Peppermint is probably one of the most famous herbs. No wonder, as their unmistakable aroma is indispensable for many foods, sweets and drinks. Also as a medicinal herb, the plant has a great importance. Peppermint tea not only tastes good, it also relieves many illnesses. Its great benefits also earned Peppermint the title of medicinal plant of the year in 2004.
Profile of Peppermint:
Scientific name: Mentha x piperita
Plant family: mint family
Other names: garden mint, english mint, bushy mint
Sowing time / Planting time: March- April
Flowering period: June – September
Harvest time: May – September
Soil quality: moist, nutrient-rich and calcareous soils
Use as a medicinal herb: stomach and intestinal complaints, feeling of fullness, nausea, headache, bile problems, joint trouble
Use as aromatic herb: sauces, soups, salads, desserts, sweet drinks, mint tea, Bulgarian dishes
Plant characteristics and classification of Peppermint
Origin and distribution of peppermint
The peppermint probably comes from East Asia. It is a natural hybrid of water mint and spearmint.
It is also mentioned in some works that peppermint, which is known today, originated in England and has been exported or imported there from all over the world. However, this is in contradiction with some older works. The pharmacist Philipp Lorenz Geiger mentioned in his handbook of pharmacy that the peppermint also occurs wild in Greece.
The plant is also found in many countries today wild and is preferably found in wet or swampy locations. Important growing areas are among others Greece, England and Spain.
Plant order of peppermint
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and to the botanical subfamily Nepetoideae. This subfamily is very important for herbal lovers, as many other well-known herbs such as basil, savory, rosemary, sage or hyssop also belong to the Nepetoideae.
The genus of mints (metha) includes about 30 known species. For example, the field mint (Mentha arvensis), the pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), the garden mint (Mentha spicata) or the water mint (Mentha aquatica) are quite popular. From the last two species, the peppermint has formed, which is therefore considered a natural hybrid. Since the mint species can be crossed quite easily among themselves, many more hybrids and subspecies or varieties are known that would go beyond the scope of this profile.
Look and characteristics of peppermint
Peppermint are considered perennial, herbaceous and hardy herb shrubs that can reach heights of growth between 25 and 100 cm (10 and 40 inches). They have a flat root system that forms many runners. The plant is one of the so-called long-day plant (They need to flowering long periods of light and short dark periods. For many long-day plants, the critical day length is 12 hours. Short days promote vegetative growth in these plants, but retard flowering. In the wild the long-day plants bloom in the summer).
The leaves of peppermint may be light to dark green depending on the variety. The leaf shape is usually oblong to ovate with slightly sawn leaf margins. Most of the leaf nerves are striking violet colored. The stem axis are usually highly branched and usually showy hairy. On the underside of the leaves are often oil glands recognizable, which contain the well-smelling essential oils of the plant.
The flowers of peppermint can be pink, purple and sometimes colored white. The eye-catching lip-shaped blooms stand in so-called pseudospiklet. The flower itself contains sepals, which are tubular. The flowering time falls on the months between early June to early September.
From the flowers, four ovate schizocarps develop to fruit ripeness. These contain the rice grain-like, mostly brownish colored seeds of the plant.
Peppermint – cultivation and care
Peppermint is a very easy to grow herbal plant, as far as essential basics of location and nutrients are considered.
As a popular locations of peppermint apply half shady locations, although it also tolerates sunny places. However, full sun should be avoided. The soil should be slightly moist, rich in nutrients and slightly calcareous. For pot and tub cultures, a commercially available herbal soil can be used, which should, depending on the manufacturer, however, be slightly limbed.
Sowing and cultivation
When sowing, peppermint seeds should only be pressed lightly on the soil, as the plant is a typical light germinator. It can be sown both on the balcony and in the field. The optimal sowing time are the months of March and April. In the field, a distance of at least 25 x 30 cm (10x 12 inches) should be chosen to avoid nutrient competition and an increased risk of disease. In the beginning, the soil should always be kept slightly moist. The germination period until the appearance of the first seedlings is usually 10 to 20 days. The sowing should not take place in direct sun!
The sowing of peppermint on the balcony is possible and quite easy to accomplish. For optimal conditions, using commercially available potting soil, some sand (about 10 percent) should be incorporated to improve drainage. Since the mints can grow up to 100 cm (40 inches), pots should be chosen with sufficient space.
Whether and to what extent the peppermint plants have to be fertilized depends on the nutrient content of the soil and the age of the plant. Soils that are well supplied with compost require only a small additional amount of fertilizer per year. In the first year of cultivation, with good nutrient supply to the soil, no additional fertilizer is usually needed. If the mint species grows at the same location for several years, the plant should be provided with additional nutrients. It is possible to combine organic fertilizer such as horn shavings or dung pellets, which continuously release nutrients. If the mint grows in potting soil, usually no fertilization is necessary in the first three months. Subsequently, the plant can be supplied with a little diluted liquid fertilizer (once a month).
Mints are one of the thirsty plants that want to be continuously supplied with water throughout the year. Short dry phases are tolerated mostly without problems. However, if the mint is more likely to grow in a sunny location, the watering should be increased slightly as the soil loses more water through evaporation than in partially shaded locations.
As a hardy plant the peppermint tolerates temperatures down to -20 ° C (-4 °F). It is therefore considered very frost tolerant. Young plants should be covered with brushwood or straw during the first year. As of the second year, however, as a rule no further precautionary measures are necessary. The aboveground plant parts die off, whereby the plant survives with its roots or rhizome in the soil and green again in spring.
