Herb of the Week

Article excerpt

Byline: Dee Atkinson


Latin Name: Mentha piperita

Grown: Throughout Europe. Main cultivation comes from USA and Japan.

History: The Romans and Greeks used it as a flavouring and medicine, with written records from the 1st century. First used medicinally in Europe in the mid-18th century and became common in British from that time. Large beds of peppermint were grown in Mitcham in Surrey and distilled to produce essential oil.

Traditional Use: Leaves were bruised and applied to the forehead to relieve headaches. Leaves were boiled in milk to ease tummy ache and the oil was applied to aching teeth.

Current Use: Probably the most widely used medicinal plant in the western world. The essential oil is used for chest and respiratory problems and is also found in salves and rubs for muscle and joint problems. The dried leaves are sold mainly as a herbal tea and it is drunk as a calming after dinner drink.

Herbalist Advice: The best use is for stomach and bowel problems. It is wonderful for calming indigestion and nausea and eases irritable bowel problems and colic. The best way to use peppermint is to buy the loose herb and make up a tea. Avoid expensive teabags. It is worth buying organic, as the taste is different.

When not to use: This is a very safe herb, but the only need for caution would be with using tinctures or tablets in the early stages of pregnancy. The essential oil should not be used neat on the skin or taken internally, unless under the supervision of a practitioner.

Dose: To ease indigestion and wind, one teaspoon of herb per cup, taken after food. Tablets and tincture should be taken at the dose prescribed by the manufacturer.

Q FOR 10 years, I've had a problem with soft milia under the skin on my forehead, chin and patches on my cheeks. The condition leaves my skin looking bumpy and uneven, plus it occasionally leads to large red spots. I have visited various doctors and dermatologists and have tried AHAs, facial scrubs and fruit peels. The symptoms appear to be getting worse. My diet is fairly healthy, but I do eat dairy and wheat products. I have tried cutting both out for a few months, but it made no difference. …