As a qualified aromatherapist and someone who has used oils in everything from homemade skincare items, to bath mixes, to healthy snacks, there’s a lot to discover when it comes to essential oils.
Whilst they’re often dismissed as a ‘natural alternative’ to medicines, it’s worth noting that these oils are the original medicine. Plants are nature’s potions, and (good quality) essential oils contain the pure qualities of these plants without synthetic ingredients or man-made side effects. To be objective about it, it’s of course important to realise that without Western medicine a lot of us wouldn’t necessarily be here right now – and most of us probably know friends and family who have had their bodies or minds saved by those very synthetic and man made packages health and wellbeing gurus love to hate.
So we know there’s Western medicine, we know there’s Eastern medicine, and we know there’s somewhere in between that is open to trying and experimenting and seeing what works. When is a natural herb or remedy necessary, and when is medical intervention necessary? If you’re someone who is attempting to live more sustainably, naturally, health-fully, and less chemically, then it’s worth looking to herbs, oils and plants first. After all; humans have been using them for thousands of years, and we’re still here!
Tea, toothpaste, chewing gum, anti-inflammatory creams and digestive aids are just a few things that contain a peppermint scent or flavour, and they are share the commonality of holding the qualities of cooling, refreshing, encouraging movement, and generally renewing.
In the fascinating world of Ayurveda, peppermint is described as a cooling carminative that enhances digestion and assimilation by eradicating blockages facilitating the flow of energy within the body. Whether we’re trying to clean something, digest something, or reduce inflammation, when we’re using mint, it’s all about allowing things to move along and cool off. Ayurveda also recommends mint for clearing stagnation from the body and mind, and uses it as a way to help the body actually absorb nutrients from foods.
‘Once food leaves the stomach and enters into the intestines, our body is involved in the process of digesting and absorbing the essential nutrients required for meeting the energy and molecular needs of the body. Problems with this phase of digestion often result in gas, bloating, and heaviness after a meal. People with assimilation difficulties often report that even though they are eating healthy foods, they do not feel they are being adequately nourished. Herbs that assist with this phase help coordinate the movement of food through the intestines,’ say Deepak Chopra and David Simon in the Herbal Handbook – and one of those effective herbs is peppermint.
Peppermint For The Body
The feeling of ‘heaviness’ is known as a tamassic quality accord to Ayurveda, and anything tamassic is also linked to lethargy, dullness, inertia and darkness. A person languishing in a tamassic state is said to have difficulty recognising right from wrong actions, acts recklessly, takes shortcuts, and is lazy. They can also suffer from low mood levels and a lack of motivation.
In order to counteract these heavy physical and psychological feelings, peppermint can be used both internally and externally to encourage lightness, coolness, movement and motivation. Drinking peppermint tea or chewing fresh mint after a heavy meal can help remedy heaviness and indigestion, especially after particularly tamassic foods like meat, alcohol, onions, garlic, vinegar, and stale or leftover foods. (click here for a more sattvic or ‘pure’ recipe, and learn more about the three energies and which foods they link to).
Peppermint For The Mind, Motivation + Movement
Other than post meal time, pre-workout time is also a great time to make the most of minty-freshness. Peppermint has long been used throughout history to enhance digestion, cool inflammation, relieve sore muscles, and even enhance emotions.
The ancient Egyptians even used peppermint, and dried peppermint leaves were found in the pyramids that carbon dated back to 1000 BC! The Romans grew it as a digestive aid amongst other medicinal properties, and also used it to cover the ground between stepping stone pathways. Some figured the minty aroma would please the guests making their way up the path as they visited their neighbour’s house.
Other than smelling pleasant however, peppermint has some other qualities that might make you reach for the essential oil bottle this week!
Some athletes use peppermint inhalers, whilst Reebok have even designed a sports bra that smells of peppermint! The consensus amongst athletes is a decreased feeling of fatigue – both physically and mentally – and the smell of peppermint was even released into a dance club where clients rated their feeling of cheerfulness and energy higher when the air was full of minty freshness!
So, if you’re in need of a mood or energy boost, some digestive help, or want to improve your next workout, try simply adding a few drops of peppermint essential oil to a tissue or cloth, and give it a couple of sniffs every so often!