Mentha spicata (spearmint)
Family: Labiatae - Mint
There are hundreds of varieties of mint and like basil, which comes from the mint family, has a variety of shapes, sizes, and smells - although most have the familiar minty aroma. Mint can be found in the home pharmacy, the first aid kit, the cleaning closet, kitchen and in the garden shed.
- Sinus and bronchial congestion
- Coughs and colds
- Sore Throat
- Pain reliever
- Toothaches and mouth wash
- Nausea, motion sickness
- Aids digestion
- Digestive complaints: gas, constipation, diarrhea, cramps, etc.
- Bug bites and stings
- Repels mosquitoes, flies, fleas, moths, ants, and spiders.
- Mental strain
- Boosts memory and thinking
- Nervous system
- Women’s Health including PMS
- Clogged milk ducts and milk knots in nursing mothers (best used as a fresh poultice)
- Fever reducer
- Skin conditions, including rashes
- Cooling (rub diluted essential oil over body for a refreshing coolant on hot days)
- Cleaning agent: deodorizes, disinfects and removes noxious odors
In the Kitchen
- A flavoring for deserts and drinks (tincture with alcohol and you have peppermint extract)
- Use fresh leaves for pesto, smoothies, herbal drinks, salads, soup etc.
- Make a powder with the dried herb to use in any cooking dishes and in rubs for meat.
- Use peppermint honey or butter in tea, on toast, as rubs, or any way you would use them in your meals.
- Floating fresh mint on raw milk will keep it fresher longer and will keep it from coagulating as readily.
Methods of Use
- The most well known way to use mint is in an herbal infusion (tea). This can be drank, used as a steam inhalation, or in a bath or foot soak.
- Herbal oil
- Vinegar (makes a great fly, ant, spider repellent to spray around the house)
- Sleep pillows and satchets
- Herbal capsules or pills
- Herbal syrup
- Salve, ointment, balm
- Poultice (best for bug bites, stings and milk knots)
- Use in the kitchen: blender drinks and smoothies, herbal water, salads, pesto, pastas, chop and include in cookies and treats. See in the kitchen section above.
- Peppermint essential oil
- Spearmint essential oil
Peppermint and Spearmint Essential Oil
In the Garden
- Must plant from a cutting, when planted from seed the plant loses potency, smell and taste.
- This is a vigorously spreading plant so watch carefully and only plant next to other vigorous plants, in a container or where you don’t care to let it spread.
- Mint likes rich, moist, well drained soil in full sun to part shade.
- Frequent cuttings encourage bushiness. Harvest leaves anytime during the season, in the morning when it is sunny and dry is a good time. Never harvest wet leaves and pick out those that are shriveled or diseased. Leaves cut before flowering yield a sweeter taste.
- Cut the entire plant back within a few inches of the ground when the first flowers appear.
- Not a good bed mate with other plants, including other mints. They easily cross pollinate with other mint varieties, making them less potent. I do plant mine next to yarrow, which is another vigorous plant and they seem to tolerate each other. St. John’s wort is another vigorous plant that would get along with mint. Chamomile on the other hand gets along well with mint and when planted next to each other their oil content is increased. Never plant next to potatoes.
Planted in pots around the garden mint discourages ant, controls aphids and cabbage caterpillars. Mint will also aid the growth and flavor of cabbages, pea, and tomatoes.
Because of its aromatic properties mint should be dried as quickly as possible, preferably in a dry, warm, shady, area with lots of good air flow. Store in a glass, air tight container in a cool, dry place where is should last up to a year.