Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Daily Herb-o-Scope - A Peppermint Preview

The third installment of our garden fiasco, is peppermint! UMMM! Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is so delightful. Its cool and refreshing flavor makes it a valuable asset in many commercial products. But don't write off peppermint as only being valuable for freshening your breath. It has medicinal properties are noteworthy.



A main debate that herbalists have over peppermint is the temperature. Now we can all agree that it is sweet and pungent with a drying quality; however, is it cooling or warming? It elicits a very cooling effect, but it is also warming in its ability to make you sweat. So, I'll sit on the fence on this one and say that it's both. I fell that it warms first and then cools. So this summer, make yourself a glass of peppermint ice tea and decide for yourself if you think it's cooling or warming. Enough with the debate, lets learn about peppermint.


I feel that peppermints most valuable trait is the effect that it has on the digestive system. Its carminative and antisposmodic effects help to relax the muscles of the digestive tract helping to alleviate gas that's causing pain, indigestion, colic, IBS, gastritis, nausea and vomiting. One study found that its relief with indigestion may be due to its ability to relax the esophagel sphincter, releasing any air that might be trapped. When I get sick (throw up sick) I find nothing as helpful as a warm cup of peppermint tea. It helps to sooth my tummy in a way that no other herb can. It is also helpful and safe to use in cases of motion sickness and morning sickness during pregnancy.


Peppermint can also help with liver and gallbladder Qi stagnation. In western terms this means that peppermint can decongest these organs helping bile to flow and relieving a symptom picture of indigestion, borborygmus, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Overall, stagnation in the liver and the gallbladder causes a poor breakdown of food and toxins resulting in very poor digestion and a build up of toxins in the body. Liver Yang Rising is another condition that peppermint may help with. Causing dizziness, headaches, tremors, vertigo, a red face and anger, Liver Yang Rising is often the result of alcoholism and should be addressed if experienced.


I also find peppermint to be very beneficial as a steam bath or in a regular bath. A steam bath of peppermint can be very useful in cases of nasal congestion, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and laryngitis, and a regular bath with peppermint can help to cool and refresh the mind and relax and soothe sore muscles. Using peppermint tea as a mouthwash helps to freshen breath and kill certain bacteria and viruses.


The raw herb can also be used as a insect and pest repellent. When stuffed in to mattresses it can help discourage bed bugs and the whole plant can also keep mice and rats out of food storage areas. Burning peppermint can clear negative energy in a room or house.


Peppermint has no known side effects and no drug interactions reported, although it is contraindicated with gallstones, liver disease and esophagel reflux and concentrated forms should not be given to infants and children. Pregnant women should have no more than 1 cup of tea a day and it can dry up mothers milk so you may wish to avoid peppermint is you are lactating. Hoffman suggests 1-2 ml of tincture 3 times a day (1:5 in 40% alcohol) and Duke recommends 1 tablespoon of fresh mint or 1 teaspoon of dry mint covered with 1 cup of boiling water seeped for 10 minutes. If seeped any less, the maximum amount of essential oils will not be extracted for the plant material.


Peppermint is such a wonderful herb with wonderful health benefits. So even though in the garden, mint plants grow like weeds and tend to take over huge areas, now that you know medicinal uses of mint, you can find many different ways to use it all.


Sources:

Blumenthal, M (2003). The ABC clinical guide to herbs. Austin, TX: The American Botanical Council.

Duke, J. A. (2000). The green pharmacy herbal handbook: your comprehensive reference to the best herbs for healing. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Reach.

Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Holmes, P. (2007) The energetics of western herbs: a materia medica integrating Western and Chinese herbal therapeutics (Rev. &enl. 4th ed.). Cotati, CA: Snow Lotus Perss.

Levy, J. d. ( 1997). Common herbs for natural health (Rev, expanded ed.) Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Pub.

Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide for natural medicine. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications. 

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