Adding refreshing flavor to everything from salads to after-dinner mints, peppermint (Mentha piperita) owes its cool burst to menthol. This volatile oil relaxes the smooth muscle of the digestive tract to soothe a wide range of stomach woes, including indigestion and gas, and may help ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint also aids in thinning mucus when battling a pesky cold. Made from the oils of peppermint leaves, pure peppermint extract can be used in chocolate mousse and cakes, smoothies, homemade sorbet, hot cocoa, and frosting for cupcakes and cookies.
Choose It & Use It
For superior flavor, choose fresh peppermint leaves over dried. To brew a stomach-settling tea, pour 1 cup of steaming water over 10 fresh leaves (or 1 to 2 teaspoons dried), and steep covered so that the volatile oils don't escape. When choosing packaged teas, look for sealed individual tea bags. When shopping for peppermint extract, look for "pure" on the label.