Peppermint is an herb that was first cultivated in England in 1750 as a hybrid between water mint and spearmint. Its leaves are often used to make an herbal tea known as peppermint tea or as a flavored black tea also known as peppermint tea.
Peppermint tea is a traditional remedy for a number of complaints including irritable bowel syndrome, gingivitis, indigestion, and colic. Peppermint tea can also be used as a topical treatment for conditions such as shingles, lower back pain, and tension headaches.
Peppermint tea has been the subject of many scientific studies which have by-and-large substantiated its role in folk medicine. Peppermint leaves (and peppermint tea) contain a number of volatile compounds including menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate and about 40 others. These compounds have been found effective in treating gastrointestinal complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint tea is even more effective when used in conjunction with caraway seeds, fennel seeds, or wormwood, other common herbs often used in herbal and flavored teas.
Peppermint oil is very effective as a topical ointment in relieving pain. It is a muscle-relaxant, and so is useful in relieving stress headaches. Since peppermint oil by itself can cause burning or gastrointestinal upset in some people, the milder form of peppermint tea is the preferred method of using peppermint. Peppermint tea is safe for general consumption.
Peppermint can be grown in the garden, but care must be taken that it doesn’t overtake the other plants. It spreads via its root system rather than seeds, and under the right conditions it can quickly spread throughout the garden. For this reason, it is recommended to grow peppermint in a container or to contain the root system by sinking a barrel or other barrier.
As a hybrid plant peppermint is 99% sterile, so peppermint seed is extremely rare. It is safe to say that any peppermint seed offered for sale is not true peppermint. If you wish to grow true peppermint for making peppermint tea you need to take root or stem cuttings and place them in water until they sprout roots, at which time they can be planted in soil.
Making Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea is made by pouring about a cup of hot (not boiling) water over dried peppermint leaves and letting it sit for no longer than 10 minutes. The leaves are then strained off and the peppermint tea is served.
Peppermint tea bags are also widely available and offer and convenient way to make peppermint tea. Peppermint tea bags come in two varieties - unmixed peppermint tea or black tea flavored with peppermint leaves. Peppermint makes a nice addition to black tea, but those most interested in the health benefits of peppermint tea should drink it by itself or as an herbal tea mixture.