What is Peppermint?
As a representative member of the aromatic plants, Peppermint (bo he, 薄荷) is a summer favourite due to its cooling properties. Since ancient times, the Peppermint plant has been cultivated in Europe and Asia for their medicinal and culinary properties. This herb is used in many medical formulas and recipes.
Peppermint leaves contain several essential oils, such as menthol, menthone and limonene. Menthol is what gives Peppermint its cooling properties and recognizably minty scent.
Today, many of us use Peppermint to boost the flavour of our food and drinks. For example, it is often used as a flavouring in breath mints and candies. Other than serving as a flavouring agent, spice, material for wine and essential oil, Peppermint also offers us a myriad of health benefits. Additionally, Peppermint can be consumed as a refreshing, caffeine-free tea as well.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Peppermint falls under the category ‘Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior’. Such herbs can release the Exterior, which helps to treat early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat and the skin. According to TCM, External diseases such as colds and allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our wei qi, 卫气 (immune system). Hence, Peppermint can help to induce sweating by dilating our capillary pores in order to expel the disease from the body and prevent further invasion.
Cool in nature, Peppermint can help individuals who have too much Heat in their body, such as those who are experiencing a Yang Excess or a Yin Deficiency. Pungent in taste, Peppermint helps to promote the circulations of qi and body fluids. In particular, this herb targets the Liver and the Lung.
Functions and Benefits of Peppermint
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Peppermint has the following functions.
Firstly, Peppermint can help to disperse Wind-Heat exterior syndromes. It is often used to treat common cold caused by Wind-Heat and Warm diseases that occur in our defense system. Also, it is often combined with other Wind-Heat dispersing herbs or Heat-clearing and toxicity-relieving herbs to reinforce the function of expelling exterior pathogens and Heat. It can also be combined with Wind-Cold dispersing herbs to treat Wind-Cold exterior syndromes.
Secondly, Peppermint can help to relieve symptoms caused by Wind-Heat in the head, eyes and throat. For example, it can tackle dizziness, headache, blood-shot eyes with tears, sore throat, itching throat and pruritus.
Modern research has also discovered more benefits that Peppermint can bring to its consumers. For example, Peppermint may relieve digestive symptoms such as gas, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating and indigestion. Animal studies suggest that Peppermint relaxes one’s digestive system and eases pain. As Peppermint also works as a muscle relaxant, It can prevent smooth muscles from contracting, which could relieve spasms in your gut. This also means that Peppermint can help to relieve sore muscles.
Another obvious benefit that Peppermint can offer us is its breath-freshening properties. In addition to its pleasant scent, it has antibacterial properties that help kill germs which cause dental plaque, and this can improve our breath. It is also because of these antibacterial properties, together with its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, that Peppermint may help to relieve clogged sinuses too. Research has shown that menthol can improve the perception of airflow in one’s nasal cavity.
Peppermint is also very useful in clearing up one’s mind by reducing fatigue and stress. Many use it to treat motion sickness too.
Other benefits that Peppermint has been found to offer includes improving energy levels, relieving menstrual cramps, aiding weight loss, and improving seasonal allergies.
How to Use Peppermint
Peppermint is available in various forms. For example, some stores sell dried mint leaves and stems, which can be crushed and used as spices or herbal tea. Due to the tremendous amount of peppermint tea benefits, more and more health and wellness stores are starting to sell Peppermint Tea in their shops.
Today, Peppermint Oil is also an increasingly popular method for individuals to reap the benefits of Peppermint. This oil can be applied topically on the skin, diffused in the form of essential oil or ingested orally in the form of tablet or capsule.
Peppermint is also often seen in our food and drinks. For example, Peppermint is used in Turkish and Greek cooking as a flavourful addition to kebabs and sauces. Also, Peppermint leaves can be used to make tea or added to cocktails.
Cautions and Side Effects of Peppermint
Peppermint, like many other herbs, can interact with other herbs, supplements, or drugs. Peppermint can also trigger side effects in some individuals. It is possible to be allergic to peppermint.
There is evidence suggesting that people with sensitive digestive systems may suffer moderate stomach disorders by ingesting mint. Also, some studies have found that Peppermint can increase the absorption rate of drugs such as salicylic acid and paracetamol. Hence, individuals who are experiencing digestive issues or are taking drugs should consult their doctors before consuming Peppermint.
Research has also suggested that individuals who have a hiatus hernia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irregular heartbeat, and hemolytic anemia should avoid consuming Peppermint before consulting their healthcare providers too.
In addition, Peppermint should be used with caution by those with Yin Deficiency and spontaneous sweating. This herb should also not be used by nursing mothers as it may slow down lactation.
Here is a summary for Peppermint:
- Herb name (Chinese): 薄荷
- Herb name (Pin Yin): bó hé
- Herb name (English): Peppermint
- Herb name (Botanical): Herba Menthae
- Origin of species: Mentha haplocalyx Briq.
- Part(s) of herb used: Aerial part of plant
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan
- Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent; Cool; Administrates the Lung and Liver meridians
- Actions: Eases symptoms of influenza or related respiratory ailments; Relieves headaches, painful eyes, sore throat and mild skin rashes; Also able to relieve mild emotional distress.
McKay, D. L., & Blumberg, J. B. (2006). A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 20(8), 619-633.[Accessed on 18 September 2022]
Tillisch, K. (2007). Complementary and alternative medicine for gastrointestinal disorders. Clinical medicine, 7(3), 224.[Accessed on 18 September 2022]
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