Thought to have originated in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean, peppermint shows up throughout history with a variety of medicinal, practical, and even somewhat scandalous uses. Ancient Egyptians used peppermint to calm stomach pains and freshen breath. In ancient Greece the philosopher Aristotle thought mint a potent aphrodisiac and warned Alexander the Great not to let his soldiers partake of any mint while on crusade. Monks in the middle ages used mint as a tooth polisher and by the 1700s mint was being used in Europe for everything from sores and venereal disease to colds and headaches. Still as thoroughly multi-purpose and useful (though not recommended for quite the same pool of ailments) peppermint oil is a fantastic tool to battle all manner of indisposition.
Peppermint oil is an antispasmodic and by reducing cramping of the colon and relaxing the muscles of the gut it can help alleviate all kinds of stomach upset including nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, bloating, and flatulence. A drop added to a glass of water is a refreshing way to take this remedy, and if that’s even too much for your ailing tummy, a strong whiff of this essential oil is purported to relieve nausea.
Our love affair with peppermint oil began one thousand degree day in Tucson, AZ when we unwisely decided a long run was in order (a dry heat, be damned). Passing through a farmer’s market, we discovered “Peppermint Jim” hawking his family’s hundred year old steam-distilled, unadulterated peppermint oil. As red as the beets at the market, we were offered a tester bottle and told to rub a few drops into the backs of our necks to cool off. Words cannot describe the heavenly, bracing, refreshing, and icy-cooling sensation that washed over us within seconds – you just have to try it for yourself.
One of the easiest and most effective uses of peppermint is as a simple breath freshener – we carry a bottle in our bags everywhere we go. A little dab on the tongue instantly refreshes, kills bacteria, and perks up the inside of the mouth to quickly chill out burrito breath. If straight on the tongue is too strong for you, a natural mouthwash can be made by adding 1-2 drops of peppermint oil to 1/4 cup of fresh water and gargling with it.
A good toner is an essential part of the beauty routine during the warmer months of the year. A natural DIY option can be made by combining ¾ cup filtered water, ¼ apple cider vinegar, and 20-50 drops of peppermint essential oil in a glass spray bottle. Lightly mist onto the skin after cleansing and throughout the day, and then store in the refrigerator. The apple cider vinegar is anti-inflammatory while the peppermint acts to cool and refresh skin.
Peppermint isn’t just bracing and stimulating to the breath, if you catch our not so subtle drift. A natural muscle relaxant, peppermint can be worked into the skin in a carrier oil to soothe tired and stressed muscles and relax the body and mind. At the same time, the menthol aroma acts to snap our senses awake, helping us to be more aware of arousal and sexual stimulation. A sparing dab to erogenous zones can tingle and delight while a drop added to a tablespoon of chilled coconut oil can become a tasty edible massage oil.