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a genus of perennial herbaceous plants of the family Labiatae (mint). The central stem, which measures 50–100 cm tall, has leafy lateral shoots that terminate in verticillate pinkish violet inflorescences. Most of the flowers are sterile; the plants reproduce vegetatively. The plants grow in temperate climates and require moist soil; they respond well to organic and inorganic fertilizers.
There is a large variety of wild species. Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and M. crispa are cultivated in Europe and in the USA; corn mint, or Japanese field mint (M. arvensis), is cultivated in Europe, China, India, and Brazil. There are other cultivated species. In the USSR, peppermint is the principal species under cultivation (varieties Priluki 6, Krasnodar 2, and others). Its principal regions of cultivation are the Northern Caucasus, the Moldavian SSR, the Byelorussian SSR, and the forest-steppe region of the Ukrainian SSR.
The leaves and flowers contain an essential oil (1.5–3.5 percent dry weight). Mint oil primarily consists of menthol: the menthol content in peppermint is 40–65 percent, and in corn mint 75–90 percent. In medicine an infusion of mint leaves is used internally against nausea and as a cholagogue. Mint oil, mint infusions, or mint drops are made from the leaves and aboveground parts of the plant. Ten to 15 mint drops are prescribed to treat nausea and vomiting; the drops are also used for improving the flavor of some medicines. Mint oil is used in the perfume and cosmetics industry as a fragrance. Mint preparations are ingredients of tooth powder, toothpaste, and mouthwash. The oil and the leaves are used as spices in the food industry.
Peppermint is planted on fertile lowlands with standing groundwater. It is cultivated in crop rotation, after grains and legumes. During plowing, organic and inorganic fertilizers are applied. Peppermint rhizomes are planted in early spring in furrows 8–10 cm deep and are covered with a moist layer of soil. In the Northern Caucasus and in Moldavia, peppermint is planted mainly in the autumn. The distance between furrows is 45–60 cm. Peppermint is harvested when it is first in full bloom by cutting the aboveground green mass. Under favorable weather conditions, a second crop is harvested in the autumn. The essential oil is extracted from the dried or fresh herb by steam distillation in factories. The yield of air-dried herb from 1 hectare is 18–25 centners; the content of essential oil in the dried herb is 0.8–1.0 percent.
Peppermint is damaged by such pests as spider mites and mint aphids and by such diseases as rust and wildfire (appropriate measures are taken to combat these diseases).
G. T. SHUL’GIN