warm and settled. A few might find this herb gives them heartburn, but most will really enjoy this warm fuzzy feeling in their belly and after a few minutes you might find your tummy feels a little hungry or ready for food. That my friends is a carminative. 

Peppermint settles many digestive upsets, like bloating, gas, and indigestion through its warming diffusive action. Diffusive means that it brings circulation to the surface so at first you might feel a little flushed, but then it releases heat by opening the pours and letting the heat escape resulting in a sensation of being cool. Its sort of like a radiator in your car that circulates the heat and then drives it out of the system to keep from over heating. And that, my friends, is why we think of peppermint as cooling. The warming and diffusive nature of peppermint has an outward movement and it is relaxing, so that what we feel it the tension on the surface tissues like the skin and the digestive wall open and release heat from the core and an ultimate cooling effect after the heat dissipates. 

Let's go back to that cup of tea for a moment. As you  start to sip, at first your belly starts to feel warm, then the tension in your body starts to melt away and after about 5-10 minutes you will start to feel much cooler all over. This diffusive action is why peppermint is so amazing for the treatment of fever and cooling off from summer heat. Peppermint can be employed anytime there is tension at the surface, weather your guts are in a knot, your shoulders are wrapped around your ears, or you can't break a sweat. 

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Medicinal Use

Peppermint is very effective for treating a fever, without suppressing it. Its diffusive diaphoretic action (induces sweating) helping fevers to resolve without diminishing the important purpose of a fever, which is to fight off infection. Peppermint pairs well with yarrow, elder flowers or boneset to treat a fever from any condition.
 
Peppermint is specific for inflamed and spasmodic conditions of the digestive, respiratory and urinary tracts. Long known to help with indigestion, peppermint helps increase digestive juices while calming and soothing gut muscles, reducing nausea, colic, cramping and gas. It is also helpful for tension type headaches, especially when associated with digestive distress.
 
Peppermint can be used topically to alleviate irritated and inflamed skin conditions due to the numbing properties of menthol. It can provide relief from itching from rashes, eczema and psoriasis but this alone will not treat the underlying cause. Peppermint can also be made into a infused oil is for helping with the pain from bug bites, stings and poison ivy/oak. 
 
Peppermint is a wonderful and safe remedy for all ages, including small children.

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Preparation & Dosage

Tea/Infusion - The best way to take peppermint for a fever is as a tea. You can make a delicious tea with fresh or dried peppermint. Chop a few sprigs of fresh plant or crush 2 tablespoons of dried leaves and put in a 16 oz glass jar. Pour boiling water over, stir and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Steep for 10 minutes. Strain and drink warm for its diaphoretic effects. Cold mint tea is very refreshing on a hot day.
 
Tincture - A mint tincture is especially refreshing for bad breath and soothes the stomach after a heavy meal. Fresh or dried plant, take 10-30 drops added to a little water, 1-4 times per day.

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Honey infused - My favorite way to take mint for tummy aches in is honey! Pick fresh Peppermint that looks green and vibrant. Shake gently to oust any bugs. Let sit in the shade for 10-15 minutes to wilt. Chop coarsely with a sharp knife. Add plant material to a mason jar. Fill the jar 2/3 full. Pour good quality local honey over the chopped plant until covered. Stir the honey and plant to ensure all of the plant material is well coated. Push all plant bits down under the honey and cover well. Keep in a warm place to infuse for 4-6 weeks. Or if you need this remedy sooner, you can use a warm water bath to speed up the infusion process. Take the lid off the jar of peppermint honey and place the jar in a pot with water on the stove (like a double boiler). Heat on medium for about 6 hours. Water should be hot and steaming but not boiling, and you may need to replace water as it evaporates. You can also use a crock pot to do this. Place the open jar in water in the crock pot and put it on high until the water gets warm and then put on low. Let steep for 6-8 hours. Once the honey is done, strain well and keep in a tightly sealed jar in a cool, dark place. Peppermint honey is a delicious remedy for upset digestion. You can also mix it in hot water and drink for sinus congestion. Externally it can be used to treat burns and bug bites.

Contraindications

Use caution during pregnancy with using large amount of peppermint, especially the essential oil. In some people peppermint can make nausea symptoms worse. Peppermint can exacerbate symptoms from acute gallstones, hiatal hernias, and severe gastroesophageal reflux.

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References

  • Bergner, Paul. Folk Remedies Database. Boulder: Bergner Communications, 2001.

  • Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. New York: DK Publishing, 2016.

  • Grieve, M. (Maud). A Modern Herbal. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1931.

  • Skenderi, Gazmend. Herbal Vade Mecum. Rutherford: Herbacy Press, 2003.

  • Tilgner, Dr. Sharol Marie. Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth. Pleasant Hill: Wise Acres LLC, 2020.