Each year during the winter months, we become inundated with sweets like peppermint mochas to signify the season. We may usually associate the flavor with candies and desserts, but indulging in the season’s sweet treats isn’t the only way to use and enjoy peppermint, especially when using the herb itself. From its array of health benefits to a failsafe fresh, vibrant flavor in your cooking, peppermint can go far in your routine!
Peppermint essential oil can be extracted from the leaves of a peppermint plant, with a variety of benefits when applied topically or diffused. However, it should be noted that pure peppermint essential oil is far too concentrated to consume or take orally, as it can be toxic at high doses. Even a diluted amount is advised against consuming, so it’s best to avoid ingesting in that form.
The benefits of peppermint oil can be fairly expansive, including pain relief, reducing nausea and vomiting, helping your body eliminate mucus, boosting blood circulation, and reducing muscle spasms. When applying a peppermint essential oil topically for pain relief, itching, or headaches, avoid direct contact with the skin and instead, dilute it with a carrier oil (jojoba, coconut, etc) to avoid irritation. For inhalation, you can add a few drops to a bowl of steaming water or follow your diffuser’s instructions for the right ratio. At bathtime, dilute the essential oil within one of those carrier oils before adding it into the bathwater.
While drinking a nice cup of peppermint tea is the perfect addition to your nighttime routine as you enjoy a quiet moment for yourself and warm-up, there are some health benefits to keep in mind should you face any of these issues.
Most commonly, you may have been told time and time again in your life to have a cup of peppermint tea if you are facing any digestive pain to help soothe and settle your stomach. In addition to that relief, a cup of peppermint tea can help reduce pain from menstrual cramps, relieve clogged sinuses, as well as help reduce the ache of tension headaches and migraines.
Infused in a beverage
Even if you’re not suffering from any ailments or seeking relief, peppermint in its true form as an herb can be used in a myriad of ways. For example, pop a sprig into your ice water along with a lemon and some cucumber for a cool, refreshing way to stay hydrated. Or, if you want to get a bit more cheeky with it, introduce it into a cocktail of your choice, whether you muddle it into a peppermint mojito or have it as a decorative garnish on a peppermint Moscow mule.
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Elevate your salad
Sometimes, you just want to make your salad a bit more exciting. Embrace the punchy taste of peppermint by chopping–finely or rough, either or–up however much you please into a salad of your choice. We recommend trying a cucumber salad or a spring mix, but feel free to experiment here to find the right fit for you and your food preferences. You can even go one step further than chopping it up into your favorite salad and incorporate the leaves into the dressing, like this Mediterranean inspired coconut based recipe.
Blended into pesto
Sometimes, you want to add a different flavor profile to a classic dish. We know and love pesto for its pine nuts and basil base, but you can continue to embrace the herby flavor by adding in some peppermint to the recipe to give it that bright flavor. We love this one from Food52 and Epicurious for a vegan recipe, both of which swap out the cheese for nutritional yeast to build out that flavor. If you already have a favorite recipe of your own, next time you make it, consider adding a bit of peppermint to switch it up.
We’re not against indulging every once in a while. Peanut butter and chocolate always get a lot of credit for being a delicious combination, but what about chocolate and peppermint?
You can get creative with peppermint extract when you’re baking this year for more control over the outcome, transforming your favorite cookie recipes into some wintery goodness, or your go-to recipes for brownies. This year, we’re thinking about whipping up a pan of gluten-free brownies and trying a peppermint flavored filling, like this one from Food and Wine or this New York Times Cooking recipe. Don’t be afraid to make the necessary substitutes to suit your dietary needs!