The Joys of Peppermint
Every Day, Peppermint!
I never realized how much I like peppermint before I wrote this - or how many times a day I use tings with peppermint oil in them. Peppermint tea is one of my favorite after dinner drinks, though. And on special occasions - which are always more special when they involve chocolate! - I will always choose chocolate peppermints as a treat (Dutch mints are my all-time favorite).
Like me, you
probably use peppermint oil every day without really thinking about it, when you brush your teeth and use mouthwash. Many oral hygiene products contain menthol, which is the main component of peppermint oil. Food-grade peppermint oil is obtained from the peppermint plant, a hybrid of watermint and spearmint that has been used as a medicine for thousands of years; it was first used by the
ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The peppermint plant is a perennial that grows well both in Europe and North America, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Its oil is 50 to 75 percent menthol, and is taken orally in the form of liquid oil and as capsules. Its uses are primarily medicinal and for dental hygiene, but it has a few culinary uses as well.
Peppermint oil also gives a pleasantly strong minty flavor to many popular candies and chewing gums - it is found everything from starlight mints to chocolate peppermint patties and any mint gum which boasts of extraordinary levels of menthol power. If you smoke menthol cigarettes, the cool taste that you experience is also derived from food quality peppermint oil.
The Healing Qualities of Peppermint Oil and Peppermint Tea
Do you suffer from queasiness or indigestion? Many people drink peppermint tea to soothe an upset stomach and help digest a heavy meal. I find that it is really refreshing even if your stomach is just fine, and it wakes me up without a jolt of caffeine (that's a good thing, because caffeine makes me wide awake until 4 am!). Best of all, it's really easy to make (bonus points, because after dinner I do not want to do any heavy thinking). Just steep one tea bag in one cup of boiling water and let the mixture infuse for about seven minutes. Sweeten with honey or sugar if desired.
And then there's peppermint oil as a remedy. You can take peppermint oil capsules to alleviate a number of ailments. These include dyspepsia, colic, coughs, colds and influenza. It is also used for bile duct disorders and cramps. Peppermint also works as an antibacterial agent, killing off salmonella and is therefore useful when taken to combat food poisoning. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) you may have been advised to take peppermint oil capsules, since they have been shown to ease the discomfort of IBS. In Europe, these capsules are also used to treat gallbladder problems. Peppermint oil capsules also help your stomach settle, and quell nausea and vomiting.
Adults should take no more than three 0.2 to 0.4 ml slow-release peppermint oil capsules per day, or as prescribed by a doctor. Children over the age of 8 should only take half of this dose, or three 0.1 to 0.2 ml capsules, and children under 8 should only take peppermint oil if it is prescribed by a doctor.
Don't exceed the recommended dose of peppermint oil capsules prescribed for you; they can burn and upset your stomach, or even be toxic in a high dosage. For the same reason, do not take doses of peppermint oil straight from the bottle. Make sure that you take peppermint oil capsules when your stomach is empty, so that your body can absorb them easily. If you take them on a full stomach, absorption of the oil will take much longer. IIf you suffer from GERD it is advisable to avoid peppermint oil, since it may increase heartburn. If you are pregnant you should also avoid it, since peppermint oil has been known to stimulate menstruation and, in pregnant women, miscarriage.