MENTHA PIPERITA = Peppermint
MENTHA SPICATA (= MENTHA SYLVESTRIS) = Crisp mint or spearmint or sweet mint
MENTHA ARVENSIS = Field mint
MENTHA AQUATICA = Aquatic mint or water mint
MENTHA PULEGIUM = Pennyroyal mint
The botanical determination of mints is not simple because they hybridize easily, so we found sometimes mints that are difficult to classify, they are forms of transition between so-called “pure” species.
Within the same species, morphology and appearance are also variable depending on the growing conditions (humidity, sunshine, nature of the soil).
Mints are found on all continents and adapt to all climates except the most extreme.
Mentha piperita, peppermint is an hybrid of aquatic mint with either crisp mint or Japanese mint according to botanists.
Peppermint is the most widely cultivated of the hybrid mints.
Mints are small perennials that spread quickly by sending runners in all directions, some hybrid varieties only multiply vegetatively.
The smell of mint is characteristic and emerges as soon as you touch the plant; the essential oil which contains volatile substances concentrates in fact in the leaves very close to tiny hairs (or secreting hairs) very sensitive to contact.
The scent of mint is repellant to many grazing animals and serves as a defense and "deterrent" for mints.
The leaves of the mints and their essential oils are used in herbal medicine and aromatherapy.
COMPOSITION CHIMIQUE ET PROPRIETES
Mint leaves of the different species cited contain :
- vascular protective, anti-inflammatory, anti-free radical flavonoids but not specific to mints,
- phenol acids still very present in Labiateae : rosmarinic and caffeic acid, powerful anti-oxidants and therefore anti-inflammatory and protective of tissues by their ability to neutralize free radicals.
Some varieties (cultivars) of Mentha spicata have been selected for their very high rosmarinic acid content,
- carotenoid pigments, provitamins A and anti-oxidants,
- essential oil which represents between 0.5 and 3% of the dry plant and whose composition is very different according to the species.
AQUEOUS or HYDRO-ALCOHOLIC MINT EXTRACTS
Aqueous extracts and alcoholic tinctures of mint (M. piperita, M. spicata):
- Are weakly diuretic.
- Have an ambivalent action on the nervous system.
In general, a soothing sedative action is observed, but it can be preceded by a tonic phase, with excitement and risk of insomnia when one absorbs a large amount of herbal tea.
This paradox is explained by the fact that the volatile fraction (essential oil) is neurostimulant and once it is evacuated by respiration, it is the neurosedation which dominates.
- Are anti-oxidants and anti-free radicals therefore anti-inflammatory.
- Are slightly antispasmodic for the digestive tract and harmonize digestion.
MENTHA PIPERITA PEPPERMINT ESSENTIAL OIL
Mentha piperita essential oil, the most used in aromatherapy, contains:
- 30 to 50% menthol,
- 15 to 25% menthone (or menthol ketone),
- as well as variable fractions of pulegone, neomenthol, piperitone.
Menthol has a pleasant smell for humans, it is "refreshing", invigorating (can delay sleep), and digestive antispasmodic.
Locally, it is analgesic, antipruritic; by the respiratory route it is cough suppressant.
It is an antibacterial and antifungal volatile molecule.
Menthol can cause a glottic "spasm" or "laryngospasm" in children and infants, thus blocking the airways, especially when the nasal mucosa is irritated . This risk disappears almost entirely in adults.
Menthone increases bile flow (cholagogue and choleretic).
Peppermint essential oil is an antispasmodic for the digestive and biliary tract.
MENTHA SPICATA MINT ESSENTIAL OIL
The essential oil of crunchy mint or spearmint or sweet mint contains:
- about 60% of carvone which has the sweet minty smell typical of this plant widely used in infusion in North Africa and in Asian cuisine,
- approximately 10 to 20% limonene,
- less than 2% menthol.
Carvone is antispasmodic (especially digestive), but like the majority of terpene ketones it is neurotoxic, however it is less so than many other essential oil ketones.
Limonene, which corresponds to deoxygenated carvone, has an odor intermediate between lemon and orange, it can be irritating to the skin and the mucous membranes and perhaps has a power of protection against the cancerization of the tissues.
