Keep Minty Fresh this Summer!
July 2018, posted by Emma
Here in the UK the weather forecasters promised us a hot summer and so far they haven’t disappointed us. Like me, you might love the heat, but even the most dedicated sun-worshipers will admit there are times when we need to cool down. Aromatically, members of the mint family excel at this task. Think of sprigs of mint in cool summer drinks, tongue-freezing minty ice creams, sharp peppermint sweets or that refreshing foot lotion that’s lurking in the back of your bathroom cupboard.
There are many varieties of mint, the most famous being peppermint (Mentha x piperita). Its essential oil has been a household staple for decades, used extensively in toothpaste, food flavourings, cold remedies and much more. Mints are members of the Lamiaceae family, alongside other aromatherapy favourites such as lavender and rosemary. This plant family is rich in volatile oils – just stroke a mint or rosemary leaf to rupture the delicate oil sacs and release the aromatic essential oils.
Writing in 1640 John Parkinson, herbalist to the King of England, lists 12 varieties of mint, attributing them with a plethora of medicinal uses including the ‘byting of a mad Dogge’ and easing headaches. The latter is still a popular aroma-therapeutic use of this versatile oil, alongside easing nausea and muscle aches, soothing digestion and treating pre-menstrual tension. peppermint is high in menthol which triggers our skin’s cold sensitive receptors; interestingly it induces both hot and cold sensations, though it’s ultimately a cooling oil. Energetically it’s described as cool and dry and is a useful ingredient in bends to focus and stimulate fuzzy minds. A French herbal school describe peppermint as a herb which helps our inner selves take control, making it a useful oil to reach for if we feel overwhelmed or are hesitating over an important decision.
Peppermint comes with some important safety warnings. Cardiac fibrillation and G6PD deficiency patients (a genetic disorder) should avoid inhaling peppermint oil or applying it to the skin, even diluted (incidentally, we don’t recommend applying any essential oil neat to the skin). Crucially peppermint oil should never be applied on or near the faces of infants or young children.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is peppermint’s gentler sibling. With a subtler, sweeter aroma it’s also a food flavouring favourite, apparently favoured by chefs in savoury dishes, whilst peppermint is preferred for deserts. It shares many of peppermint’s therapeutic qualities so is a good substitute if the stronger minty oil isn’t appropriate or liked. Some of my clients don’t like peppermint because it smells too much like toothpaste, plus it has a habit of overpowering a blend if not used in moderation. Not so spearmint, which can be easier to work with to produce a more rounded, aromatically pleasing blend. It’s also more child-friendly, being much lower in menthol (which poses the baby and child risk in peppermint).
So this summer you might find yourself cooling down with a minty mojito, choc-ice or footbath. Whichever your approach, keep cool and enjoy the benefits of this versatile plant family and its essential oils.
Minty cool recipes to try at home.
Children’s Butterfly-Tummy Rub
Children often complain of tummy ache when they’re feeling anxious. This sweet-scented blend is designed to sooth digestive issues and anxious minds. Massage gently into your child’s tummy once a day. Making it fun can be particularly important with younger children. Encouraging your child to massage their tummy themselves can help give your child control over managing their tummy ache.
30ml unrefined coconut oil
Essential oils (at a 1% dilution)
4 drops true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
2 drops spearmint (Mentha spicata)
1 drop roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobile)
Mix the essential oils thoroughly with the coconut oil. Store in a glass jar, preferably in the fridge – coconut oil is softly solid when cool but turns to liquid when warm. I’ve suggested coconut as its an aroma that children are often familiar with (its an ingredient in lots of sweets and biscuits), but if your child doesn’t like the scent then use sunflower or sweet almond oil instead.
Of course massage and essential oils should never be a substitute for medical assistance – if your child’s tummy ache doesn’t clear quickly then seek medical advice.
This foot bath combines the skin softening qualities of sea salt with deodorising and refreshing essential oils. Perfect at the end of a summer’s day.
50g sea salt
10mls soluble (or vegetable oil)
A splosh of your chosen aromatic water (hydrolat)
Essential oils (at a 2% dilution):-
3 drops lemon (Citrus limonum)
2 drops peppermint (Mentha piperita)
1 drop fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
You need a cereal-size bowl. Blend the essential oils with the soluble or plain base oil. Add the salt and mix thoroughly, until you have a thick-ish paste. Boil a kettle and add a little hot water, just enough to cover the paste. Stir to dissolve the salt, pop a lid on the bowl and cool. When fridge-cold pour the mix into a bowl large enough to soak your feet in. Add approx. 2 pints of cold water plus a splosh of your favourite aromatic or essential water - soothing chamomile goes well with this blend. Even better, freeze some aromatic water ice cubes in advance and add a few to the bowl. Grab yourself a chilled peppermint tea, kick back and enjoy your cooling foot soak. My feet are soaking in this bath-blend as I type - my feet feel wonderful and my mind is refreshed!
• *Bruton-Seal J & Seal M (2014) The Herbalist’s Bible, John Parkinson’s Lost Classic Rediscovered, Ludlow, Shropshire: Merlin Unwin Books (quote p.146)
• Ecole Lyonnaise De Plantes Medicinales, Patrice De Bonneval and Cathy Skipper (date unspecified) Aromatic Medicine, integrating essential oils into herbal practice (Volume 1), Lyon: Herbalists sans Frontieres
• Mojay G (1996) Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit (1996) London: Gaia Books Limited
• Tisserand R & Young R (2014) Essential Oil Safety (second edition), Edinburgh, London, New York et al: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier
• www.almanac.com (2018) Growing Mint, Planting, Growing, And Harvesting Mint, accessed 25/06/18, available from https://www.almanac.com/plant/mint
• www.mercola.com (1997-2018) Spearmint Oil: the gentle mint oil, accessed 26/06/18, available from https://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/spearmint-oil.aspx
• www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com (2017) Lamiaceae Plants of the Mint Family, accessed 26/06/18, available from https://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/Plant_Families/Lamiaceae.htm