Sunday, October 3, 2010

Peppermint Essential Oil: Another Necessity for Your Medicine Chest

So far we have talked about the essential oils that I feel should be kept in your Aromatic Medicine Chest: lavender, tea tree, lemon, and eucalyptus essential oils.  These oils are very versatile and can be used for so many different ailments and conditions.  Another "essential" essential oil is Peppermint essential oil.

Right off the bat, we know that peppermint oil is a stimulant and energizing oil just by our normal interactions with the scent.  Candy canes, peppermint gum, peppermint lip balms, wild growing mint all bring about thoughts of being awakened, energized.  The cool feel that we have when we breathe in after eating a peppermint brings about the memories of seeing our breath on a cold day. 

Anyone who has ever grown mint plants knows that they are a perennial herb.  Mint is the gift that keeps on giving because it doesn't just come back year after year, it comes back and multiplies year after year, and you don't have to do a thing to encourage it!  You can smell the mint in the air just by standing near a patch of mint plants, so it is obviously a very strong herb which produces a strong top note fragrance.  Since mint is quite abundant, it is quite affordable both as an herb and as an essential oil.

It's scent as a perfumery essential oil is fresh, minty, and clean with a highly intense odor.  The key qualities in its aroma are refreshing, restoring, mentally stimulating, and sometimes possesses qualities of being an aphrodesiac.  As far as safety is concerned, it is nontoxic and non-irritating, but some people may be sensitive to it due to the menthol which is contained in it.  It is the menthol that gives you the "cold feeling"  in your mouth when you breathe in after eating a mint candy. Menthol, but not mint, is contained in tobacco products, cleaning agents, and some mouthwashes.

The essential oil is extracted from the flowering parts of the mint plant by steam distillation.  It is a pale yellow or greenish liquid with a highly penetrating smell of mint, menthol, and camphor.  It can be suitable for children, with care though due to its very penetrating odor.  If mixing with other oils to make a nice smelling blend, it goes nicely with rosemary, lavender, marjoram, lemon, and bergamot.  Peppermint oil should be used sparingly in aroma mixes because it will tend to overshadow some of the more lighter scents such as lavender.  When using peppermint oil, always remember to dilute with either water or a carrier oil.

Peppermint oil can be used for skin care and has been used successfully for acne and dermatits.  It can be used for medicinal skin problems such as scabies and ringworm, although these types of skin conditions are not seen as much today as they were years ago.  For acne use, dilute with an equal amount of water and pat on the areas of the face affected.  For any other type of skin care, mix with a light carrier oil and rub on the area.

Due to its high level of menthol, it can be used for achy joints and muscles and neuralgia.  For these painful conditions, mix with a massage oil and rub it into the painful area.  The carrier oil (olive oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, etc.) could be warmed up in the microwave before mixing with the peppermint oil to make a warm compress to place on the affected area. Pour the warmed up oils on a flannel or chamois cloth.  As the compress cools, place it back in the microwave to warm up again.

The digestive system can benefit greatly from mint, though not the essential oil because essential oils can not be ingested.  In health food stores, you can buy a peppermint syrup that can be safely taken internally.  This peppermint syrup can  help alleviate nausea and stomach upsets.  Peppermint tea can also help with nausea and also cramps and colic.  Peppermint essential oil should never be taken internally, but your tummy can benefit from a warm compress of peppermint oil as described above.  Place the compress over your tummy or your abdomen for ease of digestive problems.

Peppermint oil is a real help when it comes to headaches and mental fatigue.  Mix a few drops of the oil with water or a carrier oil and massage it into your temple region and on the back of your neck to get rid of a headache quickly.  Smelling dried mint in a sachet or applying a couple of drops on a cotton ball and smelling it will clear your mind and relieve any mental fatigue you may be feeling.  Peppermint can also be placed in an aroma diffuser to freshen and clean the air or to energize you on a dark gloomy day.  But remember, less is more!  Since it is a stimulant, using way too much scent can overwhelm your senses and not give you the desired affect.  You can tell if you have used too much if it seems like the aroma is overwhelming and not like a hint of freshness.

A couple of other popular uses of peppermint essential oil are getting rid of bad breath and getting rid of mosquitos.  For cleaning the inside of the mouth, merely place a couple of drops into a small glass of water and swish it around in your mouth and gargle with it.  The best way to use as a mosquito repellant is to place a teaspoon of the peppermint essential oil along with a cup of distilled water and a tablespoon or so of vodka into a small pump spray bottle and spray it on your skin and in the air around you.  The vodka does not contribute to the aroma, but is used to allow the droplets of water to stay in the air longer before evaporating. 

One really nice way to use peppermint or spearmint if you have it growing in your garden is to use it in a sachet.  You will need to cut your mint plants and dry them.  The best way to dry them is the tie the plants together and hang them upside down in a cool, dark, and dry place.  After a few weeks you will have some really nice aromatic dried peppermint or spearmint.  At this point, put the leaves in an airtight container like a mason jar.  When you want to use it, take several leaves and crush them in your fingers.  For the sachet, buy or make a small little fabric bag and fill with half crushed mint leaves and half cotton or some other type of fiberfill.  After it is packed tight, tie a ribbon around the top, and that's all there is to it.  You can use it for a car air freshener or to put in dresser drawers or wherever you would like to have an fresh stimulating scent.

So go ahead and experiment with some peppermint essential oil or some fresh or dried mint.  Since it is so abundant, it is affordable for you to try some of the above mentioned remedies or crafts.  You will soon find out that it is a nice scent to have in your Aromatic Medicine Chest.

Bye for now.  Next time we will be talking about another good scent to have on hand: Chamomile!