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Peppermint

Latin Names: Mentha piperita (Peppermint); Mentha arvensis (Wild Mint / Chinese Mint); Mentha spicata (Spearmint); Mentha pulegium (Horsemint / Pennyroyal); Mentha spp.

Other Names: Arabic – Na-Na (Mint), Fudhanj (Wild Mint); Persian – Nana (Mint), Punah (Wild Mint); Greek – Dyosmos (Mint); Sanskrit / Hindi / Urdu – Pudina (Mint); Chinese – Bo He (Wild Mint); Spanish – Yerba Buena (Spearmint), Mentha (Peppermint).

Taxonomy: Vegetable Kingdom, Labiatae family.

Part Used: The leaf, herb and aerial parts; the essential oil; the crystalline extract

Basic Qualities: Hot 2, Dry 2 (Wild Mint); Initially warming and stimulating, then cooling and sedating; drying (Peppermint); some residual moisture in both varieties

Other Qualities: Slightly constricting and astringing to the channels of the body (Wild Mint); dilutant and attenuating to the humors; light, floating and dispersing

Taste: Pungent and aromatic. Slightly astringent and bitter (Wild Mint)

Humoral Dynamics: Sanguine:  cleanses the blood of heat and choler, as well as purulent abscess toxins.  Phlegmatic:  clears and dissolves superfluous phlegm from the throat and head.  Choleric: soothes heat and inflammation, especially in the throat, biliary passages and GI tract; promotes sweating and breaks fevers.  Melancholic:  stimulates appetite and digestion, relieves colic and nausea.

Tropism: Peppermint / Wild Mint has an affinity for the head, nose and throat; the stomach, biliary passages and digestive tract; the skin and pores.

Constituents and Pharmacology: The main therapeutic effects of Mint derive from its essential oil content, of which the chief constituents are menthol and menthone. The leaves also contain tannins, flavonoids, a bitter principle and choline.

Medicinal Properties: Diaphoretic, stomachic, carminative, antiemetic, alterative, febrifuge, refrigerant, aromatic, antiseptic, analgesic, condiment.

Cautions and Contraindications: Nervousness, prostration or excessive sweating; in small doses only for epileptics.

Medicinal Uses: To settle the stomach and stop nausea and vomiting. To stimulate appetite and digestion. To soothe a sore throat, and clear the head, nose and sinuses of superfluous phlegm. To provoke sweating as a diaphoretic, and as a febrifuge to break and resolve fevers, and to treat colds and flu. To soothe irritation and inflammation in the gall bladder and biliary passages. To cleanse the blood of heat and purulent toxins and resolve abscesses, especially in conjunction with other alterative herbs. To cleanse the pores and beautify the skin via mild diaphoresis, and to promote or resolve the eruption of skin rashes and itching. As a soothing antiseptic in dentistry and oral hygiene. As a condiment to improve the flavor of bitter or unpleasant tasting herbs and medicines.

Other Uses: Peppermint is used as a cooking herb and in culinary condiments. Peppermint and its extracts are also used in candymaking and confectionery. It can also be used in aromatics, incense and perfumery.

Preparation and Dosage: In teas as a standard infusion, one teaspoon per cup of water for beverage purposes, one tablespoon for medicinal use. The powdered herb can be taken in doses of one to two capsules, two to three times daily, or as part of a powdered formula. The essential oil is taken in three to five drops per dose, in a cup of warm water, or can be used topically in more liberal doses. The crystalline extract, or menthol, is used in smaller doses still, in dentistry and oral hygiene products.

Herbal Formulation: Peppermint and Wild Mint are often used in diaphoretic teas to treat colds and flu, in combination with other diaphoretic herbs. As a warm tea, it combines well with other digestive herbs of a similar aromatic character, like Ginger, Cardamom or Fennel. It combines well with other blood cleansing herbs to cleanse the blood of excess heat and choler, and purulent abscess toxins. Peppermint combines well with other bitter tonics that improve or stimulate digestion, both to ease their bitterness as well as to enhance their action via the combination of bitter and aromatic tastes and energetics. Used in small doses in herbal formulas, the diaphoretic action of Mint will open the pores and guide the medicinal effects of the other ingredients towards the skin; its soothing aromatic properties can also guide the effects of an herbal formula towards the throat, head and sinuses.

Classic Combinations: With Elder Flowers as a diaphoretic to treat colds and flu. With Ginger, Fennel and Cardamom to stimulate the appetite and digestion. With Wormwood and Fennel to improve the appetite and digestion, and to soothe a tired or inflamed gall bladder, and to treat biliary colic; Wild Yam can also be added. With Valerian, and also with Galangal, to treat a nervous stomach and digestion with bloating and gas. With Bay Laurel leaves to stimulate the stomach, liver and digestion, and to relieve burping and belching. With Yarrow, Celandine, Blessed Thistle, and/or Centaury to treat a sluggish, depressed stomach, liver and digestion. With Eucalyptus, Hyssop and Horehound as an aromatic expectorant, and also to open up the lungs and improve respiratory function.

