This series celebrates the common herbs, because in a world of novelty – it’s easy to forget the benefits of the humble, accessible supermarket herbs for the skin, body, and mind.
And more importantly – the abundance of wellness you have access to.
Mint (Mentha x piperita)
Herbal Actions: Analgesic, Antispasmodic, Nervine, Antimicrobial
The refreshing aroma of mint definitely wakes you up – but mint actually has a calming effect on the body, and nervous system. It soothes and relaxes cramping muscles, tension and anxiety.
And this is true for all mints! Peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, chocolate mint… all different varieties of mint have been studied and found to have therapeutic effects…
Peppermint showed the greatest effect because it has the highest amount of menthol, which is responsible for that soothing, numbing, therapeutic action.
PAIN & CRAMPING
As an analgesic and antispasmodic, mint offers relief from pain and muscle spasms. Studies have shown that applying peppermint essential oil on the skin helps to relieve itching and pain on the surface of the skin, and deep down into muscular and nerve tension. (ref)
Researchers found that it works because the menthol in peppermint affects Kappa Opioid receptors, which turn on pathways in the nervous system that inhibit pain and discomfort. Plus, it also increases the cell’s threshold for stimulation – so the sensation of pain isn’t as easily triggered. (ref) Makes me think of the practice of cold showers, you build up a resilience to stress…
The best way to use mint for itch and pain relief is to apply peppermint essential oil on the skin over skin irritations, bites and stings, aching muscles, menstrual cramps, upset stomach, and on forehead and temples for headaches. (ref)
Make a salve with peppermint infused oil, and add in peppermint essential oil at 2% dilution, for a more potent remedy. Use it as needed directly over the areas where you feel discomfort. Avoid eyes and mucus membranes.
Also, drink peppermint tea – for the same reasons and benefits.
It’s a great after-dinner drink, especially if you experience digestive issues, cramping, or bloating, you can also make a peppermint cordial or tincture. Add some peppermint to any digestive or menstrual tea blend, for those calming and soothing benefits. It also brightens and uplifts the flavor!
STRESS & ANXIETY
As a nervine, mint relaxes stress and anxiety. Especially when you notice you’re stuck in a negative mindset and ruminating thoughts.
The aroma of mint jumps up and grabs your attention. It lifts you out of a stressful mental state – and gives you the ability to breathe and reset. Peppermint has been studied in hospitals and found to soothe patient fear and anxiety before surgery, and also helps to relieve nausea after surgery. (ref) It’s good to have mint around – when you’re going through any form of physical and mental stress.
What’s happening is that the menthol in peppermint stimulates endorphins, the happy hormone that increases pleasure and reduces pain and discomfort. (ref) Your mood is uplifted – and then at the same time, it stimulates the hippocampus, which improves cognitive function and memory.
You’re able to focus your mind and think clearly. This is why peppermint is great to use during study and work.
You might also want to breathe in peppermint before making decisions – so that you’re in a relaxed, clear state of mind – and your cognitive functions are switched on!
It’s beautiful the way peppermint uplift your spirits and clears your mind, and at the same time, keeps your body calm and relaxed. The combination is a state of being that we all strive to feel: comfortable in your body, focused, and enjoying the present moment.
As an anti-microbial, peppermint supports a healthy, balanced community of flora on the skin. It has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties – so it covers the bases!
When your skin is compromised (impaired), bacteria that ordinarily live on the skin with no issue – can create infection and inflammation, basically stress out your skin.
Congested pores can create an opening for bacteria to enter and cause havoc – activating your inflammatory responses and creating itchy, red, inflamed pus-filled bumps that we see as pimples. Usually, the bacteria responsible for this is Staph, which lives on the skin at all times.
And so, using antimicrobial herbs on the skin simply helps to support the skin and prevent opportunistic bacteria from proliferating and causing distress.
Peppermint is shown to have moderate effects against bacteria. It’s not our heaviest hitter in the herbal world and it’s hard to tolerate higher concentrations of peppermint on the skin. You could increase antibacterial activity in your skincare preparations by blending in other herbs like lavender, Thyme and Myrrh.
I feel that the greatest benefit of using peppermint for breakouts – is the relief from discomfort, itch, and pain that it provides.
Make your own tea blend, something as simple as peppermint + ginger work together to soothe discomfort.
1 inch grated ginger root
2 cups of water
Bring to boil, then shut off the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes
Add peppermint leaves. Let it sit for another 5 minutes and then strain and drink.