5 Fascinating Facts About Peppermint

Peppermint bark. Peppermint tea. Peppermint candy canes.
Photo Credit: Flickr

Peppermint oil may add a seasonal taste to your holiday baking, but how much do you really know about this plant?

Here's five fun facts to share with your holiday guests this week!

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. 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.

Sources and Suggested Further Reading:
University of Washington, Department of Family Medicine: Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
University of Maryland Medical Center: Peppermint
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Peppermint
Annie's Remedy: Homemade Insect Repellent
Earth Easy: Natural Insect Pest Control
Essential Oils: Peppermint essential oil information

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

Note: I wrote this article a few years ago. This article was originally published on Yahoo! Voices on December 8, 2010.

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