Essential Oil Files: Peppermint

 Attributed to Ayleen Gaspar @ Flickr Creative Commons

Popular as a food and beverage additive for at least ten milennia, and prized for its refreshing, uplifting scent that lingers in the nostrils, Peppermint reminds many people of confectionery. (Tic tacs, gum and boiled sweets all contain the coveted herb.) Mint tea is popular across the Arab world, especially in Turkey and The Meghreb (North Africa). Drunk with plenty of sugar, strong green tea, and sometimes with rosemary added, this popular concoction is often taken with, or after food, in place of caffeinated beverages.

Useful as a digestive, peppermint calms the action of the stomach and gut, and for this reason it is a soothing after-dinner beverage. It should be avoided by people who experience frequent acid reflux however, as it is known to relax the lower oesophagal sphincter. Peppermint oil can be used with a carrier to palpate the bowel, helping to ease digestive discomfort. It's also has a mild, topical painkilling action, so is useful for soothing bug bites. It's also an insecticide useful for killing wasps, hornets, ants, cockroaches and other bugs. Spray 10 drops of oil mixed with half a litre of water around windows to stop ants invading your home in summer.

True to its name, peppermint is full of 'pep!' With its fresh, clean, cooling scent it is undoubtedly the most refreshing oil out there. Add a few drops to a handkerchief (with some rosemary if you like) and sniff at intervals to refresh the mind. It may also be blended with a carrier and applied to the temples to cure insomnia (2 drops to 10mL of carrier). Alternatively, a bundle of the fresh herb, along with lavender, can be stuffed inside the pillow for an unbroken night's sleep.)

Research: Peppermint, as one of the most common and widely-used essential oil and herbal remedies, has been widely studied. One study has suggested peppermint may have radio-protective abilities on cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy. Trials conducted in 2007 and 2010 have proven that peppermint taken in capsule form reduces symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint has been proven to contain a high proportion of natural pesticides.

Mixes well with: Sweet florals, soothing, woody base notes, and musky scents. e.g. with jasmine, rose, sandalwood, vanilla, cinnamon.

Warning: May cause sensitization if used in large quantities. Do not use neat on the skin. Those suffering from epilepsy, cardiac fibrillation or fever should avoid peppermint.

Sample blends (blend in a small bowl or shot glass, never blend in plastic as oils can soak into/corrode it):

To ease IBS: 1 drop chamomile, 1 drop peppermint, 3 drops marjoram: 10 mL of carrier oil or cream. Apply topically in small, clockwise circles, starting from the ascending colon, across the transverse, and down the descending.

To uplift and inspire: 1 drop Bergamot, 1 drop peppermint, 2 drops marjoram, 2 drops rosemary: 20 mL of oil or cream, applied topically to temples, between eyes, and on pulse points as desired. Also can be burnt in an infuser during creative work.

Sinusitis, stuffy nose, asthma: 1 drop peppermint, 2 drops rosemary, 2 drops juniper, 1 drop eucalyptus: 10mL of oil or cream. Apply to chest, throat, and a dab under the nose and lips. Can also be added to a handkerchief (without the carrier) and tucked into a pillowcase for a better night's sleep. Eases breathing.