Did you know that the peppermint we know today is actually a hybrid cross between watermint and spearmint? Together, these two species created something lovely and oh so aromatic!
The compounds behind the aroma
I have to say that of all the essential oils I have distilled, peppermint packs the biggest punch when it comes to fragrance. The house will smell like peppermint for days, if not weeks. This is because peppermint contains several strong constituents, including menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, limonene, beta-pinene and beta-caryophyllene.
Menthol is a constituent that comes in very handy for relieving joint and muscle pain. It is also effective at combating congestion and calming a cough. 1,8-cineole is another compound in peppermint that can be very therapeutic. It is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic (may help to relieve pain), antiviral, antibacterial, hypotensive (can lower blood pressure), and mucolytic (helps to clear mucus from the airways).
1,8-cineole and safety
Although essential oils that contain 1,8-cineole can be effective for a variety of issues, that doesn’t always mean they are completely safe to use on everyone. Some oils that contain higher amounts of this compound are not recommended to be used on children. Eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils also contain 1,8-cineole, but in higher amounts than peppermint. This is why many aromatherapists (including myself) recommend avoiding rosemary and eucalyptus on children under ten years old. Because peppermint doesn’t has as much 1,8-cineole, it may be used on children over the age of six. The reason this compound may be unsafe is due to the fact that it may actually worsen respiratory issues for children, which is the exact opposite of why most people use it. If you are looking for oils to safely use on children during times of congestion, try using tea tree, cedarwood, pine, spruce, or fir. These can all help tremendously with congestion and coughing!
How I use peppermint
There are several ways I use peppermint here on the homestead. I planted it in my raised bed and it keeps coming back every year. It multiplies and continues to provide me with enough medicine to create all kinds of remedies. One way I use it has already been mentioned, but I take a large amount and steam distill it to create essential oil and hydrosol.
Headaches and heat
The essential oil is great for taking care of my headaches! Add one or two drops to a teaspoon of carrier oil and gently massage a small amount into the back of the neck and the temples when you feel a headache coming on. This usually helps take care of headaches caused by tension. The hydrosol comes in handy during those hot summer days when you feel like the heat is too much. Simply spray it on your arms, legs, or anywhere else you want to cool down. This would also be very useful if you suffer from hot flashes! The hydrosol can also be used to help reduce fevers. Being gently cooling, it can be applied to a compress and put on the back of the neck to bring down a fever.
For tummy issues, I make a glycerite with peppermint leaves, chamomile (sometimes pineapple weed if I don’t have any chamomile), fennel seeds, and ginger. I add equal amounts of each of these to a jar and then cover them with non GMO vegetable glycerin and a bit of water. I shake this mixture daily for about a month and then strain it out. For an upset stomach or nausea, we take 5-10 ml. It really helps to settle things down quite rapidly. It is especially useful when there is a stomach bug in the house!
Energy and uplifting
If you want energy, peppermint is good for that! Diffuse peppermint essential oil when you are feeling sluggish or tired. It can help provide a refreshing boost of energy and vitality, as well as boost your mood. It pairs really well with grapefruit and other citrus essential oils, so try combining 4 drops of a citrus essential oil and 4 drops of peppermint in the diffuser to help get you going in the mornings, or put you in a good mood to start the day.
Congestion and sinus infection
As I previously stated, peppermint contains compounds that help open up the airways and relieve congestion. If you are suffering from congestion, a cough, or have a cold, try diffusing peppermint. It combines nicely with eucalyptus and rosemary for this purpose. For a sinus infection, try diffusing peppermint with tea tree to kill bacteria and open the sinuses.
What NOT to do with peppermint
Years ago as a new essential oil enthusiast, I tried putting peppermint essential oil in my bath. I just added with without a carrier to the water and then sat down to soak. Let’s just say, that was a short-lived bath! Peppermint can have a cooling effect on the skin. This is the menthol doing its job. However, a little peppermint goes a LONG way. Having said that, I will advise not to use peppermint on “sensitive” areas or near mucus membranes. I would personally not add it to a bath, but if you must, try adding a few drops to a tablespoon of carrier oil or unscented liquid castile soap, then adding that to a cup of Epsom salts. Stir this together and add to a bath. This will help break it down so you are not sitting in undiluted oil.
Don’t apply peppermint essential oil to the skin undiluted. Not only is that unnecessary, but it can cause some major irritation. A safe dilution for peppermint would be starting with one or two drops per teaspoon of carrier oil and massaging this into the skin. If you have sensitive skin, you may have to cut this dilution down to one drop per two teaspoons before applying.
These are just a few ways I have incorporated peppermint into our lives to help with the issues we face. Whether it is a hydrosol, essential oil, or extract, peppermint can help treat a variety of ailments, while leaving you feeling refreshed! For more great remedies using peppermint essential oil, you can purchase my book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646114027
To learn more about how to create herbal remedies or essential oil with peppermint, as well as a variety of other medicinal plants, enroll in one of our four courses today! https://thebitterherb.com/