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The Mint Family – Uses of Mints
Mints are not Just for After Dinner

By Linda L. Hein with
additions by Jeanne Rose

     In the first century A.D., the naturalist Pliny wrote "The smell of mint stirs up the mind and appetite to a greedy desire of food."** (Plinie's Natural History First Century AD. Translated by Philemon Holland.). He recommended binding the head in a crown of mint, which delights the soul and is good for the mind. Pliny, along with Hippocrates and Aristotle judged it 'contrary to procreation', while the Greeks were of the opposite opinion: they forbade their soldiers to eat mint because it so incites a man to love, diminishing his courage. It was found that the Greeks, not Pliny, have been shown to be correct.

     In the Middle Ages, Charlemagne wrote in his Capitularies that mint was to be specially cultivated for its
therapeutic qualities.

     In the 17th century, wild mint or Spearmint took a foothold in what is now Great Britain. Found growing in the wild, it was first cultivated in 1750, spreading to the continent in 1770. The English herbalist Culpeper prescribed the herb as a 'great strengthener of the stomach.'

     During the 1880s, English herbalists and doctors alike used mint in special Family Dispensatory Chests, which contained 'those drugs and herbs with which one person, at least, in every village ought to be provided.'

     Even in modern times, the mints have been used in first aid kits. During World War I, a resurgence of herbal healing began when other more traditional drugs were in short supply. The main herbs used were garlic, lily-of-the-valley, sphagnum moss
and mint.

     Many Herbal Courses and a variety of books discuss the subject of the various Mints that are available. They have 2-main uses: Spearmint as a tasty aromatic in herbal tea and the essential oil in perfumery and to refresh scents; and Peppermint as a soothing digestive to ease gut pain and an aromatic in flatulence; the essential oil of Peppermint is very useful in a Travel Kit and an inhalant or application for pain.

Varieties of Mint
 As stated earlier, there are over 650 species found throughout the temperate regions of the planet. The main varieties are:

Spearmint (Mentha spicata)    
     Brought to the New World by colonists, it has a light flavor, without the bite of Menthol. It has sharply pointed, toothed, lance-shaped leaves, and is one of the most common garden mints. It is also sometimes listed as Mentha viridis.

      "The essential oil is composed of l-Carvone up to 56%, Terpenes, Limonene, Phellandrene and sometimes Linaloöl and Cineol. It is an anti-inflammatory, calming, mucolytic, and a tonic for the digestive system. It has a wonderful ability, when inhaled, to create a feeling of joy and happiness and therefore makes an excellent addition to stress relief blends. It is indicated for all sorts of respiratory problems and chronic bronchitis."* [See The Aromatherapy Studies Course and the Certification Weekend for more chemistry information]

 
  Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita)

        Considered a hybrid of Spearmint and Watermint (M. aquatica), it has pronounced flavor and is the classic source of mint essential oil. It has longer leaves than that of Spearmint, with purple stems. It has a rampant growth rate.

Imagine the refreshing odor...  

      "Its essential oil contains up to 48% Menthol, up to 30% Menthone with other constituents including Cineol and Pulegone. There are many chemotypes and strains of Peppermint and classification and identification can be difficult. Its properties are cooling, viricide, tonic and stimulant, particularly to the heart, brain and pancreas. It has hormone-like properties that may regulate ovarian hormones. Use of the essential oil is indicated for insufficient liver or pancreas juices, flatulence and belching, headache and migraine, nerve pain and purulent eczema. It is a very good disinfectant for the air for seriously ill patients with AIDS, senility or those with high fever. For gas in the stomach, whether human or pets, one drop in half a glass of water, sipped slowly will do the trick. Peppermint oil diffused will cool any room, even if it is very hot."* (*Guide to [325] Essential Oils, by Jeanne Rose)

Corsican mint (Mentha requienii)
     Grown in the Mediterranean basin, this mint has a pure, light flavor, and is used to produce the liqueur Creme de Menthe. Its leaves are only 3/8 inches long, and bright green. It’s less hardy than the other mints.

