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Helpful Herbs: Mint

One of the most ubiquitous and easy to grow herbs, mint is a wonderful way to get started on a herb garden. Helpful, fragrant, and requiring little attention, mint will flourish in your garden and your main concern in growing it will be preventing it from spreading too much.

Preferring full sun, mint can survive a wide range of growing conditions. It is a perennial and will come back even after a harsh winter. It is important to trim mint back heavily in the spring and again if you notice it starting to spread to unwanted areas in the summer. It can be started from seed but easily reproduces as a cutting.

Growing mint in a container garden may be the best solution to its creeping. A potted mint plant needs regular watering and will continue to grow throughout the winter if kept indoors.

Many people think first of summer cocktails or iced tea when they consider mint. A sprig of mint will add a cool flavor to any drink, and that is an excellent way to include the plant in your diet. Fresh mint can also be used in salads, to make pesto, included in a rub for a meat dish, in jelly, or even as an ingredient in homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream.

As a cooking ingredient mint is most commonly used plucked fresh from the plant, but leaves can also be dried to make a refreshing tea. You probably already know that mint freshens the breath, but its powers in your mouth go beyond that. Chewed fresh, the germicidal qualities of mint will kill harmful bacteria in your gums and around your teeth.

Mint’s medicinal benefits are far ranging. Mint in potpourri, or used as an essential oil, helps to clear up congestion and respiratory issues, as well as providing relief for asthma sufferers and those with seasonal allergies. Mint’s aroma calms nausea and a mint rub is said to alleviate migraines.

Perhaps surprisingly, studies have found that the scent of mint can help to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Salves and balms of mint can help to soothe acne and skin irritation because of its antiseptic properties, and fresh mint is regularly used between dinner courses to cleanse the palate, as the aroma activates the salivary glands and it eases digestion.

Mint has been part of herb and folklore since ancient times. It is one of the earliest cultivated herbs, and played a role in ancient Greek mythology as well as daily life. The name mint comes from the Greek nymph “Menthe”, the lover of Pluto, God of the underworld. As early as the 1300s, mint was being used in Europe as the earliest form of a toothpaste. It was used in sauces and to ease stomach pain as early as the 16th Century, and samples of mint traveled to the New World with the Pilgrims in the 17th century.

An ancient herb with great powers, mint should be a feature of any herb gardener’s collection. Grown in pots or the garden, mint can add flavor to your life and aid in your health.


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