The Mint Family – Uses of Mints
Mints are not Just for After Dinner
By Linda L. Hein with
additions by Jeanne Rose
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.
the Middle Ages, Charlemagne wrote in his Capitularies that mint was to
be specially cultivated for its
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
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
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:
| 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
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.
the refreshing odor...
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  Essential Oils, by Jeanne Rose)
Corsican mint (Mentha
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
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
Lemon mint (Mentha
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.
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  Essential
Oils, by Jeanne Rose)
Chocolate or Apple mint
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
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.
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
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:
A pinch of Peppermint and rosemary makes a good
astringent in cleansing the infected area.
Peppermint tea is excellent as an expectorant, as is
inhaling the vapors of mint and eucalyptus, the mint for its high
Peppermint oil is used as a balm to rub on burns and
sunburns, as its menthol cools the afflicted area.
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.
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
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.
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.
The Japanese and Arabs believe that Spearmint tea, or
chewing several fresh leaves helps to promote fertility in the male.
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.
The Blackfeet Indians as well as other tribes chewed
wild mint leaves to treat chest pains and strengthen heart muscles.
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.
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
tics and sciatic nerve spasms are treated with rubbing the Peppermint
oil directly on the affected area.
teas have a soothing quality, and are used to treat nervousness,
fatigue, nausea, vertigo, hiccoughs, palpitations, anger, confusion,
depression and mental strain.
Mint oil can be
rubbed on poison ivy rash, diaper rash and athlete's foot.
A drop of Mint
essential oil can be used directly on the source of pin to help
alleviate the pain from both cavities and
Travel Related Afflictions
Inhaled from a handkerchief, Peppermint oil helps to alleviate the
problems associated with jet lag, seasickness and
laboratory studies, Peppermint oil has anti-viral properties against
herpes simplex, as well as other viruses.
any form of complementary therapy, there are some points in which
caution is needed, which are:
•Dilute essential oils
• Keep essential oils out of
•Don't use mint oils at
night, it may promote insomnia
•Avoid using mint oils with
homeopathic remedies; all mint is considered an antidote
the skin and energizine and cooling as a drink. More uses are listed in
the new book,
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
Mints are used
commercially in a wide variety of ways, which include:
added to commercial teas and soft drinks to add flavor.
Dental Care Products
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.
Wild mint is
still used by Native Americans as both a deodorant and perfume.
Peppermint is used
to mask the taste of nausea-causing drugs.
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.
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.
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.
Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy
email at firstname.lastname@example.org
219 Carl St. San Francisco, CA 94117. PH 415-564-6785
First Aid Kits containing
essential oils for a variety of uses.
A source for
pure essential oils as well.
Write for information about AROMAtherapy
Magnolia Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601
Herbs, oils and other items. Reasonable prices, wonderful
Herbs, books, oils and
bottles to package your
own products and original medicinal tea blends.
Prima Fleur Botanicals
Wholesale essential oils.
Extensive line of oils available for
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meet minimum order requirements.
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)
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)
Encyclopedia of Herbs (Rodale Press, 1987)
Lon J. Rombough, Grow a
Multitude of Mints (Organic Gardening, March 1993)
Aromatherapy, The Complete Guide to Plant and Flower Essences for Health
(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,
Linda Hein • 3053
Rohrer Rd. • Wadsworth, OH 44281
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