Description:

Peppermint or Mint, in one variety or another, can be found in virtually every corner of the globe, and although there can be significant differences in their medicinal effects and uses, in general, their medicinal usage and effects tend to be pretty similar.  In Europe and in America, Peppermint is the reigning King of Mints, but in the Middle East, India and the Orient, it is Wild Mint, or Mentha arvensis, that is the main form or variety of Mint used.  Mint tea, made from this Wild Mint, is probably the most popular regional beverage throughout the Middle East, and Peppermint, either by itself or in tasty beverage tea formulations, is perennially popular in the West.  In Chinese herbal medicine, this same Wild Mint, called Bo He, plays an important role, being classified principally as a cooling, sedating and detoxifying diaphoretic in feverish colds and flu, sore throat, and to release hidden skin rashes or itching.  This Wild Mint, which is also Avicenna’s main Mint in the Canon of Medicine, is basically more heating and stimulating than Peppermint, and also has some bitterness and astringency that the latter lacks; otherwise, their medicinal effects and uses are pretty similar.   
The particular medicinal effects of Mint, either Wild Mint or Peppermint, depends to a very large measure on how it is prepared and administered.  The tea or infusion, taken very hot, will provoke sweating as a diaphoretic in the treatment of colds and flu.  That same tea, taken warm, will target the stomach and digestive organs in cases of nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, stomachache or digestive upset.  And the cold or room temperature infusion will, interestingly enough, have diuretic properties and provoke urination.  Powdered Peppermint or Wild Mint, either on its own or in herbal formulas, will be even more specific to the digestive organs, and will stimulate the stomach and digestion as well as soothe inflammation and colic in the liver, gall bladder and biliary passages.  Powdered Mint will, from the digestive tract, go on to target the blood as a blood cleanser or depurative.  And the extracts of Mint, which are the essential oil and menthol, are of great use topically, either in herbal embrocations and vapor rubs as a mild analgesic, or as a soothing antiseptic in dentistry and oral hygiene products.  In poultices and plasters, Mint will also help ripen or promote the resolution of pustules and abscesses. 
Taken internally, either in powder form or as a warm tea, Mint acts as a blood cleanser or alterative, either by itself or in combination with other herbs in a formula.  As a blood cleanser, Mint works as a general detoxifier in colds and flu, especially of the hot or feverish variety; or, to resolve skin eruptions and rashes or itchiness, either from excessive heat and choler in the blood, or in purulent conditions such as acne, pustules and abscesses, either alone or in a formula with other blood cleansing herbs.  Mint has a particular affinity for the skin and pores, and in alterative and diaphoretic formulas, will draw or direct the effects of other herbal ingredients towards the skin.  Warm Mint tea can be drunk daily as a beverage to beautify the skin and complexion by keeping the skin and pores clean and open. 
As a digestive herb, the strong aromatic properties of Mint will greatly facilitate the flow of the Natural Force, or vital energy of digestion and assimilation, through the digestive organs, principally the liver, stomach, gall bladder and biliary passages.  This is very useful in treating or managing many different symptoms of digestive upset, which can result from a lack of patency or proper flow of the digestive energy, such as poor appetite, indigestion, nausea or vomiting.  In its beneficial effects on the liver, gall bladder and biliary passages, Mint combines very well with bitter tonic herbs, which stimulate the liver and bile flow; also, Mint counteracts the giddiness and nausea that excessive use of these bitter herbs can have.  As a stomachic herb to stimulate digestion, Mint combines very well with Ginger, Cardamom, Fennel and Bay Laurel, which are similarly stimulating and aromatic.  Similarly, the dispersing, opening and aromatic properties of Mint are very useful in combination with aromatic respiratory herbs like Eucalyptus for opening up the lungs and respiratory tract, and improving respiratory function.

The essential oil of Mint, or its crystalline extract, menthol, are a popular ingredient in various kinds of aromatic vapor rubs to rub on the chest in lung and respiratory congestion, or to use in balms and embrocations, with its mild analgesic effect which is both stimulating and relaxing or dispersing.  Wherever there is blockage, there will be pain; remove the blockage, and you remove the pain.  This is a famous healing maxim in Chinese Medicine, and the aromatic properties of Mint extracts to remove blockages and disperse pain is a good example of this principle in action.  Healing analgesic balms like Tiger Balm use menthol in combination with other aromatic openers and analgesics like Eucalyptus, Cajeput, and Wintergreen oil.  Or, it can be used in embrocations like White Flower Oil or “Po Sum On”, which is a play on words.  Since Peppermint oil and menthol are also powerfully antiseptic, they have many uses in dentistry and oral hygiene products.  The soothing analgesic action of Mint, and its ability to thin and resolve phlegm, also makes it useful in throat lozenges for speakers or singers.

Related Species: As I said earlier, virtually every corner of the globe has its own variety of Mint, and when you add Mint-like herbs into the picture as well, it is a truly large family.  Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is one of Peppermint’s closest relatives; it is more warming and stimulating in nature than the latter, and more specific to treating digestive problems.  It also lacks the bitterness and astringency of Wild Mint, and is very gentle and mild in nature.  In Latin America, it is called Yerba Buena, or “the good herb”.  Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) is sharper, hotter and more stimulating than either Peppermint or Wild Mint, and also more specific to the head, nose and sinuses.  Catmint (Nepeta cataria), also called Catnip for its power to enchant cats, is even more gentle and relaxing on the digestive organs than Spearmint, and is used to treat colic, indigestion and spasm in the GI tract.  Calamint (Calaminthus officinalis), also called Mountain Mint, is probably the most stimulating member of the Mint family.  It is a key ingredient in Galen’s famous stimulant electuary, Diacalaminth.  It is used to treat respiratory, digestive, bilious and rheumatic afflictions, and has a very opening quality that removes obstructions.

Sources:

The Canon of Medicine, Volume 2, by Avicenna, pp. 738 – 745. Translated and compiled by Laleh Bakhtiar.  @2012 by Laleh Bakhtiar, Published by Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., distributed by Kazi Publications, Inc., Chicago, IL USA. 

Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice by Sebastian Pole, pp. 226 – 227.  Copyright 2006 by Elsevier Ltd. 

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DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this page is intended for educational purposes only, to inform the reader as to the traditional uses of the herb or medicinal substance, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or medical condition.  The author advises the reader to consult with his or her physician before use.