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Mentha piperita, M. hircina. M. officinalis. M. viridi aquatica.
Mentha piperita L.
Mentha aquatica x Mentha spicata / Mentha x piperita
Tinct. fresh plant in flower.
Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Lamiidae / Tubiflorae; Lamiales; Labiatae / Lamiaceae - Mint Family
Proved and introduced by Demeures, J. d.l. Soc. Gal. IV, 115; Allen Encyclop. Mat. Med., Vol. VI, 180,X,578.
Description of the substance
The leaves of this kind of mint are shortly but distinctly stalked, 2 inches or more in length, and 3/4 to 11/2 inches broad, their margins finely toothed, their surfaces smooth, both above and beneath, or only very slightly, hardly visibly, hairy on the principal veins and mid-rib on the underside. The stems, 2 to 4 feet high, are quadrangular, often purplish. The whorled clusters of little reddish-violet flowers are in the axils of the upper leaves, forming loose, interrupted spikes, and rarely bear seeds. The entire plant has a very characteristic odour, due to the volatile oil present in all its parts, which when applied to the tongue has a hot, aromatic taste at first, and afterwards produces a sensation of cold in the mouth caused by the menthol it contains.
A perennial herb, with creeping, spreading rhizome multiplying by under - ground shoot. Stem, erect, always quadrangular in upper part, smooth, 1 to 3 mm in diameter, green to dark purple, hairy and 30 to 90 cm high. Leaves light green or purple - brown, opposite, decussate, 4 to 15 cm long, 2 to 5 cm broad, nearly glabrous, shortly petiolate, petiole being 0.5 to 1.0 cm long, ovate - oblong to oblong - lanceolate, margins serrate, apex acute, base rounded or narrow, dark green and smooth above, paler below, with numerous glands sparingly pubescent on nerves. Flowers purple, small, in verticillasters usually arranged in compact, oblong or oval terminal spikes whichare often interrupted at base and rounded at the summit, appearing in summer. Calyx, tubular - campanulate, green to dark purple, equally 5 - toothed, pubsescent and glandular. Corolla, tubular - campanulate, 4cleft, purple, irregular. Stamens, four, short, equal. Gynoecium, 4 - celled ovary and a projecting style ending in a bifid stigma. Fruit consisting of 4 - ellipsoidal nutlet which are blackish - brown, 0.5 mm in diameter. odour strong and aromatic: taste aromatic followed by cooling and pungent sensation.
Whole plant, excluding root.
Peppermint is a (usual sterile) hybrid from water mint (M. aquatica) and spearmint (M. spicata). It is found sometimes wild in Central and Southern Europe, but was probably first put to human use in England, whence its cultivation spread to the European continent and Africa; today, Northern Africa is a main cultivation area.
Leaf, dorsiventral, with a single row of palisade cells, about 60 to 80u long; spongy parenchyma, 3 to 4 layered; upper and lower epidermal cells with wavy anticlinal walls, stomata being numerous on lower epidermis and a few on the upper, two types of glandular trichomes and a type of non - glandular trichome on margins and glandular trichomes, being abundant on the under surface. Large glandular trichomes, sunk in depressions, are with unicellular stalk and glandular head composed of 8 - radiating cells forming a hollow cup, volatile oil being secreted beneath the curcle of the 8 cells, raising the delicate cuticle to form a nearly spherical bladder. Small glandular trichomes consisting of a single stalk cell and unicellular glandular head, about 20 to 25u in diameter.Non - glandular trichomes, uniseriate 3 - 4 - 8 cells long, tapering to a pointed apex and having longitudinally striated cuticle. Crystals of calcium oxalate absent. Stomata, caryophyllaceous. Midrib, in transection showing xylem in the form of an arc and phloem on the dosal side. Leaf, upper epidermal cells; T.23 - 35u R. 18 - 23u, L.40 - 50 - 70u; lower epidermal cells; T. 15 - 25u, R. 10 - 15u, L. 30 - 40 - 60u; palisace cells; 23 - 46u x 15 - 20u.
Both Peppermint and Spearmint thrive' best in a fairly warm, preferably moist climate, and in deep soils rich in humus and retentive of moisture, but fairly open in texture and well drained, either naturally or artificially.
These conditions are frequently combined in effectively drained swamp lands, but the plants may also be commercially cultivated in well-prepared upland soils, such as would produce good corn, oil or potatoes. Though a moist situation is preferable, Peppermint will succeed in most soils, when once started into growth and carefully cultivated. It flourishes well in what are known in America as muck land, that is, those broad level areas, often several thousand acres in extent, of deep fertile soil, the beds of ancient lakes and swamps where the remains of ages of growths of aquatic vegetation have accumulated. In Michigan and Indiana, where there are large areas of such land, mint culture has become highly specialized, a considerable part of the acreage being controlled by a few well-equipped growers able to handle the product in an economical manner, who have of late years installed their own up-to-date distilling plants. The cultivation of Peppermint is a growing industry now also on the reclaimed lands of Louisiana.
