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Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Peppermint essential oil is an ancient oil that has been in use for thousands of years; it has many useful properties in aromatherapy today.

Ancient Use of Peppermint

A variety of peppermint (Mentha piperita) has been found in Egyptian tombs(1000 B.C.),  indicating that peppermint was in evident use in ancient Egypt ; both the ancient Chinese and Japanese used peppermint oil too.  The Romans used peppermint for digestive problems and also wore garlands of peppermint at Roman feasts; peppermint has been used extensively in both Eastern and Western medicine for problems such as nausea, headaches, toothaches, cramp, diarrhea, sore throats and indigestion. 

England was one of the best peppermint producing areas in the world in the 18th and 19th centuries but the United States is now considered to be the world's largest producer of peppermint oil; however, the use of peppermint essential oil in aromatherapy is a comparatively small percentage of the overall worldwide output of peppermint.  Do not confuse peppermint essential oil with the many other varieties of mint oil available.

Origins and Cultivation of Peppermint

Peppermint is native to Southern Europe and was introduced into North America in the 19th century; peppermint is now cultivated worldwide and is found in China, Japan, Europe and the United States.  Peppermint is a perennial herb of up to three feet in height.  It has aromatic dark green leaves and tall spikes of purple colored flowers.  Peppermint essential oil has a fresh, minty aroma and is obtained from the steam distillation of the fresh, flowering herb; it is a member of the Lamiaceae plant family.

Menthol Content of Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil is extremely high in the chemical component of menthol; because of this fact, there are a number of circumstances in which care should be taken when using peppermint oil.  Peppermint essential oil is not suitable for babies and children under three years of age as the oil is too powerful; in fact, the use of peppermint oil in the vicinity of young babies is cautioned against because of the potential hazards.

Cautions for Using Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil should not be used in pregnancy or with nursing mothers and is not compatible with homeopathic treatments; it should not be used in cases of epilepsy or heart disease too.  The use of peppermint oil in the evening may cause wakefulness and, as a stimulant used over long periods of time, may cause considerable disturbances to sleep patterns.

Uses of Peppermint Oil in Aromatherapy

Peppermint oil is versatile; it is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, digestive, antiseptic, an astringent, carminative and anti-spasmodic.  Peppermint essential oil is used to treat migraine, bronchitis, sinusitis, indigestion, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, irregular periods and nervous conditions.  It is also very useful in the treatment of colds and flu.

Additionally, use peppermint oil to treat dermatitis, acne, muscle pain, travel sickness, to improve concentration and memory and to treat shock.  It is useful to deter mice, rats, ants, cockroaches and other vermin which dislike the smell of peppermint.  Peppermint is a fragrance component in soaps, cosmetics, perfumes and detergents; it is also a flavoring agent in pharmaceuticals and is found in many digestive and cough and cold remedies.

References:

- Davis, Patricia 1999 Aromatherapy An A-Z UK: Vermilion
- Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London: Element

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Peppermint Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.


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