Reclaiming Your Roots

Empowering you to heal yourself

Community-Based Herbalism, offering locally grown and crafted herbal products and wellness education.

Marvelous Mints!

The Mint family or Lamiaceae is one of our largest medicinal families. In fact, most of our popular culinary herbs fall into this family.  Common mint family plants include: Peppermint, Spearmint, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Oregano, Catnip, Bee balm, Lemon Balm, Hyssop, Lavender, Basil, Motherwort, & Skullcap, just to name a few!
 
When it comes to identifying a mint plant, there are some characteristics to look for:

  • Square (four-sided) stems (note that most, but not all mint have square stems, and a few non-mints have square stems but do not smell minty)
  •  Pairs of opposite leaves that alternate direction and get progressively smaller towards the top of the stem
  •  Tiny flowers with five united petals (two up, three down) to make upper and lower “lips” that form a tubule (perfect for hummingbirds and butterflies!
  • Flowers arranged in whorls (clusters) at the base of the leaves or at the end of spikes
  • Strongly aromatic (almost all of the mint family plants have a strong aroma)
  • Likely sitting on your spice rack! (nearly half of common kitchen spices are in the mint family)

Medicinal Qualities
The aromatic nature of the mint family plants come from their high levels of volatile oils, which also account for the rich flavors prized in cooking and many of their medicinal properties. While the medicinal actions of the mint family plants make quite a long list, most of them have the following four medicinal functions:

  • Nervine for nervous system complaints (anxiety, depression, headaches, insomnia, dementia)
  • Beneficial for digestive system complaints: (indigestion, gas, cramps, nausea, colic)
  • Antimicrobial for infections: (bacterial, viral, fungal)
  • Decongesting & Expectorating for respiratory issues (infection, congestion, asthma)

Peppermint Mentha piperita

Parts used: Leaves and flowers

Medicinal Uses: Peppermint is a gentle stimulant for the nervous system.  Just smelling it can give the brain and body a boost of energy and leave you feeling rejuvenated.  Unlike caffeine and sugar, using peppermint as a stimulant is nourishing for the nervous system, not depleting.  As it stimulates the mind, peppermint simultaneously calms the body, helping to ease anxiety and tension.  It’s most common medicinal use is as a digestive aid.  Peppermint, like sage and rosemary, also has carminative and anti-spasmodic properties, meaning that it has an overall relaxing effect on the digestive system.  It can help treat gas, indigestion, stomach cramps, and nausea, while also stimulating the secretion of bile and other digestive juices to increase the digestive process.  Peppermint is also a traditional treatment for fevers, colds, and flus, helping to clear up lung and sinus congestion, break a fever, and fight infections, due to its antimicrobial properties.    It also has additional pain-alleviating properties and can be beneficial for some headaches.  And, on top of all that, it will insure fresh breath!

Dosage: For most of the above remedies, peppermint tea is the best way to ingest this herb.  To make an infusion, pour 8 oz boiling water over a heaping teaspoon of dried herb and let steep, covered for at least 10 minutes.   You can also use peppermint in tincture form, 30-40 drops, up to 3x/day.  A few drops of the essential oil can be aided to boiling water and used as a steam inhalation to temporarily relieve sinus/lung congestion. 

Growing habits: Peppermint is a perennial. It’s best started by transplanting either a rooted cutting from a friend’s plant or purchasing from your greenhouse. Peppermint spreads like wildfire so container planting is best unless you are wanting to use it as a general groundcover. Mints prefer full-sun. 

Mint Sun Tea

¼ c dried or ½ c fresh peppermint leaves
¼ c dried or ½ c fresh spearmint leaves
½ gallon of filtered water

1. Place mint and water in a ½ gallon mason jar and set in a sunny spot for 2-8 hrs. Strain out herb, refrigerate, and enjoy!

Lavender Lavendula angustifolia (or other spp.)

Parts used: Flowers

Medicinal uses: Native to the Mediterranean, lavender has a variety of medicinal uses beyond just smelling amazing! Lavender is a strong nervine sedative, and can be used to promote natural sleep, ease anxiety and depression and help alleviate headaches, especially when stress-related.  Combined with feverfew, it can be even be used to treat migraines. Lavender not only helps treat nervous system issues; it is actually a gentle, strengthening nervous system tonic and can be used to treat frazzled and exhausted nerves. 

The dried flowers can be consumed in tea form or added to baked goods to receive these benefits.  Lavender tea can also be used as a wash for cuts or insect bites. You can also add dried flowers to your bath to help alleviate tension and stress. Lavender essential oil is safe and gentle (one of the few essential oils that does not require dilution).  It can be added to bathwater as well, or applied topically (2-3 drops) to the temples and nape of the neck for headaches. You can also apply the essential oil directly to insect bites and bee stings to soothe itching and swelling. 

Dosage: To make lavender tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp of dried herb and steep for 10 minutes, covered. This can be drunk up to 3x/day. Lavender essential oil should not be taken internally but can be inhaled, rubbed in on the skin, or added to baths.  1-4 drops is an adult dosage. 

Growing Habits: Lavender is typically an annual in our region, although sometimes it can survive winter. It likes full-sun, good air circulation, and well-drained soil.  With our East TN clay soil, it can be beneficial to mix sand into you soil in order to increase drainage.  Lavender also grows well in pots in this region. 

HarvestingYou can harvest lavender stems at any time during the summer. For the best color, harvest during weeks 1-2 of bloom. For best scent and medicine, wait until weeks 4-5 of bloom. Choose a dry day to harvest, and trim stems in the morning once the dew has dried. You can dry lavender either in the dehydrator or by hanging bundles in a warm, dry, dark place. A pantry or closet will work well.  Once dry, you can then strip the flowers off of their stems and store in a glass jar.  

Lavender Cordial
2-3 T dried lavender flowers (or ½ cup fresh)
1 ½ cups filtered water
½ cup raw organic cane sugar or coconut sugar
Juice of 1 lemon 
1 pint mason jar

1. Add water and sugar to a pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar has completely dissolved.

2. Remove the pan from heat and add lavender blossoms. Cover the pan and let mixture steep for 45 minutes or so. 

3. Strain lavender and stir in lemon juice. Transfer to mason jar and store in fridge.

4. For a delicious martini, add your lavender cordial to vodka or gin.  You can also make a tasty natural soft drink by adding 1 T or so of cordial to sparkling mineral water.  The possibilities are endless.