Peppermint is such a lovely plant with a nearly endless list of potential uses. With a USDA hardiness zone rating for many zones of planting (anywhere from zone 3- zone 8,with some strains growing through zone 11), and its varied popularity over the years, peppermint can be found growing wild in many areas of the United States. Peppermint is a creeper, sending up new plant shoots from its roots so, if you’re going to grow this delightful herb, make sure you pick a spot that you don’t mind being taken over or plant in containers.
Peppermint prefers full sun to partial shade with soil that is rich with compost, though I have had it grow in a multitude of different soil and light situations. The two best growing situations I have experienced with peppermint have been where it basks in the gentle morning and early afternoon sun then rests in the shade during late afternoon or where it is in partial shade for almost the entire day, with very little direct sunlight. In these two light conditions, the plants have been very full with large leafs, very pungent, and the color was so vibrant that it seemed as if it was giving off its own light.
The culinary uses of peppermint are fairly vast. Sprinkle some on meat, add to spreads and dips for vegetables and crackers, mix in to bread dough, add fresh leaves to your favorite summer or after dinner drinks, flavor candies, cookies and cakes…the uses end only where your imagination does. Whatever you put it in, you will reap the benefits of peppermint’s uplifting aroma, crisp taste, and digestive aid benefits.
Besides its culinary uses, peppermint is used aromatherapeutically, topically, and internally for a variety of ailments. Feeling tired? Under the weather? Throw a few drops of peppermint essential oil into an oil burner/diffuser to give yourself a mental lift, aid in memory, clear the sinuses, and/or relieve a headache. Sore throat? Gargle with peppermint water. Amazing meal leave you with heart burn/indigestion? Peppermint tea or chewing a few fresh leaves with bring you quick relief. Peppermint oil cools the skin but should never be applied topically unless it is diluted with a carrier oil since the essential oil is quite intense by itself and may irritate the skin. Peppermint water also makes an invigorating end-of-shower body rinse, but be sure to avoid sensitive areas, such as around the eyes and genital areas. I like to throw some sprigs of peppermint into the dogs’ water dish in the summer. It helps with their breath and digestive health. Adding a few drops of peppermint essential oil to some lotion or massage oil can be used to help alleviate muscle pain and joint soreness. The list of benefits from peppermint, in various forms, is quite long. Some of the other ailments that peppermint can help with are symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, colic in infants, gas, hay fever, respiratory complaints, hair and skin, and stress. Research how to use peppermint appropriately for your intended use.
Next up: Fennel