Peppermint - part 3

Habitat and cultivation

The peppermint herb is grown extensively as commercial ventures in many parts of the world including in large areas of Europe, in Asia, and in the North American continent. The peppermints will grow best in areas having moist soils, it prefers areas of loosely textured sandy soil that is rich in the content of humus. For ideal growth of the peppermint the recommended pH range is from 6.0 to 7.5. The varieties of mints, including the peppermint and the spearmint, seem to thrive best and grow well full sunlight, but some of these plants also quite well even in partially shaded areas. Considerable shade is tolerated by some of the mints at the same time, like the water mint, which can tolerate considerable shades for long periods of time. At the same time, plants like the Corsican mint require shade for optimum growth at any time. Full sunlight exposure year round is necessary for mints to develop their best flavor and fragrance in the northern climes. The peppermint must always be kept well watered for optimum growth.

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The mints in general can be grown from stocked seed; this is not always advisable as a cultivation strategy, as the majority of mints do not grow well from seed. The best way to propagate the different cultivated mints is by using stem cuttings which are taken from well established plants just before these plants bloom, or the cutting can be taken by dividing existing plants into many parts, this must be done for optimal results during the early spring, or the cutting can be bought from nurseries.

The planted peppermint plants must be space at least 45 cm or 18 inches apart ideally. The mints spread and grow well once the roots are established, rapid growth is also possible because of underground runners or stolons present in the plant. The herb garden in which the mints are grown must be prevented from being overtaken by the fast growing mints. Prevent the mints from expanding their area of growth by digging up unwanted runners every spring, or you can even curb the spread of the underground runners by sinking some drainage tiles or plastic dividers into the soil around near the areas in which the plants are growing, up to a minimum depth of about 30 cm or 12 inches. The mints can also be planted in large containers or pots equipped with drainage holes, and these can then be sunk into the ground. A bushy growth in the plant can also be induced by pinching off the flowers from time to time.

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The planted mints must be renewed once every three years by carefully dividing and replanting the roots, during the next spring or fall season. New spots are ideal for the growth of the peppermint, as this mint in particular, does not grow very well in the same location for more than a few years at a time.
Mints are also very susceptible to infestations from common plant aphids, from cutworms and spider mites, and especially from the mint flea beetles, as well as the verticillium wilt disease and from fungal rust-particularly if the soil is too rich in nutrients. The immediate step to take incase of diseased plants is to dig them up and burned them at once. New mint plants can be re-planted in the next season in a different location.
The plants must be protected in areas where winters are usually harsh and cold, the plants can be covered with straw - not soil -so as to prevent damage to the runners from the cold and frost.
During the early weeks of the fall season or in the spring, establish indoor plants using commercial potting soils. The containers or the pots which are utilized must be large enough so as to give the creeping roots sufficient room for their optimal development.

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Plants which are grown indoors require at least 5 hours of strong sunlight daily for optimal growth. The soil in which the plants are growing must be kept moist at all times but never soggy. When the plants have grown well, it is important to apply a liquid houseplant fertilizer used at half strength for every 3 or 4 weeks of growth. Flowering can be prevented and tastier leaves can be ensured, by carefully keeping the stems cut back to 13 cm or 5 inches. Re-pot the plants when or if they start to turn yellow, this time the pot must be a larger container, or you can even divide the root mass into separate pots each propagate the herb in this way.

Research

The peppermint oil has been shown during various researches to be a very volatile and strongly antibacterial agent. At the same time, the compound menthol - which is a constituent of the oil, is also antiseptic and antifungal, it can induce cooling in the body, and it also functions as an anesthetic to the skin at the same time, though it is also an irritant in some cases. Another, good effect is that the entire herb is known to have an antispasmodic effect on the digestive system and can be used as a remedy. The value of the peppermint in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome has been established during the course of many clinical trials in Denmark and Britain during the 1990s.

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Constituents

Peppermint contains essential oil, up to 1.5 per cent, containing menthol, flavonoids, rosmarinic acid.

