Skip to main content

4 delicious and beneficial uses for peppermint and why you should grow it

Peppermint is typically associated with the teas and sweets of the holiday season, but it’s really a ubiquitous plant all year round, beyond striped Christmas candy canes. If you’re looking for a versatile and soothing herb, you won’t have to look further than peppermint. Peppermint packs a refreshing punch, and luckily, it’s easy to take care of. To learn about what peppermint is used for and how you can grow it, keep reading ahead.

Peppermint plant

What is peppermint?

Is peppermint an herb or spice?

Peppermint has a warm, pungent kick that transforms into a cool aftertaste. But though it’s spicy, is it a spice? Long story short, peppermint is an herb. In terms of culinary definitions, an herb is the leafy part of a plant, while a spice can come from the roots, seeds, flowers, or bark. The spicy, cooling feeling we get in peppermint products (such as tea) typically comes from the oils in the leaves, so we can consider it a culinary herb.

Are mint and peppermint the same thing?

Mint comes in many varieties — everything that could be considered “mint” falls under the Mentha genus. “Mint” is really a catch-all term. Peppermint and spearmint are the most popular types of mint, and spearmint is often referred to as common mint. Peppermint, in fact, is actually a hybrid between spearmint and watermint. It has a higher concentration of menthol than spearmint — think 40 percent versus 0.5 percent. Menthol gives mint that “cool” feeling, so peppermint can actually be more flavorful than spearmint.

Peppermint tea
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How do you use peppermint?

What is the purpose of peppermint? Peppermint is a versatile herb with an incredibly potent oil. It’s commonly used to treat issues around digestion, colds, and blood pressure. (Of course, you’ll definitely want to do your research and consult your health care provider before using it as a remedy.) Its cool, refreshing flavor also makes a great culinary tool. If you’re wondering how to make use of your bountiful peppermint harvest, here are four creative ways to do so.

  1. Make peppermint tea. Yes, you can buy prepackaged peppermint blends. But for what it’s worth, peppermint is most flavorful when it’s fresh. So for tea that’s instantly cooling and refreshing, pinch some leaves from your peppermint plant and steep it in hot water. (P.S.: Chopped peppermint also makes a fine addition to your mojitos!)
  2. Use peppermint as a garnish in your favorite dishes and salads. Because of its menthol concentration, peppermint can cool down your hot meals, such as curries and soups. It can also make a salad more refreshing, which is excellent for those sweltering summer months.
  3. Use peppermint as a pest repellent. A pot of mint around your house can repel spiders and ants. Mint is also unappealing to mice and deer, so it can drive these critters away from your garden. You can either boil peppermint leaves to use as a spray or fill satchels with dried peppermint to leave in hard-to-reach spots.
  4. Chew on peppermint to freshen your breath. Instead of gum or a breath mint labeled as peppermint flavored, go straight to the source itself. Simply pop a leaf or a few leaves in your mouth and chew away.
Peppermint in a container
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How do you grow peppermint?

Peppermint grows fast, and you can start it from seed, take a cutting, or grab a seedling from a nursery. In fact, it has a reputation for being somewhat of an invasive grower. To contain it, many people will actually leave it inside a planter so that it won’t overtake their gardens. Adaptable to many soils, peppermint loves a moist medium, though it can experience root rot with too much water. Either full sun or partial shade will work for peppermint. Light frosts are fine as well, but peppermint really does best in conditions above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid over-fertilizing mint — this can lead to abundant smaller flowers and leaves instead of large leaves with concentrated oils for flavor.

Where is peppermint found?

You can find peppermint pretty much all over the world. It’s native to parts of Asia and Europe, but it’s ubiquitous in North America, too. You’ll most commonly find peppermint hanging around “wetter” areas such as bodies of water. It will, however, also reside in odd places such as along the sidewalk and highway.

Harvesting peppermint
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How do you harvest peppermint?

Harvesting peppermint, ideally during the growing season, will keep your plant strong and healthy. As soon as the seedlings come up, you can start snipping your plant with sterile scissors or clean fingers. Young leaves will pack more flavor than old ones, so keep that in mind as you harvest sprigs. Harvesting time is also the ideal time to take cuttings — simply snip four inches of a branch, remove the lower leaves, stick your cutting in water, and wait for roots to grow.

Because of its cooling and refreshing taste, peppermint is an appealing addition to your recipes, whether you’re making a curry or a salad. It’s also great for brewing tea, freshening your breath, and even repelling pests. Peppermint, with moist enough soil and adequate light, will grow prolifically. Give this refreshing herb a try in your garden now; with minimal effort, you can take cuttings in no time at all.

Editors' Recommendations

Stacey Nguyen
Stacey's work has appeared on sites such as POPSUGAR, HelloGiggles, Buzzfeed, The Balance, TripSavvy, and more. When she's…
Can you grow onions in containers? What you need to know
Tips on growing onions indoors
Onion with roots showing

Onions grow large, round bulbs that seem to take up a lot of space, which leaves many gardeners wondering if you can grow onions in a container. The good news is you can, and fairly easily! Growing onions in a container is a great way to extend your harvest time, since containers can be brought indoors. They're also the perfect solution for people who want to garden but don't have access to outdoor space, such as those living in apartment buildings. An indoor vegetable garden is simple to care for, and onions are a great plant to start with.

If you’re growing onions in a container for the first time, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know for a successful harvest.

Read more
Can you use Epsom salt for plants? What you need to know
4 ways to incorporate Epsom salt into your garden routine
Epsom salt

Chances are, you might have heard of the life-changing magic of Epsom salt in gardening. But remember, Epsom salt is nothing like your typical table salt since it's actually magnesium sulfate. So, here's the big question for the plant enthusiasts out there: Is Epsom salt good for houseplants? Although there hasn't been too much research about its benefits, many experienced home gardeners swear by Epsom salt for plants.

It's been a go-to for plant enthusiasts for years, so it's worth giving a shot when you want to troubleshoot specific foliage issues for both your indoor and outdoor plants. Keep reading to learn all about the many uses of Epsom salt for potted plants and garden beds — you might just find yourself sprinkling it on your crops! 

Read more
Grow these herbs for Halloween to make your celebration even spookier
Spook up your Halloween with these easy-to-grow herbs
A bundle of fresh mugwort

Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, is a night that means many things to many people. For kids and their parents, it’s a night to dress up in fun or scary costumes, walk around town, and get candy. For others, it can mean haunted houses and scary movie marathons. For the superstitious, it’s a night to be wary of and to be careful not to cause disturbances between that which we see and that which we feel. And for the powers that be — the witches, the warlocks, and the gardeners — it’s a time to head out to our Halloween outdoor herb gardens and celebrate the bountiful harvest that awaits us.

If you’re new to it all, you may wonder how to choose herbs for Halloween. It all has to do with a mixture of how much care these herbs need, how well they grow in colder conditions, and what they've meant and symbolized throughout history. So grab your witch's broom (and your protective gardening gloves) as we look at a few of the most Halloween-appropriate herbs you can grow this season.

Read more