The usual method of mint cultivation on these farms in America is to dig runners in the early spring and lay them in shallow trenches, 3 feet apart in well-prepared soil. The growing crop is kept well cultivated and absolutely free from weeds and in the summer when the plant is in full bloom, the mint is cut by hand and distilled in straw. A part of the exhausted herb is dried and used for cattle food, for which it possesses considerable value. The rest is cut and com-posted and eventually ploughed into the ground as fertilizer.
The area selected for Peppermint growing should be cropped for one or two years with some plant that requires a frequent tillage. The tillage is also continued as long as possible during the growth of the mint, for successful mint-growing implies clean culture at all stages of progress.
In one of our chief English plantations the following mode of cultivation is adopted. A rich and friable soil, retentive of moisture is selected, and the ground is well tilled 8 to 10 inches deep. The plants are propagated in the spring, usually in April and May. When the young shoots from the crop of the previous year have attained a height of about 4 inches, they are pulled up and transplanted into new soil, in shallow furrows about 2 feet apart, lightly covered with about 2 inches of soil. They grow vigorously the first year and throw out numerous stolons and runners on the surface of the ground. After the crop has been removed, these are allowed to harden or become woody, and then farmyard manure is scattered over the field and ploughed in. In this way the stolons are divided into numerous pieces and covered with soil before the frost sets in, otherwise if the autumn is wet, they are liable to become sodden and rot, and the next crop fails. In the spring the fields are dressed with Peruvian Guano.
Peppermint requires frequent irrigation. In the south of France the crop is irrigated on the 15th of May, and thereafter every eight or ten days. When the plants are fully developed they are watered at least three times a week. It is important to keep the soil constantly moist, although well drained. Absorption of water makes the shoots more tender, thus facilitating cutting, and causes a large quantity of green matter to be produced.
A plantation lasts about four years, the best output being the second year. The fourth-year crop is rarely good. A crop that yields a high percentage of essential oil exhausts the ground as a rule, and after cropping with Peppermint for four years, the land must be put to some other purpose for at least seven years. In some parts of France the plantations are renewed annually with the object of obtaining vigorous plants.
Few pests trouble Peppermint, though crickets, grasshoppers and caterpillars may always do some damage.
The herb is cut just before flowering, from the end of July to the end of August in England and France, according to local conditions. Sometimes when well irrigated and matured, a second crop can be obtained in September. With new plantations the harvest is generally early in September.
Harvesting should be carried out on a dry, sunny day, in the late morning, when all traces of dew have disappeared. The first year's crop is always cut with the sickle to prevent injury to the stolons. The herb of the second and third years is cut with scythes and then raked into loose heaps ready for carting to the stills.
In many places, the custom is to let the herb lie on the ground for a time in these small bundles or cocks. In other countries the herb is distilled as soon as cut. Again, certain distillers prefer the plants to be previously dried or steamed. The subject is much debated, but the general opinion is that it is best to distil as soon as cut, and the British Pharmacopoeia directs that the oil be distilled from the fresh flowering plant. Even under the best conditions of drying, there is a certain loss of essential oil. If the herbs lie in heaps for any time, fermentation is bound to occur, reducing the quality and quantity of the oil, as laboratory experiments have proved. Should it be impossible to treat all the crop as cut, it should be properly dried on the same system as that adopted for other medicinal plants. The loss is then small. Variation in the chemical composition of the essence should be brought about by manuring, rather than by the system of harvesting, though in America the loss caused by partial drying in the field is not regarded by growers as sufficient to offset the increased cost of handling and distilling the green herb. Exposure to frost must, however, be avoided, as frozen mint yields scarcely half the quantity of oil which could otherwise be secured.
At Market Deeping the harvest usually commences in the beginning or middle of August, or as soon as the plant begins to flower and lasts for six weeks, the stills being kept going night and day. The herb is carted direct from the fields to the stills, which.are made of copper and contain about 5 cwt. of the herb. Before putting the Peppermint into the still, water is poured in to a depth of about 2 feet, at which height a false bottom is placed, and on this the herb is then trodden down by men. The lid is then let down, and under pressure the distillation is conducted by the application of direct heat at the lowest possible temperature, and is continued for about 41/2 hours. The lid is then removed, and the false bottom with the Peppermint resting on it is raised by a windlass, and the Peppermint carried away in the empty carts on their return journey to the fields, where it is placed in heaps and allowed to rot, being subsequently mixed with manure applied to the fields in the autumn.
The usual yield of oil, if the season be warm and dry, is 1 oz. from 5 lb. of the fresh flowering plant, but if wet and unfavourable, the product is barely half that quantity.
If the cut green tops have some distance to travel to the distillery, they should be cut late in the afternoon, so as to be sent off by a night train to arrive at their destination next morning, or they would be apt to heat and ferment and lose colour.
