Mentha x piperita – Peppermint
This spring the Wellpark College gardens have recently exploded in greens, purples, oranges and pinks. Being the first year since 2020 that we have not been in and out of lockdown restrictions in Auckland leading into Spring, our students and herbal gardener Sonya have been able to get into the gardens and nurture them. This means our gardens are looking the best they ever have since Wellpark College moved to the Albany campus. The comfrey is enormous and healthy, the parsley is prolific, providing students and staff delicious greens to add to their lunches each day, and the peppermint is delightfully abundant.
Mentha x piperita (peppermint) belongs to the Lamiaceae botanical family, sharing similar structural and chemical characteristics to plants such as lavender, sage, lemon balm, rosemary, and thyme. With a rich history of use, not just medicinally but culinary and decorative too as the Greeks and Romans adorned their tables with peppermint during feasts and used it to flavour wines and sauces. Traditionally the herb was used for nausea, headaches and abdominal pain (Grieves, 2021).
Peppermint leaves and aerial parts of the plant are full of aromatic and pungent volatile oils that provide the strong scent and taste, with volatile oil content comprising of up to 50% menthol – a monocyclic monoterpene alcohol and other volatile oils including menthone, limonene, α- and β-pinene (Ganora, 2021; Pengelly, 2004). The menthol in conjunction with a range of additional plant constituents contribute to its ability to relieve flatulence, sooth intestinal spasm and pain and relieve nausea (Fisher, 2018).
It is well known that peppermint oil is often used to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) including abdominal discomfort and pain because of the volatile oils such as menthol having antispasmodic and carminative (flatulence and intestinal spasm relieving) actions. A recent meta-analysis on the impact of peppermint oil on IBS by Alammar et al (2019) concluded that enteric-coated peppermint oil is effective in relieving abdominal pain and a range of IBS symptoms with little adverse effects.
Peppermint grows prolifically (some would consider it a weed), can be enjoyed as a refreshing cup of tea and utilised in a range different foods, making it an easy to grow and access herbal medicine.
Alammar, N., Wang, L., Saberi, B., Nanavati, J., Holtmann, G., Shinohara, R. T., & Mullin, G. E. (2019). The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: A meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 19(1), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-018-2409-0
Fisher, C. (2018). Materia medica of Western herbs. Aeon Books Ltd.
Ganora, L. (2021). Herbal constituents: Foundations of phytochemistry (2nd ed.). HerbalChem Press
Grieve, M. (2021). Mints. A Modern Herbal. https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mints-39.html
Pengelly, A. (2004). Constituents of medicinal plants (2nd ed.). CABI Publishing.