Plant Spotlight: Peppermint
More than a delicious candy – peppermint is a plant that is most notably used in herbal medicine for aiding digestion, relieving stress, and helping with memory (and let’s face it… who doesn’t need more of that in their life.) It’s also an easy plant to grow and I find the herbs and plants that are easiest to grow really are the ones that are the most gentle and liked to be used frequently.
Unlike many plants in herbal medicine, peppermint can actually stand on its own or be blended beautifully into complex herbal combinations. It’s straightforward flavor has a touch of sweetness that keeps it from being too overwhelming (unless you are just opposed to the menthol flavor). It is also used to combat fatigue, minor head discomfort, motion sickness, depression and inflammation.
Folklore And History
In Greek mythology, Plutos wife was jealous of Pluto’s love of the water nymph Minthe, and turned the nymph into a plant to be trod upon. Pluto, unable to reverse the spell, could only soften it by giving Minthe peppermint’s sweet scent to perfume the air. This folklore has also been used an explanation as to why many mint varieties like wet feet (preference for moist soil).
This is another plant that has been linked back to Ancient Egypt due to dried mint leaves being found in the pyramids. It has also been referenced in the New Testament as a payment for taxes. And the Greeks and Romans used mint to flavor sauces and wine.
The aroma of peppermint comes from its high essential oil content. When using mint as a garnish for its aroma, gently smacking mint between palms will break the cell structure of the plant releasing the aroma into the air. This aroma is what is primarily used for memory and to awaken the senses.
Peppermint is known for its active compound menthol – that tingle that chills the body. It helps slow muscle contractions, relaxing the digestive tract when it’s consumed. Also calms nauseousness and improves indigestion. It’s a great tea to consume after a meal. Although, for people who tend to run on the cold side (you know, the ones always turning up the AC..) – peppermint may not be the most ideal herb as it will continue to chill the body.
How We Use Peppermint
Peppermint is used in our bitters – primarily Sassy Bitters. It’s cooling effect helps balance out the stronger bitter plants. We extract for around a week. Long enough that the bitter components just start to show themselves, but not so long that the flavor becomes unbalanced. This steeping time pulls out the properties best used for digestion.