Diseases and pests
Possible pests or typical plant diseases of mint are fungi such as mint rust or mildew. Excessive fertilization, insufficient plant spacing, poor or too dense soil substrate as well as improper watering favor the development of diseases.
Use of peppermint
The use of peppermint is extremely varied. Many recipes and desserts use the aromatic peppermint leaves as a spice herb. But also as a drink and medicinal herb, the peppermint is very popular. Peppermint tea is a popular drink in many countries and at the same time a tasty remedy.
Peppermint in the kitchen
Peppermint is considered by connoisseurs as an excellent spice herb. Especially in the British kitchen the aromatic mint taste belongs to many dishes. For example, in England to many meats (such as lamb or roast beef) peppermint sauces are served. Peppermint also gives an interesting touch to rice and bulgur-dishes from Arabic and Indian cuisine.
In the kitchen, only fresh peppermint leaves should be used. Dried and rubbed leaves are only poorly suited for processing and barely come on to the fresh ones as regards taste. Fresh mint is available in most supermarkets year-round at an affordable price.
Most recipes with peppermint are probably desserts, spreads or sweets (including peppermint sweets, peppermint chewing gum, peppermint chocolate). Jams or chutneys can be given a special and refreshing note with a fine minty aroma. Also for many fruit salads in connection with citrus fruits, the leaves fit very well.
The aroma of the plant is also used for many alcoholic drinks. Famous spirits are, for example, peppermint liqueurs or gin with peppermint additives. Likewise, some cocktails, e.g. Mojitos, can be garnished with fresh leaves.
Peppermint should always be used very little, as the leaves develop a very intense and dominant aroma.
Peppermint as a medicinal herb
As a medicinal herb, peppermint has a very good reputation. The plant-containing ingredients or essential oils have many medically valuable properties. Also the pleasant taste makes it a very popular herb for many people.
In the herbal books of the Middle Ages, peppermint was not mentioned, since it became known only in the history of the 17th century.
Basically, the mints were already very important at that time and were among others used for the treatment of digestive problems, venereal diseases, skin ulcers, scurf or cholera. Both infusions and mint put into vinegar or blended with barley flour were used.
In the naturopathy as well as folk medicine the plant is used today mostly as peppermint tea or in the form of dragees.
Peppermint can be used for many ailments and diseases. These include:
- stomach pain
- bile and liver complaints
- tension headaches
- mild cold symptoms
- anticonvulsant (spasmolytic)
The ingredients have a direct effect on the digestive system, the bloodstream, the respiratory tract as well as on the immune system and nervous system.
The antibacterial activity of the plant has been studied quite well in recent years. Thus, it has been found that peppermint oil is capable of fighting, including various types of streptococci, Escherichia coli and Mycobacterium avium (including tuberculosis and probably Crohn’s disease). In addition, menthol contained in the essential oil should be able to combat viruses such as influenza or herpes.
The essential oil is also of great importance for the taste-wholesomeness of many medications, for toothpaste and mouthwash, as well as in some skincare products and in shampoos for oily hair.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the peppermint is described as a herb with a cool temperature, which has especially the organ reference liver-bile, stomach and spleen, and lung and colon. Among other things, it is used in the treatment of diseases of the biliary tract as well as in nervous restlessness. Both peppermint tea and the essential oil are used.
Peppermint tea – Instructions for use
Peppermint and many other mint varieties are considered classic digestive herbs, especially used as herb in digestive teas. Mint tea, which is used medicinally, should be prepared with high quality mint leaves. Leaves of poor quality usually have only an insufficient amount of essential oils, so that an effect can be absent or only marginally improve.
For the preparation of a cup (250 ml (8.5 fl oz)) of peppermint tea, two heaped teaspoons of dried peppermint herb are poured over with hot water . The cup should then be covered. The tea should draw for about 6 to 8 minutes, so as to the essential oils are clearly visible on the surface.
Side effects and instructions for use:
Pregnant women should only drink small amounts of peppermint tea, as too much tea can stimulate the uterus. When breastfeeding peppermint tea should be dispensed with, as the plant stops milk production. People with a tendency to heartburn should also refrain from drinking mint tea. At best, the consumption should be clarified with the attending physician.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.
Buy peppermint – What is there to pay attention to?
Since peppermint is probably one of the best known and most popular herbs, you will find it in almost all variations in the trade. Nearly 365 days a year you can buy fresh plants, dried herbs, peppermint oils or seeds.
Peppermint plants in pots are now standard in most of the supermarkets and discounters in the herbal department. As a rule, however, plants from garden centers or DIY stores are of higher quality, as they are grown more gently. Good plants have dense growth and many leaves, a healthy and stable stem, a rich green color of the leaves and emit an aromatic smell. Many over-fertilized plants are slight unstable, usually have large and few leaves that tend to get diseases quickly. Such plants are only suitable for quick use. However, gently grown plants are much more aromatic.
Dried peppermint leaves are as common as fresh plants. Again, there are quite large differences depending on the quality of the plant and the type of drying. At first it is recommended to buy smaller packages or ask the merchant for samples. Dried herbs should have a greenish color and a pleasant smell. Products with many brown components should be avoided if possible (but a few brown components are normal). Also make sure that the dried peppermint leaves are packed aroma-tight.
For gardeners who want to grow their own peppermint, many varieties are available. However, many seed producers do not specify their varieties, so more exquisite varieties such as English mint or black mint need to be well researched. For usual household use, the regular peppermint seeds are perfectly adequate. Basically, there is a large selection of many different types of mint (for example, pineapple mint, strawberry mint). Who wants the common peppermint, must pay attention to the botanical name (Mentha x peperita).