Peppermint is one of my favorite plants to grow and use. My kids love it too. It's beautiful and fragrant and something about crushing the freshly picked leaves and inhaling their perfume just lifts the spirits.
Plus, peppermint has many medicinal uses that make it one of my favorite herbs to have on hand during cold & flu season.
The essential oil of peppermint (up to 2.5% in the dried leaf) is mostly made up from menthol (ca. 50%), menthone (10 to 30%), menthyl esters (up to 10%) and several monoterpene derivatives (pulegone, piperitone, menthofurane). Traces of jasmone (0.1%) give the oil its characteristically "minty" scent. The aromatic chemicals in the mint are concentrated when the plant is grown in areas with long, warm, bright summer days.
Essential oil of peppermint can be applied to the skin or mouth to relieve pain. The essential oil in peppermint teas relieves the pain associated with colitis and colic. Traditionally, peppermint tea has been used for relieving bloated tummies and trapped gas.
In an animal study, scientists found that a combination of oils from peppermint and eucalyptus was able to kill the avian influenza virus, also known as bird flu.
In another study, patients who were exposed to a spray that included peppermint oil got relief from the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.
In the Fall and Winter I like to add some peppermint oil to a small spray bottle diluted with spring water. I carry it with me to disinfect surfaces in public places or disinifect the air.