Peppermint (Mentha x piperita also known as Mentha balsamea Wild) is a perennial plant, indigenous to Europe and the Middle East. Peppermint belongs to the Lamiaceae family. It is a natural hybrid of Mentha spicata (spearmint) and Mentha aquatica (watermint) and occasionally is found wild with its parent species in central and southern Europe.
Peppermint grows to a height of up to one metre, but the stems, which are smooth and square in cross section, are more typically 30-70cm tall.
Peppermint has small purple or white flowers and downy green leaves with serrated edges. The leaves are from 4-9 cm long and 1.5-4 cm broad, dark green with reddish veins, and with an acute apex and coarsely toothed margins. Peppermint flowering occurs from July to September.
Vitamins and minerals
Peppermint is a good source of:
Vitamin A – Vitamin A is the name of a group of fat-soluble, including preformed vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids. Vitamin A is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication. Vitamin A also supports cell growth and differentiation, playing a critical role in the normal formation and maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.
Pyridoxine (or vitamin B6) - allows the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food and helps form haemoglobin (the substance that carries oxygen around the body).
Vitamin C - plays a vital role in the body, including the maintenance of bones and teeth. Vitamin C also boosts your sleep, reduces sleep disturbances, relieves movement disorders, and decreases the dangerous effects of sleep apnoea.
Vitamin E - helps maintain healthy skin and eyes and strengthen the body's natural defence against illness and infection (the immune system).
Vitamin K - plays a key role in helping the blood clot and preventing excessive bleeding.
Beta carotene is another provitamin carotenoid. This is what gives many vegetables their colouring, such as carrots and peppers. However, some great sources of beta-carotene also include sweet potatoes, spinach, dark leafy greens, romaine lettuce, squash, cantaloupe, and apricots.
Folate (also known as vitamin B9 or folic acid) - Folate is a natural form of vitamin B9 and is water soluble. It is found in many food plants. It is essential for DNA production, the development of red blood cells, and preventing anaemia. Folate is also important for preventing memory loss and boosting mood.
Riboflavin (<1%) (also known as vitamin B2) plays a crucial role in protecting the body from potentially harmful free radicals, which can do damage to everything from skin, to hair, energy levels and even disease resistance.
Calcium is a mineral most often associated with healthy bones and teeth. It plays an important role in blood clotting, helping muscles to contract, and regulating normal heart rhythms and nerve functions.
Magnesium - plays an important role in assisting more than 300 enzymes to carry out various chemical reactions in the body such as building proteins and strong bones, and regulating blood sugar, blood pressure, muscle and nerve functions. Magnesium also acts an electrical conductor that contracts muscles and makes the heartbeat steady.
Potassium - an essential mineral that is needed by all tissues in the body. It is sometimes referred to as an electrolyte because it carries a small electrical charge that activates various cell and nerve functions.
Manganese – helps the body form connective tissue, bones, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones.
Other plant compounds
Other constituents include flavonoid glycoside (e.g. Narirutin, Luteolin-7-o-rutinoside, Isorhoifolin and Hesperidin) polyphenols (e.g. Rosmaric acid, Eriocitrin, Cinamic acid, Caffeic acid and Narigenin-7-oglucoside); luteolin-diglucoronide and eriodictyol glucopyranosyl-rhamnopyranoside were also purified from aerial parts of mint.
(Ref: Masomeh L, Narges M, Hassan R, Hadi A (2017) Peppermint and Its Functionality: A Review. Arch Clin Microbiol. Vol. 8 No. 4:54. doi:10.4172/1989-8436.100054).
Health benefits of peppermint
Peppermint is a well-known example of a plant that offers numerous values to improve the quality of human life. Its medicinal uses include treating ailments of the respiratory, digestive, circulatory, integumentary, and nervous system.
Headaches - The active ingredient in peppermint oil is menthol. A 2015 study published shows that menthol may be effective in treating migraines when applied to the head as a gel. Tension-type headaches are the most frequent form of headache. The local topical treatment of peppermint oil has been proven to be more effective than placebos in controlled studies.
Stress relief – A 2011 study found that peppermint can help relieve stress.
Indigestion - Peppermint calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. As a result, food passes through the stomach more quickly. It also helps with flatulence (gas) and bloating.
Itching and skin irritation - Peppermint, when applied topically, has a soothing and cooling effect on skin irritation
Respiratory track - Peppermint can help clear symptoms of upper respiratory congestion that may be caused by cold, flu and bronchitis. It also improves nasal breathing.
Find out more on other Mentha species
A 2019 study entitled: Metabolic Profiling of Nine Mentha Species and Prediction of Their Antioxidant Properties Using Chemometrics discusses the profile of nine Mentha species.