Peppermint Health benefits & Cultivation
Peppermint is one of the most common herbs which is a hybrid of watermint and spearmint characterized by a menthol flavor, and is available in the form of leaves, capsules and oils. It has shown many health benefits which cures many illnesses and it adds a great flavor to the dishes as well.
The plant is very easy to grow but needs proper care & management. The farmers need to choose the local stock based on the adaptability of crops to the climate & market. Normal farming methods include fertilization & weeding including crop rotation.
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We will see in a bit detail in this article about its Cultivation for commercial purposes & Health Benefits.
Peppermint – Introduction
Peppermint is considered to be a hybrid mint indigenous to the Middle East and Europe. The plant is used for Culinary purposes as well as Industrial applications. It is commonly used in medicinal products and mainly in toothpastes because of menthol. There are about 25 species of mint and about 100 of hybrid varieties as well. They all vary in shape and colour with different flavors and scents. They are long day plants and require about 12 hours of critical day length.
It is a herbaceous plant of the genus Mentha and also known as Mentha piperita. It is an evergreen perennial plant with fragrant leaves that can be grown in mediterranean, subtropical or temperate climatic conditions. The leaves are light to dark green in color depending upon the variety and are usually oblong to ovate with slightly sawn leaf margins.
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Peppermint has purple flowers and only vegetative propagation is done through rootstock runners. The plant grows for a maximum of 4cm wide and 3.5 inches long with fibrous roots. The flowers itself contains tubular sepals and the flowering season falls between early June to early September.
Health Benefits of Peppermint
Peppermint has a number of health benefits and is used to cure many ailments. The medicinal value of Peppermint is due to the presence of menthol, menthone and menthyl esters along with a numerous of Vitamins & Minerals such as Magnesium, Calcium, Folate, Potassium, Copper, Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
The herb is used for making various products which includes:
- Carbonated drinks
- Essential oils
- Foods (Chewing gums, Tea, Ice creams etc)
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The several health benefits are mentioned below.
- Indigestion – It calms the stomach muscles and also improves the flow of bile but it should not be used by people with Gastro-oesophageal Reflux disease which has different causes.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – It can help in treating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome which includes pain, bloating, diarrhoea and gas.
- Skin conditions – It’s always widely used for calming skin irritation and itching and also reduces redness of skin. It acts as a natural cleanser because of its antiseptic & antibacterial properties. The oil should always be diluted before using it on the skin.
- Headaches & Migraines – the diluted form of peppermint is applied on the forehead to treat headache.
- Cold & Flu and Sinusitis – The menthol present in peppermint and effective decongestant which shrink the swollen membranes in the nose, making it easy to breath. Menthol is also an expectorant which brings up the mucus from the lungs thereby helping people with coughs. The Peppermint tea lessens sinus problems by breaking down phlegm.
- Nausea & Vomiting – It helps in controlling breathing & provides relief from Vomiting symptoms. It breaks down the fats easily thus relaxing the stomach muscles.
- Energy booster – Peppermint oil when sniffed helps you in increasing alertness, performance and motivation by serving as a nervous system stimulant.
- Menstrual cramps – It helps in relaxing the muscles and its oil is also very beneficial in easing the Menstrual cramps.
- Anti inflammatory – It has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Bad breath – It is known to be a good mouthwash and naturally freshens breath and works to reduce cavities.
- Muscle pain – It acts as a natural painkiller and muscle relaxer.
- Repels bugs – They are natural bug repellents and ward off bugs like ticks, spiders, mosquitoes, ants and lice.
- Fever – It is used to treat high fever because of its cooling properties.
- Anxiety & depression – The refreshing feeling helps to overcome stress and depression and helps to overcome anxiety disorders.
- Urinary infections – It helps in treating Urinary tract problems.
- Heartburn – It lessens the severity of heartburns.
- Cognition – It helps in improving cognitive health.
- Healing Chronic wounds – It is used for internal healing of wounds.
