What is peppermint (Mentha x piperita) ?
Characteristics of peppermint
Common English name: Peppermint
Common name in other languages:
– Spanish: Menta piperita, hierbabuena, yerba de zapo
– Catalan: Menta pebrera
– Eukara: Aizpatan – Menda – Osasun-bedar
– French: Menthe poivrée
– Portuguese: Hortelã-pimenta
– Italian: Menta piperita
– German: Pfefferminze
– Dutch: Pepermunt
Scientific name: Mentha piperita L. Mentha X piperita L. It. The species name “piperita” comes from the Latin “piper” meaning “pepper” and refers to the particularly spicy flavor of this herb. The name of the genus “Mentha” comes from the name of the Greek nymph “Mintha”, which loved Pluto. Proserpina, Pluto lover, became jealous and turned on the plant which bears his name.
Habitat: It is a hybrid between Mentha aquatica and Mentha spicata. Only known as a cultivated plant in orchards or gardens, but sometimes it escapes into the fields and grows wild in deep soil, rich in humus and quite humid.
It can be easily found all over the world, preferring temperate climates to hot or cold. In Europe, although missing in Scandinavia, is quite abundant, especially the variant Mentha x pipertita var. rubescens.
Description of peppermint
Perennial herb of the Labiatae family up to 90 cm. Stems erect, quadrangular, with reddish tones, especially in the variant Mentha x pipertita var. rubescens; lighter in Mentha x piperita var. palescens.
Fairly narrow and elongated leaves, petiolated, ovate or lanceolate, glabrous or slightly pubescent, acute, toothed, patent venation on the underside, shining through the beam.
History of peppermint
Peppermint is a plant of European origin. This plant has always had a high regard in the European tradition among the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks scented home with peppermint flavor and water. It was also used in baths to strengthen and perfume their body.. In the Middle Ages, mint was considered a kind magic that was used in potions.
The origin of this plant has been attributed to England, which is not true at all because it is known that it existed and was used in ancient times. Probably the first specimens from the breeding of wild species of Mentha spicata and Mentha aquatica were produced spontaneously or causally.
The English have to be attributed with improving this species because, in their gardens, the plants were able to produce more refined and appreciated aromas. Today the best quality peppermint it is still considered to be that one produced by the English people.
A drawing of peppermint(Mentha piperita)
From the British Isles it was exported to America where the U.S. became the world’s largest producer. In Europe the main producers are France (in Provence there are the biggest fields), Germany and Italy.
Components of peppermint
– Acids: Acetic, ascorbic, isovaleric, rosmarinic (plant) benzoic, citronellic, geranic, isobutyric (leaves) caffeic, chlorogenic, p-coumaric (shoots)
– Terpenes: pinene, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpinene, beta-pinene, camphene, cineol (6%), phellandrene, gamma-terpinene, limonene, linalol, menthol, neomenthol, neomentone, myrcene, pulegone, terpinolene (leaves) alpha-cadinene, alpha-copaene, alpha-terpineol, beta-thujone, bisabolene, cadinene, citronellol, dipentene, menthol (45%), menthofuran (7%) ocimene, pulegone, sabinene, thymol (essential oil) menthone (Plant)
– Tannins (plant)
– Beta Carotene (leaves)
– Carvacrol (plant)
– Vanillin (Leaves)
– Eugenol (essential oil)
– Flavonoids: hesperidin, diosmin (Ground) luteolin, mentosido (leaves)
– Fiber (leaves), Pectin (buds)
Other species of Mentha
The genus Mentha is constituted by numerous very similar species that, in most cases, are very difficult to classify. The reason is due to the ability of this gender to hybridize.
– Pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegoides) Pennyroyal is a North American herb with properties similar to the European pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). Pennyroyal has been used by native Indians in a usual manner for the same purposes.
Today this plant extracts take part in the composition of many drinks which gives them their characteristic aroma. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug) believes that this plant contains principles that can be hazardous to health, so we do not recommend the use of any preparation made with this herb both in internal and external use.
– Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium): Stems generally crawling from which the flower stalks arise. Oval leaves up to 2 cm long with petioles shorter than the stems of the flowers covered with a dense oval gray pubescence and with blunt teeth. Flowers up to 6 mm lilac or pink, rarely white, gathered and grouped in whorls rounded. Properties similar to peppermint.
– Apple mint (Mentha rotundifolia) Although, with not so pleasant scent, its properties are similar to the previous one. It is one of the most primitive and original mints not produced hybridization (See full study of the plant)
– Mint, spearmint (Mentha spicata = Mentha viridis). It is characterized primarily by its pointed non-stalked leaves.. It has properties similar to other mints.
– Water mint (Mentha aquatica). It can reach 2 m high. It is used as a diuretic, sedative and for the stomach.
– Horse mint = (Mentha longifolia = Mentha sylvestris) Characterized by its long terminal spike. Its properties are very similar to all mints. It is the most used for essential oil. Its properties are similar to other mints but its smell is less prominent.
More information on peppermint the listing above