Know Your Nutrients: Peppermint

Know Your Nutrients: Peppermint                                                                                                   by Amanda Hawkinson

What is Peppermint:
Peppermint, a hybrid between watermint and spearmint, is one of the most ancient of all herbal remedies. Dating back to the days of the pharaohs, mint has been used to treat a variety of ailments and conditions. The following are a few examples:
• Peppermint as a digestive aid. Peppermint has long been used in tea and as a remedy for conditions of the gastrointestinal tract. Taken after meals, it offers relief from indigestion, heartburn, flatulence (gas) and colic. As a carminative with anti-spasmodic qualities, peppermint helps relieve irritable bowel syndrome by easing intestinal cramps and abdominal distension. It can also be used to treat nausea, morning sickness and travel sickness.
• Peppermint as a pain-killer. Peppermint oil’s pain-relieving properties are another of the
herb’s most significant therapeutic properties. It also is used to relieve pain in aching and
inflamed joints, migraines and headaches, as well as neuralgia.
• Peppermint as a decongestant. Menthol, the primary active ingredient in peppermint
is a proven decongestant. Usually, diluted peppermint oil has been used as an inhalant, as
well as a chest rub to treat colds, flu, fevers and even bronchitis. Currently, menthol vapor is approved by the FDA as a remedy for colds and flu, predominantly because of its expectorant and decongestant properties.
• Peppermint as an anti-spasmodic or muscle relaxant. It is a common ingredient in many
muscle rubs, “ices” and skin creams that are used to treat pain, inflammation and burning.
Used topically, peppermint has a cooling and relaxing effect on the skin. Easily absorbed into the skin, peppermint oil offers temporary pain-relief for muscular pain, cramping and spasms. Interestingly, it also soothes the smooth muscles of the uterus and digestive tract, providing relief for menstrual cramps, as well as stomach and intestinal cramping.
• Peppermint as an antibacterial. Along with being an antibacterial, peppermint can also
be used for viral infections such as cold sores and genital herpes. Applied topically to the
affected area it is used to prevent and fight infection in wounds and burns, to repel insects
and treat ringworm.

How to Prepare an Herbal Peppermint Remedy:
• Make an infusion. Bring a cup of water to a boil. Pour over one heaping teaspoon of dried
peppermint. Cover and let it steep for 10–15 minutes. Strain and drink up. Drink three to four cups a day.
• Make a tincture. Stir 10 to 20 drops of peppermint tincture in one glass of water. Take three times a day.
• Make an essential oil. Stir 1 teaspoon of peppermint oil in one cup of carrier oil (pure
vegetable oil). Massage the diluted mixture into the affected area. Use half as much essential oil for children (1/2 a teaspoon).
• Make an herbal compress. Soak a clean washcloth in a peppermint infusion. Fold the cloth to about the size of the affected area and apply it as a compress. Leave it on for 15–20 minutes. Repeat as necessary.
• Capsules. Take 1– 2 enteric-coated capsules (0.2 ml each) three times per day between meals.

• How to keep the affected area cool: When using a cold compress, wrap an icepack in a towel and place atop it to keep the affected area chilled. A hot water bottle can be used in the same way to maintain the heat of a hot compress. When to use a cool/warm compress: Use a cool compress for itching or burning and a warm compress for aching muscles and skin infections.                                                                                                                                               • When to use capsules: Enteric-coated capsules are of particular benefit for irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal colic because the peppermint is released in the intestines rather than in the stomach.                                                                                                                           • Dilute your peppermint oil: When applying peppermint oil to your skin, remember to dilute it with an oil base beforehand (also called a carrier oil), as it will irritate.                        • Consult your doctor: Only use herbal remedies after consultation with your doctor or other licensed health practitioner.