Most Americans associate peppermint only with the striped hard candies that come out during Christmas and other year-end holidays. But the global history of this plant is storied, and its uses are much more varied than commonly known.
Flexible packaging can protect this versatile plant, preserving it for its many uses.
A Versatile Herb
The therapeutic effects of fresh peppermint leaves and peppermint’s essential oil have been known for centuries, even millennia. In fact, samples of it were found in the pyramids of ancient Egypt. Peppermint is of the oldest herbs used for folk medicine in Europe, China and Japan. It was even cited in Greek mythology. The nymph Minthe was transformed into an herb by the wife of Hades, the god of death, after Minthe insulted her. Appropriately, burning peppermint was used as an air freshener during funerals in ancient times.
Modern research has verified that these early cultures were correct about how peppermint is useful as an herbal remedy. It can treat various digestive disorders (e.g., irritable bowel syndrome; spasms of the colon, upset stomach and indigestion); infantile colic; dental cavities and bad breath; even stress. Peppermint essential oil, when applied topically, is cooling to the skin, and it can relieve sore muscles. Some people even add it to homemade cleaning solutions. Not only is it more fragrant, but peppermint also boost the cleaners’ abilities to fight bacteria and other microbes.
Farming peppermint is a disciplined process. Once harvested, the collected mint goes to a distillery where steam extracts the mint oil. The minty steam is then treated to separate the mint oil from the water. The refined oil goes into barrels, which can be used in digestible products. For example, a single 55-gallon drum of peppermint oil is enough to flavor about 5 million sticks of chewing gum. There is also approximately one drop of mint in a tube of toothpaste.
According to an article by Kristi Pihl of the Tri-City Herald newspaper in Washington, confectionery and oral care comprise about 90 percent of the uses for peppermint oil. It can also be used in mint jelly, crème de menthe liqueurs and peppermint schnapps.
Guidance toward a unique solution
Protecting and preserving peppermint to extract its precious oil — a substance that is subject to oxidation and dehydration — is critical to maximize the plant’s output. Peppermint begins to spoil at the moment it is harvested, even before the distillation process described above begins. Due to the long distances the product generally must travel, counting from where the plant is grown to when it lands on the consumer’s shelf, maintaining its quality has become increasingly important and challenging.
Fres-co recently met with a peppermint farmer who was concerned with spoilage of his main crop. He was transporting it in coated woven polypropylene, a package that is much too porous for such a perishable product. As a result, he was losing oil content; the fragrance was evident in his warehouse. Dan Wigman, Senior Industrial Packaging Specialist, is consulting with the farmer to devise a solution, and he said that it is important to know the chemical properties of a customer’s products.
“When we are advising a customer, we conduct extensive tests first,” he said. “This customer needs a barrier to help maintain the peppermint’s moisture content and protect it from oxygen. This type of protection is particularly key in agricultural products like this one. The package structure, its construction, and particularly an airtight, hermetic barrier will combine to preserve his peppermint much longer than now, just as it protects our other customers’ perishable products.”
Peppermint has endured for ages as a key ingredient in foods, medicines, and countless other applications. With the right type of modern flexible packaging, one suited to its unique chemical properties, this magical, mythological herb is bound to continue to thrive long into the foreseeable future.
Click here to learn more about how the Fres-co supports the producers and the distributors of a wide range of agricultural and industrial products with airtight packaging that protects against dehydration, moisture and oxidation. While you are on our site, check out the other pages that tell of the wide range of products we protect, ranging from industrial and agricultural products, liquid foods and beverages, coffee and more.
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