Here's what you need to know about peppermint oil/Mentha x Piperita.
About peppermint plant
The peppermint plant is a cross between watermint and spearmint. The first recorded description of peppermint dates back to the 1700s. Researchers discovered dried leaves deep within ancient Egyptian pyramids, which hints that the plant has been in use since 1000BC. Its early applications include treating indigestion, vomiting, morning sickness and colic.
Peppermint contains a high amount of menthol and menthone, which gives it the minty, fresh flavour so prevalent in skincare and health products. Menthol activates a natural response in the body. By blocking the receptor protein TRPM8, found in our nerves, menthol tricks our brain into thinking it's feeling a change in temperature.
How peppermint oil is made
Peppermint oil is generally steam-distilled from the leaves of the plant, harvested just before, or during, flowering. The strength of peppermint oil can vary depending on the plant's origin. Climate and habitat affect the levels of menthol found within the oil - Japanese peppermint has a higher menthol content than peppermint sourced from North America.
Why you should use peppermint oil
Peppermint oil is one of those wonder oils - it seems there's nothing it can't help ease. Naturally full of antioxidants, with antimicrobial and antiviral properties, this aromatic oil is also a decongestant and digestive aid. Some users claim that headaches, coughs and colds, even stress, insomnia and fevers lessen by using peppermint oil in one form or another.
The cooling properties are one of the many key attractions of peppermint oil - it can help to ease irritated skin, and soothe redness. Peppermint oil is also popular in hair products, as that lovely, soothing tingling sensation from the menthol helps to stimulate the scalp and potentially aid hair growth. Peppermint oil is a vasodilator, meaning it dilates blood vessels, helping to increase blood flow. By using peppermint oil and increasing blood flow to the scalp or skin, it may be possible to slow hair loss.
How to use peppermint oil
Peppermint oil must be diluted before being used on your skin - do not apply directly. Try a few drops in a carrier oil such as coconut or sweet almond, but make sure you avoid contact with your eyes. Always check with your doctor if using peppermint oil for medicinal purposes, or begin your use with over-the-counter options.
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