[size=75]From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [/size]
Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). It is native to western, central and southern Europe from the British Isles east to southern Scandinavia and western Russia, south to Iberia, and southeast to the Balkans, being found wild occasionally with its parent species.
It was first described by Linnaeus from specimens collected in England; he treated it as a species, but is now universally agreed to be a hybrid.
It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing to 30–90 cm tall, with smooth stems, square in cross section. The rhizomes are wide-spreading, fleshy, and bear fibrous roots. The leaves are from 4–9 cm long and 1.5–4 cm broad, dark green with reddish veins, and with an acute apex and coarsely toothed margins. The leaves and stems are usually slightly hairy. The flowers are purple, 6–8 mm long, with a four-lobed corolla about 5 mm diameter; they are produced in whorls (verticillasters) around the stem, forming thick, blunt spikes. Flowering is from mid to late summer. The chromosome number is variable, with 2n counts of 66, 72, 84, and 120 recorded.
It typically occurs in moist habitats, including streamsides and drainage ditches. It is usually sterile, producing no seeds and reproducing only vegetatively, spreading by its rhizomes.
Peppermint is sometimes regarded as ‘the world’s oldest medicine’, with archaeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago.
Peppermint has a high menthol content, and is often used as a flavouring in tea, ice cream, confectionery, chewing gum, and toothpaste. The oil also contains menthone and menthyl esters. It is the oldest and most popular flavour of mint-flavoured confectionery. Peppermint can also be found in some shampoos and soaps, which give the hair a minty scent and produce a cooling sensation on the skin.