Peppermint (Part 2)- Bo He
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Peppermint (Part 2)- Bo He

Bo He (Menthae avenensis) is the peppermint species used in Chinese herbal medicine. It is used to release exterior wind-heat; clear the eyes and throat; encourages the expression of rashes; move liver qi stagnation; and expels turbid filth after exposure to impure qi.  Bensky cites classical Chinese medicine sources who qualify Bo He further:

“If you regard this herb as light and clear, suitable only for bringing out sweat on the skin, you are viewing it in too shallow a manner [Chen Shi-Duo]... He drank it and was completely better. I only relate this to illustrate the extraordinary effects [Zhang Xi Shun]... If used in small amounts, for harmonious adjustment of the qi in internal disharmonies, and treats pain from liver qi, gallbladder fire, constraint and clumping or liver moving internally [Essays on Medicine Esteeming the Chinese and Respecting the Western" Bensky (2004).

Menthae avenensis or Field Mint is an archetypical, uncultivated mint that is among four other archetypical Menthae species:   

  • M. avenensis (wild mint, field mint, Bo He) 
  • M. aquatica (water mint) 
  • M. pulequin (pennyroyal) 
  • M. rotundifolia (round leaf mint) 
  • M. silvestris Longifolia, or M. longifolia Huds (long-leafed mint)       

The Menthae genus has over 20 botanical cultivars & hybrids, which were created by the successive crossbreeding of the archetypical Menthae species, and their varieties & chemotypes (Field Mint). Latin nomenclature traces these cultivars & hybrids back to parent species’. For example, "M. arvensis L. var. piperascens Malin (M. arvensis x M. aquatica)" is the complex Latin nomenclature for Menthae piperitia, an Asia hybrid from which the most common peppermint essential oil is distilled. The lineage of other peppermint varieties such as Franco-Mitchem is even more complex (Mailhebiau, 1995). Peppermints are endearingly the mongrels so-to-speak of herbal medicine.

Peppermints yield more than 0.2% volatile oil (Wild Mint, 2010), a good amount by aromatherapy standards. Each mint has varying concentrations of these volatile constituents that give peppermint much of its therapeutic properties. The volatile oil constituents in M. piperitia (Stewart, 2006):  
  • menthol (35-55%), menthone, and menthyl acetate
  • polyphenols (antioxidants, neuro-stimulants)
  • ketones (neuro-stimulants)
  • esters (sedatives, anti-inflammatory)
  • lactones (anti-inflammatory, brocho-vaso relaxation)
  • oxides (expectorants, centering)
  • sesqueterpenes (anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial)

    Menthol is a monoterpene-alcohol that is found in peppermint & spearmint in high concentration.  Enveloped viruses are most sensitive to monoterpene -alcohols like menthol. The Bo He species contains the highest amount (70- 90%) according to Huang (1999), which makes it particularly effective against enveloped influenza viruses [Wind-heat invasions]. Bo He is added at the rear of a decoction in order to prevent this volatile oil content from evaporating. Keep in mind up to 90% of the volatile oil evaporates from a dried aromatic herb over time during storage. Water soluble  (non-volatile constituents in peppermint include 
    tocopherols (vitamin E complex), and hesperidin (vitamin C complex), which are synergistic antioxidants that benefit the adrenal glands.

    Integrative Medicine Tip: In Chinese herbal theory, Bo He is contraindicated when there is severe sweating from deficiency and debilitation. In comparison, peppermint EO is also vaso-dilitory, diaphoretic, and cooling in small doses. Bo He is contraindicated with liver yang rising (hypertension). In comparison, peppermint EO is also vasoconstrictive, and hypertensive at high doses. It is so vaso-constrictive, warming, and irritating at high doses that it could cause tissue necrosis and interstitial nephritis. Especially if undiluted, warmed and/or covered on the skin (Keifer et al, 2009).

    * Check your sources for cautions & considerations, and route & dosing before using EOs. Especially during pregancy; on small children & infants; the elderly & weak; and those with epilepsy & neuro-muscular diseases.


    Bensky D., Clavey S., Stoger E., Gamble, A., (2004) Chinese herbal medicine materia medica
         (3rd ed.). Seattle, WA: Eastland Press.     
    Huang, K. (1999). The pharmacology of Chinese herbs (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.    
    Keifer, D., Ulbricht, C., Abrams, T., Basch. E., Giese, N.,  Giles, M., Kirkwood M., DeFranco, C.,
         Miranda, M., Woods, J. (2009). Natural standards review: peppermint (mentha x piperita) an
         evidence-based systematic review. Retrieved from
    Mailhebiau, P. (1995). Portraits in oils: the personality of aromatherapy oils and their link with
         human  temperaments. Saffron, Walden: C W Daniel Company
    Richason, J. (1995). The little herb encyclopedia; the handbook of natures remedies for a
         healthier  life (3 ed.). Utah: Woodland Health Books.
    Speak Assured. Relief from performance anxiety. Retrieved from
    Stewart, D. (2006). The chemistry of essential oils made simple; God’s love manifest in
         molecules. Missouri: Care Publications.    

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