Europe, Middle East
Peppermint is actually a hybrid mint – a cross between watermint and spearmint. Although the plant has now spread to many regions of the world, it is native to Europe and the Middle East. The leaves and flowery tops of peppermint are collected and dried as soon as the flowers begin to bloom. The United States, Oregon and Washington lead in the production of peppermint, which is processed into an essential oil. The oil provides flavoring for chewing gum, toothpaste, teas, ice cream, alcoholic beverages, and much more. Peppermint oil also has a high concentration of pesticides, making it a natural pest repellant. It can also be used as a fragrance, and is known in aromatherapy to have memory and alertness-enhancing properties.
The genus name Mentha comes from Minthe, a nymph in Greek mythology. Minthe was beloved by Hades, who was transformed into a mint plant by his jealous wife.
Peppermint oil has been used to treat stomach ailments for centuries, and is currently being researched for its use as a potential treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. It also has a cooling effect when used topically for muscle pain, nerve pain, and itching. Peppermint tea is popular both for its flavor and for its health benefits, mainly for gastrointestinal ailments. Steam from peppermint tea is effective in easing sinus congestion, and soothes inflammation of the nose and throat membranes.