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Peppermint

An Introduction
A hybrid cross between the watermint and the spearmint, peppermint is an aromatic plant, belonging to the genus Mentha and the Lamiaceae family. It is native to Europe but today, it is cultivated worldwide and also occurs in the wild, especially in the damp and temperate regions of the globe. 75% of the peppermint produced in the world is from the USA. The peppermint plant occurs in wet habitats, especially in streams, wet lowlands, lakes, brook sides, wastelands and ditches. The oil present in the peppermint lends it a distinct odor. The oil of the peppermint, used for culinary, medicinal and cosmetic purposes, is derived through the process of steam distillation. The peppermint has a pungent taste and a cooling sensation. Menthol and menthone are two vital components of the peppermint.

Peppermint is grown commercially, mainly, for its oil, extracts, tablets or tea. Peppermint is composed of an ester and an alcohol. The particular odor of the peppermint is attributed to the ester, menthyl acetate. The alcohol, menthol present lends it a cooling sensation.
 
 

Plant Description
This perennial peppermint plant can grow to a height of over 90 centimeters and has a squarish dark green or purplish stem. It spreads through its creeping rootstocks. The leaves are arranged away from the main stems and are smooth and sharp toothed. It has smooth stems and possesses bare and fibrous roots. The flowers are tiny and light purple and blossom in the summer months of June and August. These occur in thick clusters. Its narrow leaves are fragrant, dark green with well defined serrated edges and dotted with minuscule oil glands. This sterile plant has hairy stems with spikes and it produces no seeds. This herbaceous plant propagates though its underground rhizomes.

 

History
Peppermint is said to be named after the nymph, Minthe who was seduced by the Greek god of the underworld, Pluto. His wife, in a fit of jealous rage, transformed the nymph to an insignificant plant. Pluto, then, turned her into a mint in order that her beauty may be preserved through the fragrance of the mint. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used peppermint extensively in foods such as wines and meat and also in medicines. Additionally, it was used as crowns and decorations at feasts. Aristotle referred to it as a an aphrodisiac. In the eighteenth century, the peppermint was first utilized for commercial cultivation.

 

Cultivation
This plant grows well in shady areas but requires sustained access to water. The peppermint prefers the loosely textured, moist yet sandy soils. The soils should be rich in humus and ideally, have pH levels ranging from 6.0 to 7.5. The leaves and the flowers are to be collected as soon as the flowers begin to blossom and these are, then, dried. Peppermint has high commercial value in cultivation and is grown through stem cuttings derived from the established plants before it blooms or the cuttings are extracted from dividing plants. The plants are well spaced out and spreads through its network of roots.

 

Uses
Peppermint has been regarded for its medicinal properties and is considered as the 'the world's oldest medicine'. This product is used in the making of herbal teas and medicine. It is used to counter stomach disorders, bacterial growth and muscle aches. Peppermint can also reduce chest congestion. It is useful in treating indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gallstones, viruses, and skin irritations. High in the component, menthol, peppermint is used for flavoring purposes in items such as toothpastes and confectionery. It is used in teas, ice cream, jellies, sauces, commercial pesticides, shampoos, soaps and chewing gum as also detergents, creams, lotions, and perfumes. The peppermint oil is the most popular by-product of the peppermint. The flowers produce the largest amounts of nectar which is loved by bees. Peppermint is high in nutrients like manganese, vitamin C and vitamin A. Fiber, iron, calcium, folate, potassium, tryptophan, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, riboflavin and copper are other useful components present in the peppermint.

 
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