Mint can be purchased in over 30 varieties including spearmint, peppermint, mountain mint, lemon mint, apple mint, horse mint, and chocolate mint. As a medicinal herb, mint tea is used to stop stomachache and indigestion. It is a digestive tonic that helps prevent vomiting and promotes bile flow. Mint promotes sweating, increases urine flow, and cools the internal organs.
Mint is useful as a compress on inflamed joints and painful muscles. Mint can also help stop a toothache. Flower tops are best for this purpose and should be pressed directly on the offending tooth. Mint is often added to steam baths for relieving congestion and stuffy nose. Mint is also used to whiten teeth.
The essential oil of mint is good for bug bites, stings, and other itchy skin irritations. Dilute with water and apply to scabies, ringworm, or mild burns. This mixture may also be used as a mosquito repellant. Mint essential oil is also used in massage for relieving tension headaches, fevers, and menstrual cramps (always dilute with carrier oil before using in massage).
Mint leaves are used in teas, beverages, syrups, cookies, candy, and ice cream. Mint is also used in mouthwash, breath fresheners, toothpaste, and chewing gum. To make mint tea, pick fresh leaves and steep in hot water for ten minutes before drinking. Mint may be added to any herbal tea to improve flavor.
Insects do not like mint. Place mint leaves around the house to help get rid of cock roaches, fleas, and moths. Mint is also a good remedy to help relieve chigger bites. For itchy bites, add mint leaves to a hot bath (tie up in a bag first), soak whole body for 15 minutes, and then follow with an application of vinegar directly on bites. Dried mint leaves may also be tied in cloth bags and used in the clothes dryer or linen closet.
Mint is a fast growing perennial that spreads by underground runners. Mint grows well in pots or other out-of-the-way areas such as along fence lines. Mints make good companion plants, repelling insect pests and attracting beneficial ones. Try setting a large pot of mint beside rose bushes to repel aphids.
All mints have square stems and opposite aromatic leaves. Mint thrives in partial shade and moderately rich soil that is kept lightly moist. For healthy looking plants, cut flowering stalks before they go to seed. Propagate by stem cuttings or root division. Mint leaves are best harvested just before flowering. Fresh mint leaves should be used immediately or stored for a couple of days in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Mint can also be frozen in ice cube trays for later use.
* Prolonged use of mint essential oil as an inhalant can irritate mucus membranes in the nose and throat. Use all essential oils with extreme care. Excessive use of mint can reduce milk flow in nursing mothers. Mint essential oil should not be used by pregnant women. Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedies especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking other medicines.
Mountain mint grows wild at Payne Mountain Farms. Photo by Janice Boling.
"The only way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix." ... Janice Boling, herbalist, web designer, writer, photographer
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