I think Mint might be the first thing I ever grew in any garden I was responsible for. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of it’s thuggish nature, and put one small plant in the soil expecting it to bush out and provide me with a lot of leaves for my purposes. It certainly provided me with lots of leaves, but it spreads through the garden like wildfire. If you do plant mint in your garden, make sure you plant it in a nice big pot to contain it slightly. And if it spreads out of those bounds… get it. Otherwise Mint will become the bane of your gardening life!!
Mint is a perennial herb, with a creeping habit (see thuggish behaviour described above!) and it grows anywhere and everywhere. You use the leaves when you cook or medicate with it, as the stalk is a bit woody and the flowers don’t really have much to offer the party. Except bees. Bees love the mint flowers. Mint leaves are packed with phytochemicals and that is a very good thing indeed. Phytochemicals are powerful anti-oxidants staving off illness and even slowing the rate of ageing. They also have a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
Mint is anti-bacterial. It helps prevent infections of all kinds. Bacteria, fungi and yeast are all killed by mint, and there is even some research to indicate that viruses aren’t very pleased if you use mint against them. I am loathe to say that it is an anti viral herb, because that would be a very rare herb indeed, and I don’t want you to think that if you have a virus, mint will sort it out. It’s good, but I fear it is not that good.
Most people know that a cup of mint tea (made with a sprig of mint with 4 or 5 leaves on it and boiling water poured over it, and then steeped for 3 to 4 minutes) is a fantastic way of completing a meal. Particularly if that meal as been quite rich and quite large. Mint is a fabulous digestive calmative, it prevents spasms in the intestines and it has been shown to help with symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
A topical application of mint essential oil, which has a large component of menthol, has been shown to be effective in controlling the pain of headaches and some injuries. It can help calm travel sickness, and it may even help those who suffer from allergic reactions. Mint is a fabulous addition to your skin routine (antibacterial = anti acne!), would make a fine ingredient for a homemade mouthwash, and if you want to cut down on your salt intake, flavour your food with mint. Salt and mint really do not work together, so the more minty it is, the less salty you want it to be.
It doesn’t matter whether you use peppermint or spearmint, the important bit is the mint. Unfortunately, this does not mean you can go out and stuff your pockets with Mint Imperials, Candy canes or Wrigley’s Double Mint Gum. Sweeties are not the best way of taking in the chemicals of mint. Go straight from the plant.