Field mint (Mentha arvensis)
     Also called "Corn Mint" known as the native North American mint, it has a strong Peppermint-like flavor. Also known as Mentha canadensis, it has ovate, toothed leaves, and is a common weed in poorly drained soils. The variety Piperescens, or Japanese mint, is the major source of commercial menthol.

     "The Menthol content of the essential oil can be up to 90% and the Menthone content up to 20% with other components. Menthol is considered an antibacterial and a soother for the motor nerves. It is stimulating to the brain but also associated with constriction of blood vessels. It has been used in sciatica, migraine, and headache or in blends to discourage all types of vermin. A teeny bit on a sugar cube or in honey can be used for indigestion or vomiting. It is contraindicated for those who are taking homeopathic remedies, babies, or those with serious respiratory problems where inhaling Menthol will cause temporary loss of breathing. It is considered a tonic stimulant, stupefying at elevated doses. It can cause trembling and agitation and is considered an anticephalic."**

Lemon mint (Mentha citrata)
      A group of similar mints, who have the flavor of lemons, lime sour oranges. With dark green or bronze leaves, this group of mints grows well next to sources of water.

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
     First discovered in England, this plant has a strong, almost resinous flavor. It has hairy, 1/2 inch long dark green leaves, and is an excellent ground cover.

     "The essential oil contains mostly Pulegone up to 90% with Menthone and other components. The essential oil is often used for the manufacture of synthetic Menthol. Its properties include mucolytic, tonic and stimulant. It is an emmenagogue when there is congestion in the pelvis. Often used to bring on the menses, has some use in menstrual difficulties. It has much value to repel insects on animals and can be used diluted either in alcohol or vinegar as a rub or kill fleas or the herb itself used in sleep pillows made of burlap, for dogs and cats to repel vermin. It is considered an oral toxin and uterine abortive and many aromatherapists will not use this oil."*(Guide to [325] Essential Oils, by Jeanne Rose)

Chocolate or Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens)
     An interesting type with slight flavors of chocolate, apple or pineapple. A tall plant, it has round, fuzzy gray-green leaves. It spreads less than most mint plants.

Silver or Woolly mint (Mentha longifolia)
     These mints have silver, fuzzy leaf, and have a light, variable flavor. It has oblong to elliptical-shaped leaves, 2-3 1/2 inches long, with white hairs. It grows wild in damp ground, and is also known as Horsemint.

Chemical composition
      Although the essential oils vary in composition, they all contain terpenes and the alcohol menthol, which is present in both its free state and as esters. The varieties contain different flavonoid coloring matters, as well s triterpenoides. The oil is soluble in both water and alcohol, which is used in distillation. The oil consists of both solid and liquid portions, and all contain a hydrocarbon that prevents the crystallization of menthol. The Japanese mint Mentha arvensis var. piperescens contains over 90% menthol.

Korean Mint (Agastache Rugosa) – aka Giant Purple Hyssop

   
 
Sessile secretory gland of Korean Mint
 

Medicinal uses
     The Herb Mint has been used extensively for its medicinal properties for over 3000 years. It can be used internally as a tea, can be used to make poultices or balms, or can be inhaled to make use of it's high menthol content. Mints medicinal properties include: stomachic, carminative, stimulant, calmative, diaphoretic, febrifuge, anesthetic, disinfectant, nervine, sudorific and vermifuge. The following afflictions are treated with mint herb or essential oil:

Acne
     A pinch of Peppermint and rosemary makes a good astringent in cleansing the infected area.

Bronchitis
     Peppermint tea is excellent as an expectorant, as is inhaling the vapors of mint and eucalyptus, the mint for its high
menthol content.

Burns
     Peppermint oil is used as a balm to rub on burns and sunburns, as its menthol cools the afflicted area.

