Do you love the flavor of peppermint in your tea, mints, and toothpaste? Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is actually a hybrid species created by a cross between watermint and spearmint. This species, while indigenous to Europe and the Middle East, is now grown all over the world.
Peppermint is cultivated as a culinary ingredient, as well as for essential oil production. While it is grown worldwide, different climates affect the chemistry of the plant. Indian peppermint, for example, smells very different from Willamette peppermint, which is grown in the Pacific Northwest.
Peppermint oil is used for: traditional medicine, cooling affects on sore muscles, a natural pesticide, flavoring, and aromatherapy. It has a high concentration of menthol and menthone, which gives it that sharp, minty aroma. These constituents also contribute to the “cooling” affect when applied topically.
Due to its popularity, Peppermint oil is often subject to adulteration. Often, carrier oils will be added to dilute the pure essential oil. Synthetic menthol is also added to create a mintier aroma. With rampant adulteration in the market, it remains vital that every lot of essential oil is tested for purity.