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Peppermint - mentha x piperita

“...if a man can name the full list of all the kinds and all the properties of mint, he must know how many fish swim in the Indian Ocean... ” - Monk Wilafrid Strabo - c.875 AD

There are many different varieties of the mint species - the peppermint is believed to be a cross between spearmint (minta spicata) and water mint (minta aquatica) and has a high menthol content. Growing up to 1 metre high, this perennial herb has underground runners by which it easily propagated.

Mints have been cultivated for thousands of years, and there is evidence of a type of peppermint found in tombs dating from 1000BC. Widely used throughout western and eastern medicine for a variety of complaints, and can be used to ease flatulence, indigestion, clear nasal catarrh, encourage sweating, and relieve spasmodic pain.

Peppermint is also useful for treating headaches, nausea and travel sickness, nerves, and morning sickness, fatigue and nervous stress : try a cup of peppermint tea (using the herb, dried or fresh) to treat any of the previous problems, or suck a peppermint flavoured sweet to ease travel sickness.

A wonderful cure for headaches - especially the hot, throbbing kind - is to add a few drops of peppermint oil to a bowl of ice cold water. Soak a cloth in the water and ring it out, then apply as a compress to the forehead, relax until the cloth just begins to warm up, then resoak and apply to the nape of the neck. Alternate a few times until your headache shifts. The water can be kept cooler for longer if you add some ice-cubes to the bowl. Highly recommended!

Effective at eliminating odours, including bad breath, peppermint is also excellent against mosquitos and fleas. I add a tissue, or cotton wool pad, soaked in peppermint oil to my hoover to prevent flea infestations and to make the room smell nice - and the cats love the smell of peppermint too! Add a few drops of the oil to a mild shampoo, or make up a rinse of peppermint water to treat infestation of fleas on your cats or dogs. Other oils which are good for treating fleas are lavender and tea tree.

The oil can be used in a wonderfully soothing foot treatment, which will relax tired, aching feet and relieve sweaty odours. Add to a carrier oil, unperfumed lotion, or bowl of cool water - or try rubbing some of the fresh herb, or essential oil straight on to your feet. Smelly shoes and trainers can be treated with a drop or two of peppermint oil - or dilute it in some water and spray lightly in to the shoes, or onto fabrics which need a little deodorising touch.

As a skin treatment, the oil can be used to treat acne, ringworm, scabies, and dermatitis, and its analgesic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties make it effective against toothache. Its antispasmodic actions make it a useful addition to inhalation remedies for treating asthma.

! Excess of the essential oil can irritate the stomach lining. Should not be given to babies or toddlers. Use in moderation. Avoid Peppermint oil during pregnancy !


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