The Birth Song Botanicals' Guide to Peppermint
We love peppermint and think you should too! Today we are going to share some of the many reasons why this simple and common herb is loved around the world. Peppermint’s medicinal uses are utilized beyond being simply a flavorful addition to essential oils, tinctures, teas, and meals. It has a long-standing history as a medicinal herb to soothe stomach aches, expel gas, cool fevers, freshen breath and clear congestion. Peppermint was popular in the past and just as much so today.
Let’s delve into the history of this beautiful plant and get caught up with the modern era to find how to effectively highlight peppermint and peppermint essential oil’s everyday medicinal use, and benefits.
Mint to Help
From ancient Greek physicians to ancient Roman scientists, to early Egyptian culture, peppermint has a history of cultivation and use in cooking and herbal medicine that spans back to as early as about 1500 BC. Peppermint is thought to have originated in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. In the Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text dating to 1550 BC, mint is listed as calming to stomach pains. Until the late 17th century, peppermint was not classified as its own subspecies (some believe it is a naturally occurring hybrid of spearmint and watermint), but most historians believe the mint mentioned in many historical texts is in fact peppermint.
Peppermint has a rich history of use in European countries, starting roughly around 1200. In this era, monks in the Middle Ages were known to polish their teeth with it, and cheesemakers learned that the strong smell of peppermint would keep rats and mice out of the storeroom. Eventually, it would become known to help alleviate issues such as sores, venereal diseases, colds, and headaches, and would see its introduction into the commercial world in the 1700s.
Upon arrival in North America, European settlers noted that indigenous populations were already well aware of the value of mint, though they mostly were cultivating other kinds. These settlers brought peppermint with them, and quickly it spread across the region.
The benefits of peppermint and peppermint oil are myriad in the modern-day. Oil of peppermint contains menthol, which acts as both an antiseptic and an anesthetic. Chewing fresh peppermint leaves is thought to relieve a toothache (and obviously freshen breath), and those suffering from indigestion, flatulence, and cold or flu symptoms can often find some relief by drinking peppermint tea. Peppermint is also known to help unclog sinuses, increase energy and combat fatigue, aid weight loss, improve sleep, relieve menstrual cramping, and a whole list of other uses.
While there are a plethora of peppermint plant benefits, it’s important to note that some side-effects may occur in certain individuals who interact with it. These may manifest in a number of different forms, most notably skin irritation from the strong volatile oils. It is usually safe to take peppermint in amounts normally found in food during pregnancy and breast-feeding. However, drinking copious amounts of peppermint tea while breast-feeding can dry up your milk and help promote weaning. Don’t worry too much though. If you notice a dip in your milk supply all you have to do is stop drinking peppermint and start drinking lactation promoting herbs like red raspberry leaf or fenugreek.