Peppermint – Not Just Candy

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In the world of candy, peppermint conjures up no end of treats.  Ever wonder why we have after dinner mints?  Is it just to freshen the breath or could there be something more going on here?

Greek Myths state that Hades seduced Minthe the nymph and his wife was so angry she turned her into the peppermint plant. Hades then gave her the peppermint scent so when she was stepped on people would remember how lively she was. 

Peppermint was planted between stepping stones in courtyards to create a welcoming scent and used medicinally by ancient cultures.  Peppermint or Mentha piperita can be traced back to ancient Egypt where it was used as a digestive aid.  Peppermint leaves have even been discovered in the pyramids.

Peppermint is still used as a digestive aid.  It reduces gas and bloating and prevents stomach cramps.   Studies have shown that peppermint oil  is effective in

  • IBS
  • Spastic Colon
  • Infantile Colic
  • Chemotherapy Nausea has a list of 15 uses for peppermint.

Peppermint has also been used for centuries as a pick me up for those experiencing depression.  It does have mild sedative properties which make it calming and relaxing.  Some other uses for peppermint are

  • Headache
  • Sinnusitis
  • Colds
  • Bad Breath
  • Insect Repellent

Rubbing peppermint oil mixed with carrier oil over the sinus area, forehead and temples can ease headache pain.  Eating peppermint candies or chewing peppermint leaves can eliminate bad breath.  The combination of breath freshener and digestive aid is why after dinner mints came into being.

My favorite peppermint remedy is one that I learned at the very beginning of my days in Herbal College.  Mixing an equal amount of peppermint leaves with elderflowers can help prevent the onset of a cold.

1Tbsp peppermint leaves

1 Tbsp Elderflowers

Add 1 cup boiling water and steep covered for 3-5 minutes.  Add honey if desired and drink several times a day when you are feeling the stirrings of a cold. 

When the major cold symptoms are over but you have that annoying dry cough you want to get rid of use the same combination as above but also add 1Tbsp of Mullein.  Drink 3 or 4 cups of this mixture per day for 3 days.  In between drink plenty of hot water.  The cough will clear up quickly!

Most people do not want to rub chemical poisons into their skin to repel annoying bugs.  Mix peppermint oil with a carrier oil such as olive oil and rub it into your skin.  The menthol in peppermint is not a favorite of insects and you will find you are plagued much less. 

Ants a problem?   Just mix a large amount of peppermint oil with water and spray the area.  The ants will move elsewhere and you will be left with a pleasant smell.

Peppermint has been a useful and popular remedy for centuries.  One of the reasons for this is simply that peppermint tastes good.  It is always nice when something tasty is also good for you!