Since the oil is the chief marketable product, adequate distilling facilities and a market for the oil are essential to success in the industry, and the prospective Peppermint grower should assure himself on these points before investing capital in plantations.
There is also a market, chiefly for herbalists, for the dried herb, which is gathered at the same time of year. It should be cut shortly above the base, leaving some leaf-buds, and not including the lowest shrivelled or discoloured leaves and tied loosely into bundles by the stalk-ends, about twenty to the bundle on the average, and the bundles of equal length, about 6 inches, to facilitate packing, and dried over strings as described for Spearmint. Two or three days will be sufficient to dry.
Peppermint culture on suitable soils gives fair average returns when intelligently conducted from year to year. The product, however, is liable to fluctuation in prices, and the cost of establishing the crop and the annual expenses of cultivation are high.
The plant is found throughout Europe, in moist situations, along stream banks and in waste lands, and is not unfrequent in damp places in England, but is not a common native plant, and probably is often an escape from cultivation. In America it is probably even more common as an escape than Spearmint, having long been known and grown in gardens
Of the members of the mint family under cultivation the most important are the several varieties of the Peppermint (Mentha piperira), extensively cultivated for years as the source of the well-known volatile oil of Peppermint, used as a flavouring and therapeutic agent.
India,Europe, Africa, North America and Japan.
Pliny tells us that the Greeks and Romans crowned themselves with Peppermint at their feasts and adorned their tables with its sprays, and that their cooks flavoured both their sauces and their wines with its essence. Two species of mint were used by the ancient Greek physicians, but some writers doubt whether either was the modern Peppermint, though there is evidence that M. piperita was cultivated by the Egyptians. It is mentioned in the Icelandic Pharma-copoeias of the thirteenth century, but only came into general use in the medicine of Western Europe about the middle of the eighteenth century, and then was first used in England.
It was only recognized here as a distinct species late in the seventeenth century, when the great botanist, Ray, published it in the second edition of his Synopsis stirpium britannicorum, 1696. Its medicinal properties were speedily recognized, and it was admitted into the London Pharmacopoeia in 1721, under M. piperitis sapore. The oldest existing Peppermint district is in the neigh-bouthood of Miteham, in Surrey, where its cultivation from a commercial point of view dates from about 1750, at which period only a few acres of ground there were devoted to medicinal plants. At the end of the eighteenth century, above 100 acres were cropped with Peppermint, but so late as 1805 there were no stills at Mitcham, and the herb had to be carried to London for the extraction of the oil. By 1850 there were already about 500 acres under cultivation at Mitcham, and at the present day the English Peppermint plantations are still chiefly located in this district, though it is grown in several other parts of England - in Herts at Hitchin, and in Cambs at Wisbech, in Lincolnshire at Market Deeping and also at Holbeach (where the cultivation and distillation of English Peppermint oil, now carried on with the most up-to-date improvements was commenced over seventy years ago).
There is room for a further extension of its cultivation, owing to the great superiority of the English product in pungency and flavour.
Most of London's supplies are grown in a triangle with its base on a line Kingston to Croydon, and its apex at Chipstead in Surrey. This triangle includes Miteham, still the centre of the Peppermint-growing and distilling industry, the district proving to be specially suited to the crop. There are large Peppermint farms at Banstead and Cheam.
On the Continent Peppermint was first grown in 1771 at Utrecht, but it is now grown in considerable amounts in several countries. In France it is cultivated in the Departments of the Yonne and du Nord, French Peppermint Oil being distilled at Grasse and Cannes, as well as in the Basses-Alpes, Haute-Garonne and other parts, though the French varieties of M. piperita are not identical with those cultivated in England. The variety cultivated in France is known as 'Red Mint' and can grow on certain soils where the true Peppermint does not grow. The 'Red Mint' can be cultivated for four or five years in the same field, but the true M. piperita can be cultivated in the same field for two years only. 'Red Mint' gives a higher yield of oil, but is of inferior quality. In the Siagne Valley, it is calculated that 300 kilos of fresh plant produce 1 kilo of essential oil, elsewhere a yield of 2 kilos to about 1,000 kilos of stems and green leaves is claimed. It has been proved by experience that all parts of the plant do not give the same proportion of oil, and it is more abundant when the plants have been grown in a hot region and have flowered to the best advantage.
The leaves and tops are officinal in the U. S. Ph., as well as Spiritus Mentha Piperitae, and Vinum Aromaticum. (Lavender, Origanum, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, and Wormwood.) In Eclectic practice, the preparations are: Aqua Menthae Piperitae, Extractum Rhei Fluidum, (Rhubarb and Peppermint.) Infusum Mentha Piperitae, Mistura Camphorae Composita, (Camphor, Opium, Peppermint, and Spearmint.) Mistura Cajeputi Composita, (Cajeput, Cloves, Peppermint, and Anise.) Oleum Menthae Piperitae, Pulvis Rhei Compositus, (Rhubarb, Bicarbonate Potash, and Peppermint.) Tinctura Olei Menthae Piperitae.