The Hybrid Mint


Mentha Piperita (Lamiaceae)

Peppermint is a hybrid plant of watermint and spearmint. It was originally found in the Mediterranean area along with other members of its family. Peppermint was grown commercially in England around 1750. Although it is not indigenous to North America, it can grow in wet climates. There are other varieties of peppermint that are indigenous to other places such as South America, South Africa and Australia.

Parts of the Plant Used

The major secondary chemical in the peppermint plant is menthol.

The leaves are the primary part of the plant used. (menthol comes from the leaves and stem) The oil from peppermint plants are used mostly for soothing muscle and nerve pain. One use of the peppermint leaves in tea is to relieve digestive issues.

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Nutritional Content and Health Benefits

Peppermint is low in calories and high in Vitamin A, Potassium and Folate.

Mentha piperita is most widely known to alleviate digestive issues, but there are many other ailments that it has been known to relieve. Other uses for peppermint could be: colds, headaches, nausea and nervous tension (many more).

Although there are many benefits of using peppermint, there are also adverse effects that could occur. One of which is the consumption of peppermint gastroesophageal reflux disease because peppermint has the ability to relax the sphincter possibly allowing stomach acid to resurge. Another possible adverse effect could be painful heartburn if the peppermint in the form of a capsule or oil is not enteric coated.

Use of Peppermint in Cultures

Over the course of history, peppermint has played a special role in medicinal uses.

European phytomedicines today have used an enteric coated capsule of peppermint as a way to relieve IBS. The peppermint leaf is also used to aid muscle spasms in the GI tract as well as gallbladder and bile duct spasms.

In the Cherokee tribe, mint plants are a few out of the many that have a special use. In the form of tea, it is used to help indigestion. The mint leaves can also be added to baths to relieve itching or rashes. An infusion of mint leaves and stems has also been said to lower high blood pressure.


(2015) Cherokee Nation Cherokee Medicinal Herbs. Retrieved from:

(2015) University of Maryland Medical Center Peppermint. Retrieved from:

(2015) USDA Basic Report: 02064, Peppermint, fresh. Retrieved from:

Foster, Steven & Duke, James A. (2014). Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. (3rd ed.). Boston, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (pg 252)

Foster, Steven. University of Maryland Medical Center Peppermint. (Photo) Retrieved from:

Levetin, Estelle & McMahon, Karen. (2012). Plants & Society (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Companies Inc. (textbook page 288-289)

Jilli Heuser Lab B