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Basics of the Peppermint Plant

Peppermint is the easiest herb to grow and has numerous healing benefits.  Peppermint has dated back to Biblical times and is also mentioned in the world’s oldest medical text, the Ebers papyrus. The ancient Greeks used many varieties of peppermint in healing remedies and religious means. The Greeks were convinced that by utilizing this herb you could reanimate the spirit, eliminate hiccups, cleanse the voice, or save someone from the sting of a sea serpent. Peppermint is cultivated throughout the world today.  It has been prized as an “after dinner mint” since ancient days as it aides in digestion and sweetens the breath. Peppermint also has uses in gargles, lotions, bath additives and teas. Through Pinch of Comfort’s experience, the soothing herb helps reduce inflammation, aching muscles, and nausea.  We have utilized this great plant in our Herbal Heating and Cooling Pads and Lumbar Pads.

 

Peppermint is valued for its volatile oil properties, which is extracted by steaming through distillation of the entire plant and will be colorless to a pale yellow color.  The properties include antiseptic, expectorant, fights infections and viruses, and fungicide.  The leaf has properties separately which are carminative, anti-spasmodic, clears wind, mild stimulant, and has a cooling effect on the skin.  Other healing qualities and attributes include relieving headaches, treating hiccups and indigestion, morning and motion sickness, stress, hot flashes, and is excellent for treating colds by adding the oil to a humidifier.  The plant is a safe therapy for pregnant woman from the fourth month forward. Nervous or over excitable people may find it over-stimulating. Do not use for babies or if you have a heart condition.  Avoid use while using homeopathic remedies.

Of the numerous varieties of this plant, there are six commonly used.

Peppermint – Mentha  piperita

This herb is the child of Water mint-Mentha aquatica and Spearmint-Mentha spicata and spreads by runners.  This creeping perennial is invasive so plant in an area where it is free to spread or in a container.  It prefers partial shade (will tolerate direct sun) and moist, rich soil.  Pinch of Comfort utilizes this variety in our Herbal Heating and Cooling Pads and Lumbar Pads.

Spearmint – Mentha spicata

Mid green leaves and purplish flowers bloom mid-summer to early fall and is used for sauces and to enhance the flavor of vegetables.  Grows 1-2 feet high.

Apple-mint  – Mentha rotundifolia

Growing taller than spearmint with a distinct flavor of apple.

Pennyroyal – Mentha pulegium

A great variety used for flavoring meats.  If you would like to cut back on mowing the lawn this variety works well as a 6-inch tall, creeping alternative to be planted in steep areas.

Gingermint – Mentha gentilis variegata

A spreading striped gold leaf born on red tinted stems with lilac flowers blooming in summer.  Will grow 1×3 feet.

Pineapple Mint – Mentha suaveolens variegata

Spreading with crinkled leaves and cream stripes with pink to white flowers blooming in summer.  Will grow 3×3 feet.

 

The best times to plant are from April to June; be sure to compost yearly with well-aged manure and water often in the beginning stages.  Peppermint leaves are susceptible to rust (dark pink spots prior to flowering).  If this occurs, cut to the ground.  If this reappears destroy and plant new plants in a different area. Do not compost the diseased plant.  To harvest, cut peppermint before the flowers open.

Peppermint has been used for centuries and is valued for its leaves and essential oil.  It gets its name from the Latin word “mentha” meaning “mind” or “spirit”.  Peppermint has numerous healing benefits, which will further be discussed in the next post.

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