Peppermint

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Peppermint
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Mentha
Binomial name
Mentha × piperita
L.


Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) is a (usually) sterile hybrid mint, a cross between watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). It is occasionally found wild with its parent species in central and southern Europe, but the first intentional crossbreed of watermint and spearmint was done in England. Being sterile, it spreads by rooting.

The stems are from 30-70 cm tall, rarely up to 100 cm, smooth, and square in cross section. The leaves are from 4-9 cm long and 1.5-4 cm broad, dark green with reddish veins, and with an acute apex and coarsely toothed margins. The flowers are purple, 6-8 mm long, with a four-lobed corolla about 5 mm diameter; they are produced in whorls around the stem, forming thick, blunt spikes. The roots are fibrous. Flowering is from July to September.

Peppermint is generally regarded as 'the world's oldest medicine', with archeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago.

Uses

Peppermint has a high menthol content, and is often used as a flavoring in tea, ice cream, confectionery, chewing gum, and toothpaste. The oil also contains menthone and menthyl esters. It is the oldest and most popular flavor of mint-flavored confectionery. Peppermint can also be found in some shampoos and soaps, which give the hair a minty scent and produce a cooling sensation on the skin.

Peppermint, like many spices and herbs, is believed to have medicinal properties when consumed. It is said that it helps against upset stomachs, inhibits the growth of certain bacteria, and can help soothe and relax muscles when inhaled or applied to the skin. Other health benefits are attributed to the high manganese, vitamin C and vitamin A content, as well as trace amounts of various other nutrients such as fiber, iron, calcium, folate, potassium, tryptophan, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, riboflavin, and copper.

In 2007, Italian investigators reported that 75% of the patients in their study who took peppermint oil capsules for four weeks had a major reduction in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, compared with just 38% of those who took a placebo pill.[1]

Similarly, some poorly-designed earlier trials found that peppermint oil has the ability to reduce colicky abdominal pain due to IBS with an NNT (number needed to treat) around 3.1[2], but the oil is an irritant to the stomach in the quantity required and therefore needs wrapping for delayed release in the intestine. Peppermint relaxes the gastro-oesophageal sphincter, thus promoting belching.

Peppermint Oil is also an all-natural way to deter ants from being inside and outside the home, though it will need to be reapplied every few days (in sparse amounts) until the ants are fully discouraged. This natural substance seems to work on most species of ant.

Peppermint flowers are large nectar producers and honey bees as well as other nectar harvesting organisms forage them heavily. A mild, pleasant varietal honey can be produced if there is a sufficient area of plants.

Areas of North America where peppermint was formerly grown for oil often have an abundance of feral plants, and it is considered somewhat invasive[citation needed].

In the United States, Washington ranks number one in production of Peppermint Oil.[3]

Cultivation

Peppermint generally thrives in shade and expands quickly by underground rhizomes. If you choose to grow peppermint, it is advisable to plant it in a container, otherwise it can rapidly take over a whole garden. It needs a good water supply, and is ideal for planting in part-sun to shade areas.

The leaves and flowering tops are the usable portion of the plant. They are collected as soon as the flowers begin to open and then are carefully dried. The wild form of the plant is less suitable for this purpose, with cultivated plants having been selected for more and better oil content. Seeds sold at stores labeled peppermint generally will not germinate into true peppermint, but into a particularly poor-scented spearmint plant. The true peppermint might rarely produce seeds, but only by fertilization from a spearmint plant, and contribute only their own spearmint genes, as is true of female mules that have babies, contributing only their maternal horse genes.

Varieties & Cultivars

  • Mentha × piperita citrata – Eau De Cologne Mint
  • Mentha × piperita officinalis - White Peppermint
  • Mentha × piperita vulgaris - Black Peppermint
  • Mentha × piperita cultivar Chocolate mint - Grows just like peppermint with dark purple runners with purple lined dark green leaves.[citation needed]

References

See also

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  1. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dld.2007.02.006
  2. http://www.jr2.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/alternat/AT022.html
  3. http://www.ofm.wa.gov/databook/resources/nt14.asp Washington's Rank in the Nation's Agriculture

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