Peppermint, with its strong, minty aroma, is typically associated with the holidays. Think of candy canes hanging on the Christmas tree and taped to beautifully wrapped packages. Or how about chocolate peppermint bark or peppermint-flavored hard tack candies?
But don't be fooled. This scent of the season is not so seasonal after all. While thoughts of peppermint may evoke feelings of warmth in November and December, peppermint is also for the dog days of summer.
So hot that it's cool, so cool that it's hot
Essential oil of peppermint is known as an adaptogen in aromatherapy parlance. In other words, it adapts to whatever it is you need it to do. Peppermint warms you up when you're cold, and when you're hot it cools you down. Other popular, adaptive essential oils include lavender and lemon. Their effects are either sedating or stimulating, and, like peppermint, they adapt in the direction that most benefits you.
Peppermint or Mentha piperita, the plant's Latin botanical name, is a very popular herb that many people plant in their gardens. In fact, I'm growing some peppermint in a terracotta pot on my patio this summer. Here's a fun experiment: Try "petting" the leaf of the plant, like some visitors to my home did earlier today. Then smell your hand that caressed those leaves. My guests found it delightful that their fingers smelled of peppermint. While touching the plant's leaves they had crushed and therefore released its fragrant molecules.
These tiny, aromatic molecules are what compose essential oils, which not only smell wonderfully and benefit us in many ways, but in nature they serve to protect plants from predators. Simultaneously, they attract the "good guys" with their aroma. These "good guys" include pollinators such as bees and moths that help a plant species propagate.
Distilling it all down
Various parts of botanicals, such as leaves, stems, blossoms, and roots, are steam distilled to extract essential oil. If you're a person of a certain age, think of Granny Clampett making her moonshine and you'll have a good idea of the distillation process.
During distillation, the plant's oil is forced out by steam, and afterward the water and the oil are separated from each other. The resulting "essential oil" is a light and water-like substance. Essential oils are in stark contrast to the heavy, fatty vegetable oils, such as olive and almond, which are indeed "oily" to the touch.
Making scents of it all
Essential oils are used in the creation of perfumes, soaps and in all types of consumer products such as toothpaste.
In aromatherapy, we use pure essential oils to enhance our overall wellbeing. The oils have been time-tested throughout the ages as healing aids for the human body and emotions. Although the practice of aromatherapy has long been considered part of folklore, modern science is beginning to support what our ancestors knew and what modern-day aromatherapy practitioners know: we can benefit in many ways from the healing properties of botanical essences.
If you've decided to make yourself a Peppermint Spritzer to help cool off this summer, use a good quality essential oil-not synthetic fragrance oil. The best place for a consumer to start is at a health food store you trust. There are also many online sources for pure essential oils, but my experience is that most people who are not all that familiar with aromatherapy feel better visiting a health food store and talking with someone who is knowledgable about essential oils.
One quick way to discern a true essential oil from synthetic fragrance oil is to look for the Latin botanical name on the bottle. If you don't see it, don't buy the oil because it's most likely synthetic fragrance oil and not a true essential oil.
Almost all essential oils require dilution prior to their use, usually in a carrier oil like jojoba or almond oil. However, for our purposes we will use spring water or distilled water as our carrier.
My personal blend during the summer months is 10 drops of high-quality essential oil of peppermint in 4 ounces of distilled water. I blend the formula in an amber glass spray bottle. You can find these bottles online; however, you will usually need to buy in quantity and it is difficult (but not impossible) to find single, amber glass bottles with a sprayer for sale. Fortunately, many health food stores sell individual amber glass bottles with sprayers. Why amber glass? An amber glass bottle is a must because you want to keep sunlight away from the essential oil. Otherwise, the efficacy of the oil may be compromised as a result of exposure to direct sunlight.
I keep my Peppermint Spritzer refrigerated so that it's doubly cooling. Simply shake the bottle before each use and then spritz yourself, using common sense caution by avoiding your eyes, pets and children.
In addition, I also keep a bottle at the bedside for those hot flashes that come in the middle of the night. Women in midlife may find this basic blend a powerful solution to annoying, episodic "heated moments" that often occur pre-menopause, during menopause and post-menopause.
Essential oil of peppermint has many other wonderfully amazing uses due to its chemical make up. For example, it's often used for nausea and gastrointestinal distress-but that's an article for another time.
Finally, essential oil of peppermint has rejuvenating and refreshing properties, so another benefit of your Peppermint Spritzer is that it won't only cool you down physically, but it will also lift your spirits.
How to make a Peppermint Spritzer
Items you'll need
• 4 oz. amber glass bottle with sprayer
• 10 drops of essential oil of peppermint (from a dropper top bottle or else you will need an actual dropper)
• Distilled or spring water
• Add enough water to almost fill the bottle, but not enough to make the water overflow when you place the sprayer inside the bottle
• Add 10 drops of essential oil of peppermint
• Insert the sprayer into the bottle-and your blend is ready.
How to use
• Shake well before spraying and blend the essential oil and water.
• Spritz yourself during those times you need to cool off, or when you need to revive your spirits.
Hint: store your Peppermint Spritzer in the refrigerator to keep this cooling blend really cool.
Please use common sense caution, especially if you have sensitivities, are pregnant or ill. Avoid mucous membranes, and keep away from your eyes. Keep the Peppermint Spritz blend and all essential oils out of reach of children and pets.
Melanie McMillan is a writer, editor and lecturer, as well as a student of theology and a certified aromatherapist who has formally studied botanical essences in the U.S. and in France.
She recently authored her first e-Book, Fashion from the field, which is a short, quirky little book with helpful hints gleaned from Melanie's days spent as a style editor for a small, weekly newspaper in a rural area of Connecticut where many key names in the fashion industry have homes or second homes. Some of the advice in Fashion from the Field comes from these "names," and also from Melanie's own mother, who graces the cover of the book.
Melanie is the creator of Melanie's Circle, an online project that helps women unify those parts of their lives that can seem so very disconnected, such as relationships, family, work, fashion and beauty, and spirituality