The Magic of Mints—for Summertime and Year-round!
When hot days make us long for cooling herbs, two that come to mind right away are Peppermint and Spearmint. These familiar and wonderful plant friends are members of the Lamiaceae family, often simply called “the Mint family.”
It’s a big family, with over 200 genera and 7000 species! And it includes many plants with roles to play in both healing and cooking. Speaking broadly, the key to what makes the Mint family herbs so special is the volatile oils they contain—the main source of both their various flavors and fragrances, and much of their medicinal value.
Many of healing actions of this family of herbs can be summed up in four categories:
Digestive, for all kinds of GI ailments
Calming and comforting, for depression, insomnia, anxiety
Clearing, for nasal and lung congestion and coughs
Antimicrobial, for bacterial and fungal infections, etc.
The volatile oils act powerfully, whether you take them in as teas, tinctures, or foods, or inhale their aromatic vapors, or both at once. If we had only had this one family of herbs to use for healing, we’d still have so many powerful allies to work with!
Those digestive, calming, and clearing actions owe a lot to relaxing effects on smooth muscles that line the digestive and respiratory tracts. As tensions are released and spasms are eased, stomachaches, coughs, and many other symptoms are relieved. This sense of release and relaxation is also felt in the nervous system.
As a bonus, some of the fragrances that we find appealing (or at least don’t mind!) in these plants are also effective for repelling insects and other pesky varmints—especially in the form of essential oils.
Mint family herbs currently in
The “dog days” of summer are a perfect time to revisit your favorite mints, and get to know some new ones!
(Photos: Catnip growing next to Lemon Balm; Spearmint)