Peppermint plants grow to about 2 – 3 feet tall. They bloom from July through August, sprouting tiny purple flowers in whorls and terminal spikes. Dark green, fragrant leaves grow opposite white flowers. Peppermint is native to Europe and Asia, is naturalized to North America, and grows wild in moist, temperate areas. Some varieties are indigenous to South Africa, South America, and Australia.
WHAT’S IT MADE OF?
The leaves and stems, which contain menthol (a volatile oil), are used medicinally, as a flavoring in food, and in cosmetics (for fragrance).
Peppermint tea is prepared from dried leaves of the plant and is widely available commercially.
Peppermint spirit (tincture) contains 10% peppermint oil and 1% peppermint leaf extract in an alcohol solution. A tincture can be prepared by adding 1 part peppermint oil to 9 parts pure grain alcohol.
Enteric coated capsules are specially coated to allow the capsule to pass through the stomach and into the intestine (0.2 mL of peppermint oil per capsule).
Creams or ointments (should contain 1 – 16% menthol)
HOW TO TAKE IT
Do not give peppermint to an infant or small child. Peppermint oil applied to the face of infants can cause life-threatening breathing problems. In addition, peppermint tea may cause a burning sensation in the mouth. For digestion and upset stomach in older children: 1 – 2 mL peppermint glycerite per day.
Tea: Steep 1 tsp. dried peppermint leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes; strain and cool. Drink 4 – 5 times per day between meals. Peppermint tea appears to be safe, even in large quantities.
Enteric coated capsules: 1 – 2 capsules (0.2 ml of peppermint oil) 2 – 3 times per day for IBS.
Tension headaches: Using a tincture of 10% peppermint oil to 90% ethanol, lightly coat the forehead and allow the tincture to evaporate.
Itching and skin irritations: Apply menthol, the active ingredient in peppermint, in a cream or ointment form no more than 3 – 4 times per day.
The use of herbs is a time honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.
Do not take peppermint or drink peppermint tea if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD — a condition where stomach acids back up into the esophagus) or hiatal hernia. Peppermint can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, allowing stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. (The sphincter is the muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach.) By relaxing the sphincter, peppermint may actually make the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion worse.
Peppermint, in amounts normally found in food, is likely to be safe during pregnancy, but not enough is known about the effects of larger supplemental amounts. Speak with your health care provider.
Never apply peppermint oil to the face of an infant or small child, as it may cause spasms that inhibit breathing.
Peppermint may make gallstones worse.
Large doses of peppermint oil can be toxic. Pure menthol is poisonous and should never be taken internally. It is important not to confuse oil and tincture preparations.
Menthol or peppermint oil applied to the skin can cause a rash.
Source: Peppermint | University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/health/medical-reference-guide/complementary-and-alternative-medicine-guide/herb/peppermint#ixzz3DhR7rXgk
University of Maryland Medical Center