This month we’re shining the herbal spotlight on Bo He … or what you would more commonly recognize as peppermint with its refreshing taste and strong aroma.
As a representative member of the aromatic plants, mint herb (also known as mentha) comes with more than 500 species, almost all with a cool and refreshing scent and is most commonly harvested in batches when the stem and leaves are flourishing during summer.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, mint is considered to have pungent, aromatic and cooling properties. It is associated with the Lung and Liver meridians, and is used to expel wind heat, relieve headache and dizziness, improve eyesight, relieve sore throat, clear up rashes, relieve itching, and soothes anxiety and stress by clearing liver qi stagnation.
When taken orally, mint is typically used to dissipate body heat and to calm the nervous system.
Bo He is often combined with other wind-heat dispersing herbs or heat-clearing and toxicity-relieving herbs to reinforce the function of expelling exterior pathogen (bacteria and viruses) and toxic heat, such as in the formula Yin Qiao San which many of you may know to take for the onset of a cold.
Mint should be used in moderation for those diagnosed with yin deficiency (dryness) and those with sensitive digestive systems, who may in fact suffer moderate stomach disorders by ingesting too much mint.
Because Bo He (mint) helps to promote perspiration, it should not be taken by people who tend to sweat profusely. As with any Chinese herbal remedy, it’s always best to check in with the Clinic before adding mint into your herbal regime.
When applying mint oil directly on to the skin, the mint causes a cold sensation while inhibiting and benumbing the sensory nerve ending. This means it can have an anti-allergic effect on skin itch. Mint products also have a desensitization and anti-inflammation effect on insect bites and are also said to relieve upper respiratory tract infection.
The cool, refreshing, and pleasant scent of peppermint is also often used to cover and improve certain Chinese medicinal herbal formulas with a peculiar smell or taste (for example mint is often used in conjunction with lonicera, forsythia and arctium).
Peppermint is also an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A. Peppermint is a very good source of magnesium, folate, dietary fiber, calcium, iron and vitamin B2.
The edible parts of the mint are its stems and leaves, which are often used when preparing fresh juices and teas. Personally I love to make fresh mint tea. There’s a bit of an art to making it taste really good, so consider following the steps below:
• For each serving of tea you plan on making, pick 7-10 peppermint leaves from the stem of the plant. Try to pick leaves that are green and unblemished.
• Rinse the peppermint leaves. Even if you picked the peppermint from your own garden, you still want to make sure to wash off any dirt or impurities from the leaves.
• Crush the peppermint by rubbing the leaves in between your fingers. This helps to release the flavor and aroma of the herb. The leaves should look crumpled and slightly greener, not mashed to bits.
• Put the freshly crushed peppermint leaves into a mug. For every serving of tea, place 7-10 leaves in the mug, depending on how strong you like the tea.
• Boil water. Instead of pouring the boiling water into your mug, wait a couple minutes for the water to cool slightly. Peppermint tea is better when brewed in hot, but not boiling, water.
• After you have let the water cool for a few minutes, carefully pour the water over the peppermint leaves. Make sure that all the leaves are submerged in the water, then cover the mug. Let the tea steep for 7-12 minutes before removing the leaves.
Enjoy your fresh cup of peppermint tea!