Once popular in Europe, peppermint is now spread all over the world. Famous for its taste and as a flavouring agent or herbal tea, peppermint was used as a remedy ten thousand years ago. In ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, peppermint was known as a remedy useful against skin infections, stomach pain and headaches. Scientists have found dried peppermint leaves in several Egyptian pyramids that dates back to 1.000 BC.
What is Peppermint?
Peppermint is a hybrid, mint that is between water mint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). The first who described peppermint was a Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician, Carl Linnaeus in 1753. He thought that peppermint was specie, but soon it became clear that it was not.
This plant is herbaceous perennial plant from the family Lamiaceae that can grow up to 90 centimetres tall. This plant is also rhizomatous plant; the rhizomes are fleshy, and widely spread. The colour of the leaves is dark green with visible reddish veins. They can grow up to 9 centimetres long and up to 4 centimetres broad; one can also find gently hairs on the leaves and stems. From mid to late summer, purple flowers with four-lobed corolla are produced around the stem. Peppermint is a plant that grows very fast, spreads very quickly and it can grow almost everywhere due to vegetative reproduction.
Characteristics of Peppermint
Peppermint is a rich nutrient plant. Its nutrient value comes from many valuable minerals and vitamins it contains. The most important minerals are surely calcium, potassium, copper, iron, and manganese. As for the vitamins, it is rich with vitamin C, A and B2.
Peppermint has high content of menthol. Dried peppermint has 0.3 to 0.4 percentage of volatile oil that contains menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate and cineol. In addition, it contains compounds such as limonene, pulegone, pinene, eucalyptol and caryophyllene. Due to the menthol, peppermint is used in many skin care products; on the other hand, it is also used for flavouring ice cream, chewing gums and confectionary. The most popular usage surely is in the cosmetic industry due to the cooling sensation of the peppermint once the receptors in the skin and mucosal tissue are activated. Overall, peppermint is known for its antibacterial, antimicrobial, analgesic, antiseptic, astringent and antispasmodic properties.