Mint was prized in Japan and China for centuries and has even been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 1,000 BC. The Egyptians used this herb to flavor food and wine. Its botanical or Latin name is Mentha piperita (peppermint). Its Arabic name is Na’ana or nana. Its common name is curled mint, or balm mint.



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Spearmint and peppermint were both native to Asia. Mint was named by the Greeks after the mythical character, Menthe. According to Pliny, the Greeks and Romans crowned themselves with peppermint leaves during feasts and used it as a culinary flavouring. During the Middle Ages, besides culinary use, powdered mint leaves were used to whiten the teeth.

 The Latin name literally means "peppery mint" as the genus name Mentha translates to "it is a mint" and the species name piperata to "it is like pepper" (strong, pungent, spicy).


 Mint is native to Europe and was previously grown in convent gardens and peppermint was cultivated commercially before the Civil War. Today, Mint is commercially cultivated in the United States and Egypt.

 In the 17th century Culpeper recorded that Peppermint was the herb most useful for 'complaints of the stomach, such as wind and vomiting, for which there are few remedies or greater efficiency'.

Peppermint is a (usual sterile) hybrid from water mint (M. aquatica) and spearmint (M. spicata). It is found sometimes wild in Central and Southern Europe, but was probably first put to human use in England, whence its cultivation spread to the European continent and Africa; today, Northern Africa is a main cultivation area.

Other mint species are indigenous to Europe and Asia, and some are used since millennia. Cultivars in tropical Asia are derieved from field mint and are, therefore, botanically not closely related to European peppermint, although they come close to peppermint in their culinary value.

All species of genus Mentha are aromatic, although not in all of them the aroma is that pure than in peppermint.

The leaves of Peppermint are broader and shorter with larger spikes of flower which are purple. Peppermint is a classic British herb, now grown throughout the world. The essential oil is nearly one third menthol, which is one of the reasons it is used to invigorate and clear the head. The oil is distilled from the whole of the partially dried plant.


Peppermint has a characteristically pure and refreshing odour, pungent and burning taste. The typical “mint scent” is most pure in peppermint, Japanese mint (Mentha arvensis var. piperascens) and some varieties of green mint. Whereas in most other mints additional flavour components are discernible.

The parts used are the herb, leaves(in the dried form) and the distilled oil.The main constituents of peppermint is an essential oil called peppermint oil. It contains Menthol, menthyl acetate, menthone, isovalerate, cineol, pinene and limonene.

 The essential oil of peppermint (up to 2.5% in the dried leaves) is mostly made up from menthol (ca. 50%), menthone (10 to 30%), menthyl esters (up to 10%) and further monoterpene derivatives (pulegone, piperitone, menthofurane). Traces of jasmone (0.1%) improve the oil's quality remarkably.

Among essential oils, Peppermint ranks first in importance. It is a colourless, yellowish or greenish liquid, with a peculiar, highly penetrating odour and a burning, camphorescent taste. It thickens and becomes reddish with age, but improves in mellowness, even if kept as long as ten or fourteen years.

On cooling to a low temperature, separation of Menthol occurs, especially if a few crystals of that substance be added to start crystallization.

Peppermint oil is steam distilled from fresh or partially dried flowering tops of several varieties of peppermint plants. The best time for collection is in August and early September, when mint is coming into flower and has it's highest oil content.




Medicinal uses.

The herb is considered to have emetic, stimulant, and astringent qualities, and is used in diarrhoea and as an emmenagogue. Menthol is used in medicine to relieve the pain of rheumatism, neuralgia, throat affections and toothache. The local anaesthetic action of Peppermint oil is exceptionally strong.  It acts also as a local anaesthetic, vascular stimulant and disinfectant. Peppermint’s oil’s pleasant cooling properties and muscle relaxing effects also extend to external use. When used topically, it acts as a counterirritant and analgesic with the ability to reduce pain and tension.

 It is also a powerfully antiseptic, the two properties making it valuable in the relief of toothache and in the treatment of cavities in the teeth. The bruised fresh leaves of the plant will, if applied, relieve local pains and headache, and in rheumatic affections the skin may be painted beneficially with the oil.

Oil of Peppermint has been recommended in puerperal fevers.   

For neuralgia, rheumatism and lumbago it is used in plasters and rubbed on the temples; it will frequently cure neuralgic headaches. It is inhaled for chest complaints, and nasal catarrh, laryngitis or bronchitis. It is also used internally as a stimulant or carminative. On account of its anaesthetic effect on the nerve endings of the stomach, it is of use to prevent sea-sickness. Also aids relief from muscular pains, varicose veins, sunburn and insect bites, lethargy and migraine.


Culinary uses

Peppermint and its relatives are mostly known as popular herbs for infusions; e.g. an infusion of green mint is the `national beverage' in Morocco and Tunisia. Iranian cuisine knows several highly sophisticated recipes employing peppermint; some of these were later transferred to northern India. Fresh mint leaves are often used in Turkish cooking together with yoghurt and cucumber to make a tasty cool salad dressing. in Lebanon a very well known salad called tabouleh uses large amounts of chopped mint with parsly.

It is described as a powerful aromatic taste followed by a sensation of cold when air is drawn into the mouth. In Britain, peppermint is popular mostly for sweets and confectionaries, where it is preferably used in the form of the pure essential oil. The freshness of peppermint goes extremely well with chocolate flavour. Peppermint ice cream is especially delightful on a hot summer day, making use of the cooling properties of menthol. It is a good tea to drink either during meals or after meals to aid digestion.

 Other uses

Sanitary engineers use Peppermint oil to test the tightness of pipe joints. It has the facility of making its escape, and by its pungent odour betraying the presence of leaks.

A new use for Peppermint oil has been found in connection with the gas-mask drill on the vessels of the United States Navy.

Paste may be kept almost any length of time by the use of the essential oil of Peppermint to prevent mould.

Rats dislike Peppermint, a fact that is made use of by ratcatchers, who, when clearing a building of rats, will block up most of their holes with rags soaked in oil of Peppermint and drive them by ferrets through the remaining holes into bags.

Peppermint oil is largely used for toothpastes and mouthwashes.

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