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Peppermint (Mentha × piperita, also known as M. balsamea Willd.) is a hybrid mint, a cross between the watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). The plant, indigenous to Europe, is now widespread in cultivation throughout all regions of the world. It is found wild occasionally with its parent species.

Botany

Peppermint flowers
Peppermint was first described by Carolus Linnaeus from specimens that had been collected in England; he treated it as a species, but it is now universally agreed to be a hybrid.

It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing to tall, with smooth stems, square in cross section. The rhizomes are wide-spreading, fleshy, and bare fibrous roots. The leaves are from long and cm broad, dark green with reddish veins, and with an acute apex and coarsely toothed margins. The leaves and stems are usually slightly hairy. The flowers are purple, long, with a four-lobed corolla about diameter; they are produced in whorls (verticillasters) around the stem, forming thick, blunt spikes. Flowering is from mid to late summer. The chromosome number is variable, with 2n counts of 66, 72, 84, and 120 recorded.

Ecology

Peppermint typically occurs in moist habitats, including stream sides and drainage ditches. Being a hybrid, it is usually sterile, producing no seeds and reproducing only vegetatively, spreading by its rhizomes. If placed, it can grow anywhere, with a few exceptions.

It is an invasive species in the Great Lakesmarker region, noted since 1843.

Uses

1887 illustration
Peppermint is sometimes regarded as 'the world's oldest medicine', with archaeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago.

Peppermint has a high menthol content, and is often used as a flavouring in tea, ice cream, confectionery, chewing gum, and toothpaste. The oil also contains menthone and menthyl esters, particularly menthyl acetate. It is the oldest and most popular flavour of mint-flavoured confectionery. Peppermint can also be found in some shampoos and soaps, which give the hair a minty scent and produce a cooling sensation on the skin.

Freeze-dried leaves
In 2007, Italian investigators reported that 75% of the patients in their study who took peppermint oil capsules for four weeks had a major reduction in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, compared with just 38% of those who took a placebo.

Similarly, some poorly designed earlier trials found that peppermint oil has the ability to reduce colicky abdominal pain due to IBS with an NNT (number needed to treat) around 3.1, but the oil is an irritant to the stomach in the quantity required and therefore needs wrapping for delayed release in the intestine. Peppermint relaxes the gastro-esophageal sphincter, thus promoting belching. Restaurants usually take advantage of this effect by taking advantage of its use as a confectionery ingredient, which they then call "after-dinner mints."

Peppermint flowers are large nectar producers and honey bees as well as other nectar harvesting organisms forage them heavily. A mild, pleasant varietal honey can be produced if there is a sufficient area of plants.

Peppermint oil is used by commercial pesticide applicators, in the EcoSmart Technologies line of products, as a natural insecticide.

Outside of its native range, areas where peppermint was formerly grown for oil often have an abundance of feral plants, and it is considered invasive in Australia, the Galápagos Islandsmarker, New Zealandmarker, and in the United Statesmarker.

Cultivation

Peppermint generally thrives in shade and expands quickly by underground stolons. If you choose to grow peppermint, it is advisable to plant it in a container, otherwise it can rapidly take over a whole garden. It needs a good water supply, and is ideal for planting in part-sun to shade areas.

The leaves and flowering tops are the usable portion of the plant. They are collected as soon as the flowers begin to open and then are carefully dried. The wild form of the plant is less suitable for this purpose, with cultivated plants having been selected for more and better oil content. Seeds sold at stores labelled peppermint generally will not germinate into true peppermint, but into a particularly poor-scented spearmint plant. The true peppermint might rarely produce seeds, but only by fertilization from a spearmint plant, and contribute only their own spearmint genes.

Toxicology

The toxicity studies of the plant have received controversial results. Some authors reported that the plant may induce hepatic diseases, while others found that it is of protective functions against the liver damages which are caused by heavy metal inductions , . In addition to that, the toxicities of the plant seem to variate from one cultivar to another and are dose dependent , . This is probably attributed from the content level of pulegone . Some of the toxic components may come from herbicides , .

List of the cultivars

A number of cultivars have been selected for garden use:
  • Mentha × piperita 'Candymint'. Stems reddish.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Citrata' (Orange Mint, Eau De Cologne Mint). Leaves aromatic, hairless.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Crispa'. Leaves wrinkled.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Lime Mint'. Foliage lime-scented.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Variegata'. Leaves mottled green and pale yellow.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Chocolate Mint'. Flowers open from bottom up; reminiscent of flavour in Andes Chocolate Mints, a popular confection.


Commercial cultivars may include
  • Dulgo pole
  • Zefir
  • Bulgarian population #2
  • Clone 11-6-22
  • Clone 80-121-33
  • Mitcham Digne 38
  • Mitcham Ribecourt 19
  • Todd's#x2019


Standardization of its products and services



See also







Notes

  1. Euro+Med Plantbase Project: Mentha × piperita
  2. Flora of NW Europe: Mentha × piperita
  3. Linnaeus, C. (1753). Species Plantarum 2: 576–577.
  4. Harley, R. M. (1975). Mentha L. In: Stace, C. A., ed. Hybridization and the flora of the British Isles page 387.
  5. Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  6. Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2
  7. PDR for Herbal Medicines, 4th Edition, Thomson Healthcare, page 640. ISBN 978-1563636783
  8. Bandolier Journal: Peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome
  9. EcoSMART Product label
  10. Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk: Mentha x piperita
  11. USDA Plants Profile: Mentha x piperita
  12. Mountain Valley Growers: Mentha piperita cv. Chocolate Mint


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