Monday, June 10, 2013

Mint: one of nature’s most stimulating herbs

 “To drink my first cup of mint tea by the side of an open drain in Tangiers was not the best introduction to it, but by the end of that holiday I was haggling with carpet-sellers simply for the pleasure of being served tall glasses of the hot, sweet, amber-coloured liquid. Teabags are fine, but only until you’ve tried making mint tea straight from the plant: there is no comparison” (1).

Chocolate Mint My Garden
this summer, Minneapolis, MN
        There are two main types of what we call ‘mint’, Peppermint, Mentha piperita, and Spearmint, Mentha spicata (2). Now you may wonder where this aggressive creeping, plant got its name—Mentha. The story goes, in Greek mythology, that “Menthe…was a pretty nymph turned into a humble creeping plant by Persephone when she noticed Pluto’s interest in her. Pluto consoled the nymph by ensuring that she would smell delicious however hard she was trodden down” (1). Historically, mint was a medium of exchange during biblical times (3). The Greeks and Romans would put crowns of mint on their heads “when they feasted…and flavored their wines and sauces”, with it (4). Maude Grieve in her book A Modern Herbal, noted that “in Athens, where every part of the body was perfumed with a different scent, mint was specially designated to the arms”, (5) and was also used in ancient times to bring brightness and clarity.
     Native Americans used peppermint, Mentha piperita, to “dispel flatulence and remove colic pains”, for: cramps, vomiting, cholera, feves, colds, pneumonia and “suppression of urine” (6). They also utilized spearmint, or Mentha spicata, to treat headaches, when snuffed by the Iroqouis; also as an emetic, for hay fever, typhoid and diarrhea (7). Mint, being a very strongly-scented herb, was also noted for “conquering the smell of tobacco [and]…gin” in Oliver Twist (8), and to rid areas of pests such as rats, fleas and ants (9). Lastly, its warming oil served as a nerve-stimulant, (10), treating shock, among other digestive and nervous-system ailments, as well as: headaches, stomach pains, flatulence, indigestion, nausea, constipation and painful menstruation, depression, and induce sleep (11).
            Currently, mints are used similarly to how ginger was utilized (historically and currently), or how I like to call it “nature’s pepto-bismol”. Being primarily used for stomach ailments, including: nausea, vomiting, constipation, flatulence, it is an “excellent aid toward remedying an upset stomach, frayed nerves and an incipient cold” (4). Also is excellent in treating heart burn, insomnia, headaches, shock, allergies; and to improve concentration (12). In Europe they use mint to treat “gallbladder inflammation and gallstones” (13), and in China and Egypt many “drink hot peppermint tea to cool off, as the diaphoretic properties open pores and let out excess heat” (2), which I can attest to having worked in greenhouses, at herbal farms, when it is 80 F outside, it is 90 plus humidity, and hot mint tea is a god-send.

Spearmint in my Garden
Minneapolis, MN

            Studies show that pepperint’s compound, menthol, contains anti-parasitic, antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties, having proven useful in the treatment of worms. (14). Similarly, the compound azulen, a is anti-inflammatory in action and heals ulcers. Studies have shown that over “30 pathogenic micro-organisms have yielded to the influence of Peppermint…: Influenza A, mumps, strep throat, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, cold sores and sinusitis(15).

            Interestingly mint is still a highly-utilized herb in the realm of stomach ailments. Studies show that mint, catnip and ginger root, all contain “volatile oils…that absorb intestinal gas, calm upset stomach[s], inhibit diarrhea…constipation, aid digestion, eliminate heartburn”, these oils “enhance digestive activity by stimulating contractile activity in the gallbladder…by encouraging the secretion of bile…[which] normalize[s] gastrointestinal activity, removing flaccidity and reducing cramps” (16). Also, a 1985 German study, where “[researchers] compared peppermint with drugs that relieved stomach spasms, promoted digestive fluids, killed bacteria and cut down on gas…in the intestines…peppermint proved equally as effective” (17). Also, another stomach-bacteria-related experiment, done in Japan, with food stored at 86 degrees F for two days, found that peppermint oil “stopped Salmonella growth” (18). Lastly, related to pain, comes a study done at the Christian-Albrechts University in Germany. They found that peppermint oil, essential oil or?, when applied to the forehead, “had the same pain-relieving effect as 1,000 mg of acetaminophen, or two 500 milligram Tylenols” (18).
            My favorite ways of medicinally using mint, usually peppermint, but also spearmint sometimes, is as the above headache-test, works very well for me! Also, I love to drink lots of hot peppermint, spearmint green tea in the summer, which is sold on my Etsy store and called Awake Tea, it cools me off wonderfully.

Number Citations:
1) Seymour, 88         2) Brown, 132        3) Shababy, 211
Huson, 71             5) Shababy, 212     6) Moerman, 306
7) Moerman, 307      8) Seymour, 90      9) Seymour, 89
10) Levy, 120           11) Levy, 121         12) Bremness, 190
13) Foster, 151         14) Malbey, 70       15) Mowrey, 75-76
16) Mowrey, 75        17) Keville, 91       18) Balch, 108

Sources for Mint Blog:
Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Herbal Heaing: an easy-to-use!-to-Z reference to hundreds of common disorders and their herbal remedies. Avery: a member of Penguin Putnam Inc, New York. 2002. Print.
Bremness, Lesley. Herbs. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2002. Print.
Brown, Kathleen, and Jeanine Pollak. Herbal Teas: 101 Nourishing Blends for Daily Health and Vitality. Pownal, VT: Storey, 1999. Print.
Foster, Steven. Herbal Renaissance: growing, using & understanding herbs in the modern world. Gibbs Smith Publisher, Salt Lake City, Utah.1993. 87. Print. 
Huson, Paul. Mastering Herbalism: a Practical Guide. New York: Stein and Day, 1975. Print.
Keville, Kathi, and Peter Korn. Herbs for Health and Healing. Emmaus, Penn.: Rodale, 1996. Print.
Levy, Juliette de Bairacli-Levy. Common Herbs for Natural Health. Ash Tree Publishing, Woostock, New York. 1997. Print.
Malbey, Richard. The New Age herbalist: how to use herbs for healing, nutrition, body care and relaxation. Collier Books Macmillan Publishing Company, New York. 1988. Print.
Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Medicinal Plant: an Ethnobotanical Dictionary-the medicinal uses of more than 3000 plants by 218 Native American tribes. Timber Press Inc, Portland, Oregon & London. 2009. Print.
Mowrey, Daniel. The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine. McGraw Hill Publishing, 1st Edition. 1986. Print.  
Seymour, Miranda. A Brief History of Thyme and Other Herbs. London: John Murray, 2002. Print.
Shababy, Doreen. The Wild & Weedy Apothecary: An A to Z book of Herbal Concoctions, Recipes & Remdies, Practical Know-How & Food for the Soul. Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN. 2010. Print.


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