Colds
      The Flathead and Kutenais Indian tribes drank wild mint or Spearmint teas to treat both the coughs and fevers associated with colds. Peppermint essential oil can also be added to oils and fats for a chest rub for associated respiratory diseases.

Dandruff
     Peppermint mixed with Rosemary and Vinegar, massage into the scalp for relief. An added benefit is the coolness of the menthol, which promotes a positive psychosomatic response to the treatment.

Digestive Ailments
     An overall aid to most digestive disorders, it is especially beneficial in the treatment of flatulence, diarrhea, and colic, retching and vomiting. Peppermint tea has been proven to stimulate the gastric lining, lessening the amount of time that food spends in the stomach. It is also said to relax the stomach, promoting burping. A poultice of Peppermint or Spearmint leaves over the stomach region also helps to aid in digestive distress. Peppermint also helps to alleviate the amount of gas in the digestive system. Mint tea also helps to promote appetite.

Female afflictions
     Spearmint can be used to treat strong menstrual cramps. In Near Easter societies it helps to increase sexual desire, suppressed menstruation, decreases mild supply of nursing mothers, and helps to relieve the breast of curdled or congested mild.

Fertility
     The Japanese and Arabs believe that Spearmint tea, or chewing several fresh leaves helps to promote fertility in the male.

Headaches
     Peppermint oil can be rubbed on the temples or in the affected area. The coolness of the menthol, along with the aroma help in both minor and migraine incidents. The Lakota Indian tribe used strong mint tea to treat all forms of headache.

Heart Ailments
     The Blackfeet Indians as well as other tribes chewed wild mint leaves to treat chest pains and strengthen heart muscles.

Inflammation
     Peppermint oil or a poultice containing mint leaves can be used to reduce inflammation in muscle groups, joints, as well as varicose veins. It is also a great treatment for gout.

Liver Problems
     Peppermint tea helps to promote flow of bile in the digestive system, helping to cleanse the liver and gall bladder. It also may help in the reduction of kidney stones.

Nerve Afflictions
     Facial tics and sciatic nerve spasms are treated with rubbing the Peppermint oil directly on the affected area.

Nervous System
     All mint teas have a soothing quality, and are used to treat nervousness, fatigue, nausea, vertigo, hiccoughs, palpitations, anger, confusion, depression and mental strain.

Rashes
     Mint oil can be rubbed on poison ivy rash, diaper rash and athlete's foot.

Toothache
     A drop of Mint essential oil can be used directly on the source of pin to help alleviate the pain from both cavities and
gum disease.

Travel Related Afflictions
     Inhaled from a handkerchief, Peppermint oil helps to alleviate the problems associated with jet lag, seasickness and
motion sickness.

Viruses
     According to laboratory studies, Peppermint oil has anti-viral properties against herpes simplex, as well as other viruses.

Safety Precautions
As in any form of complementary therapy, there are some points in which caution is needed, which are:
     •Dilute essential oils before use.
     • Keep essential oils out of your eyes.
     •Don't use mint oils at night, it may promote insomnia
     •Avoid using mint oils with homeopathic remedies; all mint is considered an antidote

Hydrosol Uses
     Soothing to the skin and energizine and cooling as a drink. More uses are listed in the new book, Hydrosols &
Aromatic Waters
.

Culinary Uses
     Mint has been used extensively in preparation of foods throughout the world. Though seldom cooked, mint can be used to make teas, jellies, candies and gums. In the Middle East, mint leaves are added to salads, which makes it more flavorful, as well as adds high concentrations of vitamins A, C and carotene. Mint sauce is the basic accompaniment to roast lamb and veal, and is said to help in the digestion of the crude albuminous fibers of these immature meats.
[see The Herbal Guide to Food for more uses.]

Other Uses
     Mints are used commercially in a wide variety of ways, which include:

Beverages
     Spearmint is added to commercial teas and soft drinks to add flavor.

Dental Care Products
     All mint is extensively used to flavor toothpastes and polishes, as well as gums and mouthwashes. It is used both to mask any unpleasant flavors, or as an antiseptic in such preparations.

Deodorants
     Wild mint is still used by Native Americans as both a deodorant and perfume.

Drugs
     Peppermint is used to mask the taste of nausea-causing drugs.

Pest Control
     The pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) produces a substance named pulegone, which has been used for centuries to dispel rates, ants, fleas, mosquitoes as well as other insects.

Working Environments
     Tests in both Japan and the United States confirm that the introduction of mint essence into the atmosphere helps to increase worker proficiency, reduces the percentage of errors caused by workers, keeps workers more alert and improves performance of routine tasks.

Conclusion

     As we can plainly see, mint is an extremely important substance in the use of aromatherapy. Its historical use of over 3000 years helps to support the health claims associated with its uses. It is a versatile, lively plant that can be found practically on your doorstep, and should not be overlooked when searching for natural remedies.

Sources:


Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy
www.jeannerose.net; email at info@jeannerose.net
 219 Carl St.  San Francisco, CA 94117. PH 415-564-6785
First Aid Kits containing therapeutic quality
essential oils for a variety of uses.
A source for pure essential oils as well.
Write for information about AROMAtherapy 2037 Newsletter.
 

 


Herb Products

11012 Magnolia Blvd.  North Hollywood, CA 91601
Herbs, oils and other items. Reasonable prices, wonderful company.
Herbs, books, oils and bottles to package your
own products and original medicinal tea blends.
 

 


Prima Fleur Botanicals

www.primafleur.com
Wholesale essential oils.
Extensive line of oils available for
businesses and product lines.
Must meet minimum order requirements.
 

Bibliography:

Francesco Bianchini, Health Plants of the World (Newsweek Books, 1977)
Thomas Eisner, Rare Mint Patch Makes Ideal Picnic Spot (Science News, January 20, 1990)
Euell Gibbons, Stalking the Healthful Herbs (David McKay Company, 1966)
Barbara Griggs, Green Pharmacy, A History of Herbal Medicine (Viking Press, 1981)
Jeff Hunter, Ways With Peppermint (Countryside & Small Stock Journal, May/June 1991)
Carla Kallan, Probing the Power of Common Scents (Prevention, October 1991)
Kelly Kindscher, Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie (University Press of Kansas, 1992)
Pliny, Plinie's Natural History First Century AD. Translated by Philemon Holland.
Meyer, Scott Garden Apothecary: Grow these Herbs for Relief Outside Your Door (Organic Gardening, January 1990)
Charles F. Millspaugh, American Medicinal Plants (Dover Publications, 1974)
Earl Mindell, Earl Mindell's Herb Bible (Simon & Schuster, 1992)
Jean Palaiseul, Grandmother's Secrets - Her Green Guide to Health from Plants (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1973)
Jeanne Rose, Kitchen Cosmetics, (North Atlantic Books, 1990)
* 325 Essential Oil AND Hydrosols, (Herbal Studies Library, 1994)
      *This book was used for essential oil information for the descriptions of the essential oils, including components, of the various mints.

 
The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations (North Atlantic Books: 1994)
AROMATIC NEWS, Summer 1992, (The Herbal Rose Report)
Jeannine Parvati, Hygieia : A Woman's Herbal (Freestone Collective, 1978)
Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (Rodale Press, 1987)
Lon J. Rombough, Grow a Multitude of Mints (Organic Gardening, March 1993)
Danielle Ryman, Aromatherapy, The Complete Guide to Plant and Flower Essences for Health and Beauty
(Bantam Books, 1992)
Robert Tisserand, The Art of Aromatherapy (Healing Art Press, 1977)
Valerie Worwood, The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy (New World Library, 1991)


Author:
Linda Hein • 3053 Rohrer Rd. • Wadsworth, OH 44281

 

All rights reserved 2007. No part of this article may
be used without the prior permission of Jeanne Rose.
© Authors Copyright Jeanne Rose
http://www.jeannerose.netinfo@jeannerose.net

 


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