What is peppermint?
Peppermint is a herb which is widely used as an ingredient in chewing gum, candies, tea, toothpaste, and ointments. It gives out a menthol odor, a cooling sensation and a refreshing flavor.
Peppermint is a hybrid mint, it is a cross between the watermint and the spearmint. It is a plant that is indigenous to Europe and the Middle East but is now cultivated in many other parts of the world. Peppermint has dark green broad leaves with reddish veins, sharp apex, and coarsely toothed margins. It reproduces vegetatively through rhizomes and typically occurs in moist habitats. It is a fast-growing plant which sprouts and spreads very quickly.
Chemical composition of peppermint
Peppermint contains high amounts of methanol. Peppermint oil also contains menthone and menthyl esters, in particular menthyl acetate. The oil additionally contains small amounts of other compounds. These include limonene, pulegone, pinene, and caryophyllene.
Uses of peppermint in cooking and other areas
Peppermint has been in use for centuries. According to a historical record by Pliny the elder, 79 AD, the Romans and Greeks crowned themselves with peppermint at feasts and adorned their tables with its sprays. Their cooks also used peppermint in wines and sauces.
Peppermint is nowadays used in confectionery, it is used to flavor sweets, chewing gum, cakes, pastries, and other food items. Peppermint is in fact the oldest and most popular flavor of mint-flavored confectionery. Peppermint is also used in tea and ice cream. Non-food uses of peppermint include use in making skin care products, soap making, and use in hair shampoos.
Benefits of peppermint
Consumption of peppermint offers a number of health benefits. Here are the reasons why you should be adding peppermint to your tea or consuming it in other foods:
Peppermint helps with irritable bowel syndrome
If you are constantly having trouble with your stomach then peppermint can be of help to you. Peppermint contains menthol and menthyl salicylate, these two compounds have antispasmodic actions which help to calm the muscles of the stomach and the intestinal tract.
Peppermint relieves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome like diarrhea, pain, bloating and gas. Researchers at McMaster University in Canada found out that peppermint was the best remedy for irritable bowel syndrome when they compared the effects of antispasmodics, peppermint and fiber on irritable bowel syndrome.
Peppermint is a remedy for skin conditions
Peppermint helps to reduce skin irritation, itchiness and redness. Peppermint contains Vitamin A and Vitamin C which act as antioxidants and prevent inflammation.
Peppermint also contributes to the skin’s overall health by loosening dead cells and preventing clogging of pores which can result into acne. It also reduces the oiliness of acne-prone skin and brightens skin. The menthol in peppermint also provides a cooling effect on the skin when peppermint oil is applied on the skin.
Peppermint treats colds and flu
If you have been keen, you probably have not noticed that most sweets and lozenges which are used to relieve symptoms of colds and flu contain menthol. Menthol acts as a decongestant, it unblocks clogged nose thereby easing the symptoms of colds and flu. Menthol is also an expectorant, it removes phlegm from the lungs. Menthol is the major component of peppermint and peppermint is thus effective in easing the symptoms of colds and clu.
Peppermint relieves headaches and migraines
Most migraines and headaches are usually caused by poor blood flow. Peppermint helps to open and close blood vessels thereby allowing smooth flow of blood and reducing headaches.
Nausea and vomiting
Peppermint relieves nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. It also relieves chemotherapy-induced vomiting.