Usual dosage

Dosages of the peppermint will depend on the type of herbal remedy. Prepare a herbal tea for internal use, this tea can be made by pouring 250 ml or 1 cup of boiling water over 1 heaped teaspoon of the dried peppermint leaves and let this steep in the water for five to ten minutes, doses of this can be taken as three to four cups every day between meals to help in relieving problems in the stomach and the gastrointestinal tract. The herb can also be taken in the form of peppermint leaf tablets, as capsules, and as liquid extracts, these are often used at dosages of 3-6 grams daily during treatment. The irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be treated by taking 1-2 capsules of the enteric-coated peppermint capsules containing 0.2 ml of the volatile peppermint oil, preferably at single doses two to three times every day. The herbal remedy made from the peppermint can also be used for the treatment of headaches, and many people apply a topical herbal combination of the peppermint oil and the eucalyptus oil, which are diluted with some base oil - this combination herbal oil is applied directly to the temples at the very start of the symptoms of a headache and repeated once every hour following the initial application or continually used until the relief from symptoms becomes apparent.

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Side effects and cautions

The herbal tea made from the peppermint is generally considered as a safe remedy for regular consumption and does not produce very significant side effects. However, side effects are known to be induce in people who take peppermint oil in very large amounts, taken in this way, the herb can cause burning and gastrointestinal problems in certain individuals. For this reason, herbal peppermint remedies are best avoided by people with problems of chronic heartburn. Other side effects are also evident, and the use of enteric-coated peppermint capsules by certain people can induce burning sensations in the rectum as side effects. The topical use of the peppermint oil has also caused rare allergic reactions from time to time and these have been reported in some people. Infants and young children must be watched when given peppermint tea and caution is advised on the use of this tea with such groups of individuals, one possible problem is that these infants or children can choke while reacting to the strong menthol content of the herbal peppermint tea. For this particular group of patients, the herbal tea of the chamomile is usually a better choice, not to mention much safer.
It is best not to give any peppermint tea to babies and very young children as the menthol in the tea may cause asphyxiation.

How it works in the body

The general antiseptic action of the menthol in the peppermint oil is a very beneficial and significant effect of peppermint. Various digestive disorders are also treated by the leaves, which have a good combination of various chemical constituents all of which are useful in the treatment process, these helpful compounds also have a very strong antispasmodic effect in general and help in calming problems associated with the gut. This is especially so when there is gastric disorder caused by an over indulgence in food. The remedies made from the peppermint also have a proven record in the treatment of disorders such as the irritable bowel syndrome, they are helpful in dealing with problems such as gastritis, and are exceptionally effective in dealing with problems such as excess abdominal gas and colic in the body. Sweating is also encouraged by the peppermint remedy and the herb is said to have a diaphoretic element, for this reason, the herb is commonly used to treat colds and flu and to cool down the body during a fever. According to the Chinese system of medicine, the peppermint is said to be able to disperse all kinds of fevers, any type of headaches, and problems such as coughs, and the Chinese herbalist also prescribe its use as an herbal remedy, during the early stages of colds and the common flu. Herbalist in China in addition, utilize remedies made form the peppermint in the treatment of rashes, for example as a treatment for skin following measles, the peppermint is said to be able to encourage the progress of the rash and in this way, it is believed to speed the rate of recovery from the illness. The painkilling effects of the peppermint are also known and it is used for external applications on the skin to relieve pain. Bactericidal properties are also displayed by the peppermint oil and the oil is often used as a topical anti-bacterial agent.

Collection and harvesting

The leaves and stem tips of the peppermint can be harvested fresh for immediate use at any time, once the plants have reached full growth are about 15 cm or 6 inches tall. The best flavor can be assured if the flowers of the herb are picked off before the plants ever flower. To induce better drying conditions, the stems can be to just above the lowest set of leaves in the herb. Ideally the harvesting of the peppermint must be carried out before the flowering season; this can be done by carefully cutting stems in the morning, and after the dew dries. For purposes of drying, you can also hang up the leafy stems of the herb upside down in small bunches in a shady location. The leaves can be stripped and stored in airtight jars when the dry, try to strip the leaves and store in the airtight jars, in a dark location. Remember not to crumble herbal peppermint before they are ready to use, as the flavor of the herb will diminish. Try to store them by freeze, the leaves in butter, in oil, or in ice cubes.

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