Dietribes: Peppermint

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• Peppermint has long been used as a natural supplement to aid in soothing symptoms or getting rid of "the common cold, cough, inflammation of the mouth and throat, sinus infections, and respiratory infections. It is also used for digestive problems including heartburn, nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, irritable bowel syndrome, cramps of the upper gastrointestinal tract and bile ducts, upset stomach, diarrhea, bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, and gas." It also makes for a great soap. Not bad!

• The National Institute of Health also mentions, "Peppermint oil is applied to the skin for headache, muscle pain, nerve pain, toothache, inflammation of the mouth, joint conditions, itchiness, allergic rash, bacterial and viral infections, relaxing the colon during barium enemas, and for repelling mosquitoes. Some people inhale peppermint oil for treating symptoms of cough and colds, and as a painkiller."

• How does it do it? Peppermint and its main active agent, menthol, are effective decongestants. Because menthol thins mucus, it is also a good expectorant, meaning that it helps loosen phlegm and breaks up coughs. It is soothing and calming for sore throats (pharyngitis) and dry coughs as well.

• If you're like me, you have a hard time differentiating between peppermint and spearmint: according to Garden.org, peppermint is more pungent, while spearment tends towards the sweet.

• Of course, Tis the Season when peppermint is everywhere you turn! The King Leo pure peppermint stick candy was developed and trademarked in 1901. That same stick has been in continuous production since, although the origin of the candy cane is much older.

• PEZ was actually first marketed as a compressed peppermint candy over 83 years ago in Vienna, Austria. The name PEZ was derived from the German word for peppermint... PfeffErminZ (say that three times fast).

• Life Savers also began as a peppermint candy in 1912, and it would be 22 more years before it would expand to the five-flavor roll.

• Popping pills like candy? You may well be tempted when peppermint-flavored Prozac was being marketed.

• A middle school in Maryland is using a unique method to help kids do better on their tests: chewing peppermint (thought to increase concentration). Did anyone else's teachers try this in school? I had one teacher who encouraged us to chew mint gum when taking a test, though I'm not totally sure it helped ...

• Peppermint may help concentration, but not on food: Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W. Va., asked 40 people to sniff peppermint every two hours for five days, followed by five days of a placebo. During the week they sniffed peppermint, they consumed 1,800 fewer calories (… and a new winter weight-loss plan is born!)

• Double your pleasure, double your fun radiation? "In "gamma gardens" run by national laboratories in the US, plants growing in concentric circles were bombarded with radiation from a central source - such as cobalt-60 - elevated on a pole. The pole could be lowered below ground when people were tending the plants. Plants nearest the centre tended to die, a little further out they developed tumors and developmental problems, but the plants furthest out sometimes developed potentially beneficial mutations. It was hoped the treatment could, for instance, produce color changes in flowers, disease resistance in wheat and increased sugar content in maples. 70 per cent of the peppermint sold in the US is descended from a mutant in a neutron-irradiated source."

• If you aren't running a "gamma garden," beware that peppermint can actually be considered an invasive plant to home plots!

• And FYI: Peppermint Patty’s real name is actually Patricia Reichardt!

• Do you guys prefer peppermint to spearmint gum, or just can't stand it at all? What other peppermint flavored foods or scented products do you use?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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December 14, 2011 - 6:38am
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