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Cultivars of Peppermint
The commercial cultivars of Peppermint are as follows:
- Clone 80-121-33
- Mitcham Ribecourt 19
- Dulgo pole
- Bulgarian population #2
- Refined Murray
- Roberts Mitcham
- Todd’s Mitcham
- Clone 11-6-22
- Mitcham Digne 38
Essential oil are grown in the following types:
- Scotch spearmint (Mentha cardiac)
- American spearmint (Mentha spicata)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Commercial Peppermint Farming
The commercial mint farming involves proper mechanization, land, labor, equipment as well as
the following factors.
Peppermint prefers half shady locations and tolerates sunny places as well but it should be provided with sunlight for long hours but full sun should be avoided.
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Peppermint requires loose soil texture with abundant moisture. The pH level of the soil should be 5.5 to 6.5. It should be well drained as the roots of the plant are shallow, and should have a high water table with lots of organic matter.
For optimum growth, it requires bright sun and water logged areas should be avoided. Vegetative propagation is usually done in Peppermint using rootstocks of the parent plant either from established nursery beds or harvesting rootstock from existing fields. A 4-inch rootstock can be established within 24 hours and the amount of rootstock depends upon the soil condition, row width etc. It is recommended to maintain 35 inch rows during the first year of plantation and use herbicides, supplementary nitrogen, and adequate weeding.
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The crop requires high water management so irrigation should be done properly, and should have a controlled water table. Mints are considered to be thirsty plants so they should be continuously supplied with water all throughout the year. The plant loses much water through evaporation in sunny locations so the watering should be increased slightly in these areas.
The crop is planted in early March and by April herbicides are applied before emergence of crops. Again in May more herbicides & Chlorothalonil are applied for mint rust. In June herbicides are applied and in July or August Malathion is applied for controlling flea beetles. Clean plow and fertilize in the month of October and then use cover crop in November.
Fertilization depends upon the nutrient content of the soil and age of plants. Soils with well supplied compost require a small amount of fertilizers per year. Use Organic fertilizers such as horn shavings or dung pellets which continuously release nutrients. The plants don’t require fertilizers for the first three months, however, diluted liquid fertilizer can be applied once a month.
Peppermint plants can tolerate temperatures down to -20°C. Young plants should be covered with brushwood or straw during the first year and thereafter no precautionary measures are required. The above ground plant parts die off and the plant survives with its roots or rhizome in the soil and grows back again in spring.
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Pests & Diseases in Peppermint
The pests on mint includes:
- mint flea beetle (longitarsus waterhousei)
- mint bud mite
- mint looper
- corn borer
- variegated cutworm
- spotted spider mite
Mint diseases are:
- mint rust
- verticillium wilt
- septoria leaf spot
- fusarium crown root
- root lesion nematodes
When the Peppermint crop is in full bloom during vegetative maturity, optimum oil can be obtained from it. The oil yield is affected because of environmental conditions, crop variety, weather, water, and the nutrients present in soil. Harvesting includes cutting of mint and then it is allowed to dry for 24 hours. Cured mint is then transported to the distillery where it is distilled for maximum oil production.
Distillery is performed using the following equipments:
- Pressure steam boiler
- Redistillation unit
- Portable table distillation tube
Steam is applied and then mixed oil is passed through a condenser to extract the oil which is then sold to the buyers who further refine or blend the oil before selling.
- Post production & Pest Management
Mint is susceptible to different pests, insects & diseases so herbicides and pesticides are important for maintaining the health of the field. Farmers do crop rotation after every 4 to 5 years of harvesting. They also perform weeding, tillage, and planting of hardened variety. Many weeds such as perennial weeds, pigweeds, annual weeds and grasses affect the production of Mint plants and to control it chemical & non-chemical weed control measures are applied.
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Peppermint is a very beneficial herb but apart from having positive effects, it also has certain side effects. It is not recommended for people having diabetes, hernia or Gastro-oesophageal Reflux disease. This herb should not be taken with antacids. Some people might be allergic to Peppermint and it can be very harmful if taken with other drugs, so it is recommended to always talk to the doctor or experts before using it as a medicine.
Peppermint can be cultivated commercially for Medicinal purposes or for Culinary purposes as well but it should be taken special care about each factor which is responsible for its optimum growth & production.