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Old Fashioned Remedies: Peppermint….More Than Just an After Dinner Treat.

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Since the beginning of time, people have relied on herbs and plants to treat every day ailments.  Now, most people rely on pharmaceuticals to do the job, but there are some who stand firmly behind these naturally occurring plants and their healing properties. Today, we take a look at Peppermint.

Peppermint has been used in cooking and as a medicine since 1500 BC and is thought to have originated in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean.  Early Egyptian texts state that it was even used as currency!

Eventually, peppermint was brought to Europe around 1240 A.D.   It was listed in the Icelandic Pharmacopoeia (basically a cookbook containing directions for the identification and preparation of medicines) as an herbal remedy.

Mentha_gentilis_Ypey23

In 1721, peppermint showed up in the London Pharmacopoeia and by was being cultivated on a much larger scale by then. Farmers went from growing a couple acres of the plant, to several hundred acres.

When Europeans began settling in North America, they soon discovered that the Native American’s were already using the herb, although it was a slightly different variety.  Settlers brought their European variety with them and soon that began growing naturally as well.

Today, the United States produces over half of the world’s commercially grown Peppermint. Michigan is the top producer, although it is also found in the northeast from Indiana to New York and the very southernmost areas of Canada. Much of what is produced is made into Peppermint oil.  Although the United States may produce the largest quantity of oil, it is generally agreed upon that the best quality oil comes from England.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint Oil

Throughout the years, Peppermint has been used for the following:

Relieving toothaches.  When peppermint oil is applied directly to the sore tooth, it soothes the inflammation.

Whitening teeth.  People during the Middle ages used to chew on Peppermint leaves to help keep their teeth white.

Killing bacteria. Mint has long been used as an antiseptic, particularly for the mouth.

Calming an upset stomach and relieving gas.  Peppermint is thought to have anti inflammatory properties.  It calms the muscles in the digestive tract, helping to relieve a stomach ache.  The Romans grew peppermint specifically for this reason.

Getting rid of the common cold. Inhaling peppermint oil will alleviate the symptoms of the cold.  When applied directly to the skin, it is also a painkiller.  The surface heat it produces relieves pain beneath the skin.

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See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]

                                     Relieving itchy skin.  Peppermint has been used to heal rashes and bug bites.                                                                           When put in shampoo, it also relives a dry, itchy scalp.

Perfume.  Peppermint oil applied to the skin gives off a clean, sweet, and refreshing aroma.  For this same reason, it was a used as ground cover in Europe during the middle ages.

After looking at this list, you can see how things like after dinner mints, toothpaste and mouthwash have developed over time.  What is your favorite use for peppermint?  Let us know in the comments!

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