Peppermint oil may add a classic seasonal taste to your holiday baking, but how much do you really know about this plant? Also known as brandy mint or balm mint, peppermint usage dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
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1. Mentha piperita -- the scientific name for peppermint -- was used for medicinal purposes as early as 1000 B.C. The essential oil is still prevalent in modern medicines that offer relief from headaches, nausea, irritable bowels, muscle pain, congestion and diarrhea, according to the University of Washington's Department of Family Medicine.
2. Peppermint plants grow in North America and Europe, although the plant originated in the Mediterranean. The herb, which is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint, can grow up to 3 feet tall in a well-tended garden.
3. Peppermint oil can soothe inflammation and sunburns. Simply open a capsule of peppermint oil and apply it directly to the skin. The oil also soothes itchy dry skin, scabies, is an antiseptic to clean wounds and soothes acne. Children under 7 years of age and pregnant women should avoid using peppermint oil without the guidance of their family physician.
4. In the early 1900's, peppermint was used to control pests. The strong scent of peppermint oil worked as an insect repellent and a lure for nuisance rats. Business owners placed peppermint oil soaked cloths in bags, then had ferrets chase the rats into the bags.
5. Breathing the fumes of peppermint oil though aromatherapy produces positive results for humans. The oil stimulates the senses, mildly reducing fatigue and depression.