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Marvelous Mint Medicine - Peppermint & Spearmint

Marvelous Mint Medicine - Peppermint & Spearmint

Marvellous Mint Medicine

Popular peppermint and spearmint

Peppermint: Mentha piperita

Spearmint: Mentha spicata

Family: Lamiaceae

Parts used: Aerial parts - flowers and leaves

Energetics: Variable, warming to cooling and drying. Thought to be masculine and associated with the planet Venus and the element of air.

Taste: Pungent

Plant properties: Aromatic, carminative, analgesic, stimulating nervine, circulatory stimulant, antispasmodic, stimulating diaphoretic, antiemetic

Therapeutic uses: Stomach upset, hiccups, bad breath, colds, flu, fever, sinus congestion, gas, nausea, spasms, headaches, externally to soothe itching and skin inflammation.

Preparations: Tea, tincture, wash, essential oil, culinary

Origin: Mint is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean basin and from there spread to the rest of the world by both natural and artificial means.

A bit of history

Mint gets its name from Menthe a character from Greek mythology; the god Hades was having an affair with a nymph named Minthe.  When his wife found out, she turned Minthe into a common weed.  To soften Minthe’s fate, Hades gave her a sweet, calming scent to remind others of her presence.

Peppermint and its many uses can be traced back to ancient Egypt when it was used to ease stomach ailments was valuable enough to be used as a form of money. There were even dried peppermint leaves found in Egyptian pyramids from 1000 B.C. Ancient Hebrews used to scatter mint over the synagogue floor for its scent. Ancient Romans and Greeks decorated their homes and tables with sprigs of mint, perfumed their baths and used it to flavour cordials and fruit compotes. They wore mint in a wreath around the head (wearing plant wreaths was the fashion) in order to stimulate the mind and soul.

As for the garden of mint, the very smell of it alone recovers and refreshes our spirits, as the taste stirs up our appetite.” Pliny the Elder first century AD

Everyone knows the mints

Mint comes in over 30 varieties but the two mints mostly used in herbalism are peppermint and spearmint. Everyone knows both peppermint and spearmint, whether it’s in their tea, after dinner mints, chocolate, chewing gum, liqueur or toothpaste; both mints are sure to be in most homes. Ubiquitous peppermint and spearmint are an important part of any home medicine cabinet and for good reason with their simultaneous calming, cooling and antiseptic effects. Both mints have a distinctive appealing taste that enhances any medicine; offering powerful benefits for digestion, headaches, flus and fevers while even lifting a dark mood.

What is the difference between the mints?

Spearmint is a type of mint that has a more delicately sweet taste than peppermint. The leaves look similar to regular mint leaves with a spear shape and brighter green colour. Spearmint contains a lower amount of menthol (0.5 percent) compared to peppermint and its light, sweet flavour comes from a chemical called carvone. Peppermint is a hybrid species of mint, a cross between water mint and spearmint. Indigenous to Europe and the Middle East, the plant is now widely spread and cultivated in many regions of the world. It is occasionally found in the wild with its parent species. Peppermint leaves contain several essential oils including menthol, menthone and limonene. The higher menthol content (forty percent), gives peppermint its cooling properties and recognisably stronger favour and scent.

A digestive staple

Peppermint is a fine carminative that has a relaxing effect on the visceral muscles, relieving trapped gas and stimulating bile and digestive juices. In this way peppermint effectively relieves many types of common digestive complaints, like intestinal colic, tummy ache, nervous stomach, diarrhoea, gas, flatulence or bloating after a meal. Sip a warm peppermint tea to ease annoying hiccups. Peppermint plays a valid relieving role in dealing with the troubling symptoms of IBS and Crohn’s disease.

Peppermint prevents or reduces vomiting and prevents smooth muscle spasms in the gut. Both mints admirably allay nausea, however spearmint is generally preferred for this, especially for morning sickness in pregnant woman and travel sickness. It is good to add either mint to laxative herb blends to help relieve griping pains.

Classic colds and flu remedy

Peppermint has long been used in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western herbalism to clear lung congestion and address fevers that accompany the flu. Peppermint is diaphoretic which means it induces perspiration. It effectively opens the pores of the body, allowing the heat to escape, which makes it a great choice for when the feverous patient is hot and restless. In Ayurveda, all varieties of mint are thought to be cooling and most are believed to act as a pacifying agent for all three constitutions or dosha and especially beneficial for balancing pitta dosha.

The Western traditional combination of peppermint with elderflowers and yarrow is ideal to tackle all the nasty symptoms of flu and colds, helping hasten recovery. This remedy will ensure that the person emerges from the flu healthier than before they had it, which is not the case with medical cold and flu drugs that suppress symptoms and tend to further debilitate the immune system.

A useful nerve tonic

Spearmint is ideal for those interested in soothing the mind and body, whether experiencing heightened stress, anxiety or insomnia. The mints exhibit different ways in which they can counteract or control symptoms of anxiety and depression including an increase in serotonin, binding to GABA-A receptors and stimulation of the nicotinic receptor in nerve cells. The actives,  Menthol, Limonene and Carvone have tranquillising as well as analgesic actions that effectively work against stress. The aroma released after the brewing mint tea is also calming and attenuates the anxiety level.

Drinking peppermint regularly improves energy levels and reduces fatigue, while improving concentration and alertness, stimulating the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning. The scent basically triggers us to wake up and pay attention. Peppermint and spearmint have beneficial effects on hormonal imbalance symptoms and sunsequently our overall health and mood. People who have suffered from long-term hormonal acne have found relief with spearmint tea, although it will take afew months to get beneficial results.

Muscle relaxant

Peppermint can be an effective antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory agent in reducing the intensity and duration of painful periods. It acts as a muscle relaxant that helps relieve menstrual cramps, pain and associated tension. It can also diminish certain types of headaches, especially when used as cool compress, which quells nervous headaches, agitation and palpitations. The menthol in peppermint oil increases blood flow and provides a cooling sensation that eases pain.

Relieves nerve pain

Peppermint works very well to help relieve many types of pain, especially intense nerve pain. Peppermint oil can be applied to painful feet due to diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage.  It also offers relief from the nerve pain felt after an outbreak of herpes zoster or shingles and relieves the itching and inflammation of sunburns, poison ivy and hives. A strong peppermint tea can be added to the bathwater to help bring relief.

Clears the breathing passages

This strongly aromatic plant has a positive effect on the treatment of respiratory disorders caused by asthma, colds and chronic cough. Spearmints and peppermints antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties help alleviate congested sinuses due to infections, common cold and allergies. Peppermint contains rosmarinic acid, which has been shown to reduce allergy symptoms, such as sneezing and runny nose. This aromatic decongestant helps to break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel. Additionally, menthol improves the perception of airflow in our nasal cavity. Therefore, steam from peppermint tea and essential oil can help us feel as though we are breathing better.

Helps fight infections

Peppermint leaves are packed with antibacterial compounds, primarily eriocitrin as well as rosmarinic acid and hesperidin that help bacterial infections and soothe bronchitis. The mint are useful for treating an infected sore or itchy throat. Peppermint and peppermint oil kills several types of bacteria that lead to illness including staphylococcus and pneumonia-linked bacteria. In one study, peppermint oil was found to kill and prevent the growth of common food-borne bacteria including E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella in pineapple and mango juices.

Research has revealed how spearmint is the most potent of the different mints in killing skin disease-causing bacteria and yeasts and moreover, spearmint has the most anti-inflammatory activity of the mint varieties. This makes it potentially an excellent treatment for acne and acne scarring; make a strong spearmint tea cool and strain to use as a topical wash. Use this to thoroughly cleanse the skin and unclog pores, which are contributing factors to acne.

Bad breath

There’s good reason why peppermint is a common flavouring for toothpastes, mouthwashes and chewing gums. In addition to its pleasant smell, peppermint has antibacterial properties that help kill several types of bacteria commonly found in the mouth that cause dental plaque and bad breath. Few herbs make you feel as refreshed and renewed as peppermint does.

Interesting peppermint remedies

Drinking spearmint tea may help reduce hirsutism, or growth of dark, coarse hair on the face, chest and abdomen of women. In fact, it's a common herbal remedy for unwanted hair growth in Middle Eastern countries. Spearmint tea helps with abnormal hair growth on the face because it lowers androgens - the hormones like testosterone and DHEA that are not typically elevated in women.

In early times, peppermint was strewn about barns pantries and storage sheds to repel rats and mice that dislike the smell. These days, peppermint oil will do a better job to wipe down pantry and storage shelves to repel rodents.

Peppermint’s spiritual qualities

Peppermint is a Venus-ruled herb that is infused with the qualities of protection and divination, which may explain its use in rituals for spiritual growth, love and psychic enhancement. It is a herb that encourages prophetic dreams, prompting us to prepare for future events that may require large concentrations of energy. Use peppermint to relax and conserve energy for an arduous road ahead. Peppermint helps us resist wasting energy on trivial things and rather save that energy for tasks that add to the value of our wellbeing and life's goals. Peppermint is a faithful ally against negativity while inviting insights into the mysteries of the spiritual realms. Peppermint is sometimes burned during funerary rites to help with the grieving process because of its cleansing and regenerative properties.

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