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Kingdom Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass Asteridae
Order Lamiales
Family Lamiaceae - Mint Family
Genus Mentha - Mint
Species Mentha×piperita


Peppermint is native to Europe and Asia, although it is now prevalent within the United States and Canada.[1] The plant itself will typically grow to be two or three feet tall. Growing season runs from July-August.[2] Flowers are either purple or white, while leaves are a darker shade of green. Peppermint flourishes in warm environments that have considerable moisture. The plant is used in cooking to supply additional flavor, as well as in teas. It is also effective in certain medical scenarios. The central ingredients of peppermint are menthol and menthone.[3] Menthol has a history of being an effective solution for treating sunburn, itching, and general soreness or pain.

Who is related to Peppermint?

Lamiaceae, the mint family, is quite extensive, as it includes 76 genera.[4] This family is generally characterized as being home to the plants that are commonly used for both food and medicine. Two other species in the Lamiaceae family are Rosmarinus L(rosemary) and Pycnanthemum Michx (mountainmint). Rosemary, for example, is used as a complimentary herb in meat and salad.[5] Mountainmint, mostly native to North America, is commonly usedwhen making herbal tea.[6]

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At left, mountainmint and at right, rosemary, are two close relatives of Peppermint and also species within the Lamiaceae family.

Muggle Usage

Peppermint is used for both culinary and medical reasons. With respect to its culinary value, peppermint is often accompanied by various meats, especially lamb. Additionally, it is a very common addition to tea, as both its fresh and dried leaves can be used. Peppermint is also a very popular flavor for chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, candy, and pharmaceuticals.[7] In terms of its medical value, peppermint helps nausea subside following surgery, while peppermint oil helps to control esophageal and intestinal spasms during during endoscopies. Cramping, diarrhea, indigestion, and food poisoning can also be relieved by peppermint. Peppermint oil found in certain sprays can help alleviate sore throats, basic common colds, congestion, laryngitis and bronchitis.[8] The scent of peppermint is believed by some to decrease inflammation and stomach pain while having the ability to improve both concentration and digestion. It can also suppress anxiety related to depression.[9] For women, peppermint may be helpful in combating menstrual complications.[10] There have been some claims that peppermint can be used to treat side effects of chemotherapy, but these have been recently determined to be lacking verifiable scientific support.[11]

Despite these positives, people with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux disease, are often prone to worsening conditions as a result of peppermint. People who have gall stones or liver problems are encouraged to avoid peppermint. Infants should not be overly exposed to peppermint either, as it can cause them to have trouble breathing.[12] Allergic reactions, including hives and asthma, although unusual, have been reported.[13]

Magical Usage

Using Professor Severus Snape's model for making Elixirs for Potions, Harry Potter decided to follow Snape's instructions by including peppermint in his own Elixir. Professor Slughorn noted that the inclusion of peppermint, however unusual, proved to be a "stroke of inspiration." Peppermint was also used by the Wizards and Muggles in order to add flavor to their deserts and drinks, and was among the flavors of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.[14]

Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans
Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans
Professor Snape's Elixir to Induce Euphoria
Professor Snape's Elixir to Induce Euphoria
One of the Potions from Harry Potter
One of the Potions from Harry Potter

Distribution: Nationwide and Local

Peppermint Distribution in the United States
Peppermint Distribution in the United States

Peppermint Distribution in Rhode Island
Peppermint Distribution in Rhode Island

Take Peppermint for the Road!

Prior research has suggested that peppermint odor has the ability to improve the concentration, performance, and alertness of those whose presence it is in. This research was quantified in a practical forum, as drivers were tested for their focusing capabilities in situations where they were exposed to peppermint odor, as compared to situations where they were exposed to no odor at all. In one study, performed by professors of psychology at Wheeling University and Northeastern University, drivers were placed in simulated driving conditions. Odors were introduced to low flow oxygen (1.3L/min) via an oxygen concentrator at a rate of 30 seconds per every 15 minutes. Peppermint odor was proven to be beneficial in terms of alertness, as well as be a suppressant for frustration related to prolonged driving situations. Peppermint odor also led to reduced levels of anxiety and overall fatigue. The participants of this study were monitored according to three criteria: alertness, mood, and ability to successfully complete their task workload.[15]

As far as the actual experiment, there were 25 drivers who participated. Of these 25, 16 were females, and 9 were males. The average age of the drivers was just under 20 years old, with the average driving experience of each driver standing at 3 years and 3 months. The peppermint odor was derived from pharmaceutical grade peppermint oil. Participants were exposed to low flow oxygen (the control condition) or low flow oxygen in addition to the odor by way of nasal cannulas. Being a simulated driving course, drivers did not actually drive real cars on real roads. Instead, they interacted with virtual reality technology provided by driVR system, a product of Imago Systems, Inc., as well as VR driving software, a product of Sierra. The driver was directed to follow a specific driving path by certain visual cues, but was not required to follow such a path. The technology used for simulation was so realistic that the difference between normal driving and this type of driving was negligible. Drivers were forced to confront the ramifications of each driving decision they made, based on acceleration, breaking, and steering.[16]

Drivers being exposed to the peppermint scent drove for two hours, and drivers being exposed to no scent drove for two hours. The results were indisputable, as peppermint odor drastically improved the concentration/alertness/focus of the drivers. The following image depicts the experiment's results. The concentration score is on the left, and time elapsed is on the bottom.[17]

Peppermint Odor Experimental Results

As shown, although the control's concentration was higher to begin the experiment, peppermint remained higher throughout the duration of the experiment. In addition, although the levels of concentration for both the control and peppermint dropped as time elapsed, the rate of decline for the control was considerably more pronounced than that of the peppermint.


United States Department of Agriculture. Plants Database. (Accessed April 21, 2013).

Encyclopedia of Life. Rosemary. (Accessed April 21, 2013).

Encyclopedia of Life. Mountainmint. (Accessed April 21, 2013).

American Cancer Society. Peppermint. (Accessed April 21, 2013).

University of Maryland Medical Center. (Accessed April 21, 2013).

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Accessed April 21, 2013).

Harry Potter Wiki. Peppermint. (Accessed April 21, 2013).

Raudenbush, Bryan and Rebecca Grayhem, et al. “Effects of Peppermint and Cinnamon Odor Administration on Simulated Driving Alertness, Mood, and Workload.” The North American Journal of Psychology. Vol. 11. Issue 2. 2009. p.245-256. %3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=40506104 (Accessed April 23, 2012).
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  15. ^ %3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=40506104
  16. ^ %3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=40506104 (Accessed April 23, 2012).
  17. ^ %3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=40506104 (Accessed April 23, 2012).