For most people the mention of mint conjures thoughts of candy canes and chewing gum, but the many uses of fragrant and versatile mint extend way beyond the candy counter. In the kitchen, mint makes an excellent addition to recipes and an uplifting, energizing tea.
Breath Booster: Research shows that the rosmarinic acid contained in peppermint blocks inflammatory compounds called leukotrienes and encourages the body to make prostacyclins, which open the airway and improve breathing. Peppermint has also been shown to alleviate nasal congestion linked to colds and allergies. To maximize the decongesting and breath-boosting effects of peppermint, drink three cups of peppermint tea daily. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb or one tablespoon of fresh peppermint per cup of boiled water and let steep for at least 10 minutes.
Cold Killer: Dominion Herbal College in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, recommends a strong mint and elderflower tea to promote perspiration and to help fend off colds and flu. To make this traditional remedy, steep one tablespoon of each peppermint leaves and elderflowers (available from many health food stores and online herbal suppliers) in hot water water. Drink a half to full cup every 30 to 45 minutes at the first sign of a cold or flu until you start perspiring. Then reduce to 2 tablespoons of the tea every hour or 2 until the symptoms improve.
Tummy Tamer: Perhaps the best known use of peppermint is as a digestive aid. It is well known that peppermint tea can alleviate nausea, vomiting and other digestive issues.
Gallstone Savior: Peppermint contains the compound borneol, found in numerous varieties of mint, which according to the famous botanist Dr. James Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy, can aid in the elimination of gallstones (along with any prescribed medical treatment, of course). He suggests adding a teaspoon of cardamom and brewing the peppermint-cardamom tea according to the instructions under “Breath Booster” above, and drink frequently.
Herpes Helper: According to research by John Heinerman, a doctor of medical anthropology and author of Healing Herbs and Spices, peppermint is potent against viruses, making it a good choice in dealing with the herpes virus. The Herpes simplex virus causes cold sores and genital herpes while Herpes zoster is linked to chicken pox and shingles. Heinerman recommends two cups of hot peppermint tea daily to alleviate symptoms and shorten the duration of herpes outbreaks. Drinking peppermint tea on occasion afterward can help reduce the incidence of future outbreaks.
Road Rage Reliever: Do you have a tendency to experience road rage, anxiety, fatigue or frustration while driving? According to research by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia, smelling the scent of peppermint while driving a car decreases levels of frustration, anxiety and fatigue.
It’s simple to grow mint since it tends to grow like a weed once planted. You may wish to keep it in a contained space to prevent it from taking over your garden. It prefers a cool, moist spot but can easily grow in full sun if watered regularly. Simply pluck mint leaves off the plant as needed.