PENNYROYAL ESSENTIAL OIL MENTHA PULEGIUM
IT IS NOT USED IN AROMATHERAPY because it contains a large percentage (60 to 80%) of a ketone TOXIC TO HE LIVER , pulegone.
Its secondary metabolite, menthofuran, is also very hepatotoxic.
MINT LEAF INFUSION :
The infusion or herbal tea of ??the leaves of the majority of species of mint is digestive, although part of the essential oil disappears during the infusion, there is enough left that the abuse of herbal tea can sometimes lead to insomnia.
Infusions of peppermint or sweet mint leaves are the most pleasant to taste and smell.
The infusion of mint leaves contains flavonoids and phenol acids which slightly strengthen the immune defense and are anti-free radicals.
It is a pleasant infusion with protective medicinal properties when consumed very regularly.
MINT ESSENTIAL OIL :
We recommend them for:
- Minor digestive disorders, labored digestion.
The essential oils of Mentha piperita and Mentha spicata improve digestion when it is slow and is accompanied by gas.
2 to 3 drops per day after the midday meal
- Irritable bowel syndrome, spasmodic colitis, functional disorders of the colon.
Mentha piperita essential oil is an intestinal antispasmodic and antibacterial.
These two properties are very useful in trying to reduce or even suppress irritable bowel syndrome disorders (intestinal pain and spasms, episodes of diarrhea and constipation, mucous colitis, intestinal gas with cramps).
Small amount of peppermint essential oil has to reach the terminal intestine and the colon.
For this, enteric gastro-resistant capsules are used (to be prepared in pharmacies).
There is a kit to make them but it's a bit complicated.
example of dosage:
In older children (over 12 years old) and adults:
0.2 to 0.4 ml (approximately 6 to 12 drops) of essential oil of peppermint per gastro-resistant capsule 1 to 3 times a day to be taken 1/2 hour BEFORE the meal (otherwise the capsule is destroyed in stomach), in cure of 2 to 3 weeks.
The dosage is flexible because it is necessary to start with a small dosage to check that there is no intolerance (such as a digestive burning sensation in the stomach for example = heartburn).
Toothache, headache, muscle pain, itching, pruritus.
The essential oil of peppermint is a contact analgesic and it causes a local sensation of cold.
A drop of peppermint essential oil on a sore tooth, or using a cotton swab dipped in essential oil.
Skin application of a mixture of 2/3 massage oil (vegetable oil) and 1/3 essential oil of peppermint on the painful area, or which itches, or on the temples in case of migraine.
Respiratory tract infections, colds, bronchitis
The pleasant smell of menthol and its bactericidal power mean that peppermint esential oil can be used in inhalation or by mouth in the event of upper respiratory tract infections (colds, bronchitis, sinusitis).
But BE CAREFUL, in children, menthol can induce a "glottis spasm" causing suffocation which can be fatal, so no essential oil of Mentha piperita or spicata by the respiratory route in children under 6 years old ( some therapists lower the limit to 3 years, others raise it to 8 years) .
examples of dosage:
2 to 3 drops of essential oil of peppermint in a large bowl of hot water inhaled, we can add a few drops of essential oil of Eucalyptus globulus or Niaouli.
Peppermint essential oil is widely used as a flavoring agent in pharmacies, in hygiene products, in the food industry.
Menthol (often synthetic) is used in the preparation of many pharmaceutical specialties: respiratory antiseptics, oral hygiene, and of course toothpastes.
MINT CULTIVATION :
Mints are the subject of highly mechanized “industrial” farming in the USA, Brazil, Uruguay, China and to a lesser extent in France; they are easy to grow even in apartments.
They are propagated by seed or better by cuttings because seeds usually obtained from hybrids give random results.
They are perennial plants that grow back from underground organs in the spring and can become invasive.
Mint flowers attract foragers, bees appreciate them just as much as lavender or lemon balm.
MINTS, DIGESTIVE AND ANTISPASMODIC
The peppermint leaf in herbal tea helps digest, eliminate intestinal gas and is sedative in small doses.
Peppermint essential oil is stimulating, digestive and antibacterial, useful in cases of intestinal or respiratory tract infections;
it is used to alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome spasmodic colitis.
Copyright 2020 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel