Does anyone have an Anishinaabemowin word for mint? We’ll cover the edible and medicinal wild mint, peppermint and spearmint in this post. There are other mints I will cover separately: heal-all, catnip, wild bergamot, etc.!
Wild mint (mentha arvensis) and peppermint (mentha x piperita) are listed in Haliburton Flora, with the native wild aka corn mint being more common. Spearmint, called the mother of mints, is not listed and nonnative but it’s in my garden in Highlands East. Their uses are mostly interchangeable.
Edible Uses of Mint
Pick mint leaves at any stage, on a dry day. Mints, sharply scented and rich in flavor, are edible raw as greens. But they are mostly used in recipes for the flavor; in soups, stews, meats, sauces, jellies, drinks and sweets. Spearmint is used the most in cooking.
If you absolutely love the flavor of mint, Euell Gibbons in Stalking the Helpful Herb recommends adding a quantity to salad mixes. Chop it fine and mix well. He used at least half a cup full of mint for a big salad, mingled with other flavors, oils and vinegar. The Edible Wild‘s authors suggest spearmint to flavor snake meat. I’m not sure I’ll be trying that!
Most of all, mint makes for some of the most flavorful and refreshing teas. Be sure to cover the tea as it brews so that all the wonderful oils stay in the cuppa. Fresh is best, but I raid my mint garden every autumn to hang to dry for winters tea stash. It drys easily at room temperature.
Powdered mint leaves sprinkled on compatible dishes may help repel flies. Mint picnic anyone?
High in Vitamins A and C.
Medicinal Uses of Mint
Mint is primarily said to support these body systems:
Medicinal tags include Analgesic, Anodyne, Antiemetic, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Carminative, Expectorant, Diaphoratic, Local Anesthetic, Nervine, and Stomachic. See Medicinal tag key for more information.
Common usage includes peppermint for assisting digestion after a meal. The menthol in peppermint reduces indigestion, relaxes stomach muscles, and stimulates bile and proper digestion. Hence the “after dinner mint”. Peppermint’s volatile oil has a mild anesthetic for the stomach wall making it effective for morning sickness and travel sickness too. Mature plants are the strongest medicinally. Other mints can substitute though!
As a nervine peppermint is more stimulating and spearmint more relaxing. I’ve often rotated between chamomile and mint teas for minor anxiety, to relax in the evening before bed.
Peppermint can help with headaches, even bruising the leaves and putting them on ones head. I use it as a decongestant occasionally, usually aromatherapy by diffuser – but be aware that using peppermint oil this way can be toxic to pets in the vicinity. In my case it seems to trigger my asthma slightly!
Mint plants, menthol and peppermint oil have been used in recipes for pain relief as well. The Good Living Guide has a spearmint recipe for stiff and tense muscles. Mint gives such salves more than just a lovely scent.
Green Pharmacy includes a long list for peppermint: anti-aging, backache, bad breath, earache, emphysema, fever, gallstones, gingivitis, headache, heartburn, hives, indigestion, morning sickness, nausea, pain, scabies and sinusitis. Under spearmint he only lists gallstones and heartburn.
Mints are mostly used for their aroma or as flavoring for toothpastes, soap, all manner of personal products. On a similar note, you can grab and chew the leaves to freshen your breath on your way through your garden.
Mints thrive near water and cool moist spots in partial shade. Be hypervigilant near water – I found a huge patch of mint with some deadly water hemlock next to it recently, a plant you don’t even want to touch.
Mints start easily from root cuttings and divisions. But note, mint is a spreader, so you may want to use containers! And it’s best to keep the different mints apart. They hybridize if near each other and may lose potency.
Of course I didn’t know that when I planted mine, so now I have a wild mint hodgepodge!
Excessive ingestion of mint is not recommended for pregnant women.
And the Usual Cautions:
1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.
2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.
3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored. Herbalists do not have an official certification yet, but that may be in the works.
4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.
5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.
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Field Guide to North American Edible Wild PlantsThe Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual