The various varieties of peppermints are small, perennial plants. They have oddly four-sided stems and bears clusters of small reddish-violet flowers. Their leaves are dark green with purple veins, with a strong, characteristically minty aroma. Popular in the almost all cuisines of desert cultures around the world, this mint grows best in sunny, moist areas near water.
Nearly every herbal tradition uses teas of this herb to calm queasy stomachs. These tea quell contractions of the smooth muscles lining the intestines and relieve stomach cramps. They also relieve mild spasms of the bile duct associated with gallstones.
Peppermint teas also have gastrointestinal effects that go beyond simple relief of indigestion. The volatile oils in peppermint teas stop the growth of Listeria and Salmonella, the bacteria causing food poisoning, as well as the overgrowth of non-pathogenic bacteria that aggravate Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Laboratory studies with animals have found that they counteract the growth of bacteria that release free sulfur, causing especially odorous flatulence. And these herbal teas are nourishing in themselves, containing an extraordinary range of trace minerals, including cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, lithium, manganese, magnesium, vanadium, and zinc.
If you pick your own peppermint from your herb garden, be sure to gather the leaves in the early morning just after the dew has disappeared. The leaf’s flavoring oils are at their highest concentrations in early to mid-morning. Rinse the leaves carefully and be sure to dry them indoors, in a cool, dark place.