Documents: Special Interest: Herbs:

10 Neat Things About Mint
by Dorothy Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie



The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at www.localgardener.net and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

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September 16, 2018

1. The good herb.

The Cubans call it yerba buena, the good herb. Yerba buena is the variety that is used in making mohitos. The genus Mentha has square stems and is a member of the Lamiaceae family as are thyme, oregano, rosemary and marjoram. Mint loves damp soil and often grows wild near waterways.

2. Keeping the bugs at bay.

Mint is a natural insect repellent, especially effective against fleas and ticks. Rub your pets with mint leaves to keep them free of these insects. If it doesn't work, at least they'll smell wonderful. Mice will also stay away from mint and won't eat anything permeated with its odour.

3. Mint's buddies in the garden.

If you can keep this fast runner under control (some suggest planting it in a metal pot, then burying the pot to keep its roots in place), it makes an ideal companion for tomatoes and their cousins, peppers. Mint also likes to be paired with cabbages (pretty much all brassicas). It is said that planting mint near peas, cabbages and tomatoes will improve their flavour as well as their health.

4. Minthe the nymph.

Minthe was a nymph of the underworld who slept with Hades. When Hades raped Persephone, a young woman from Mount Etna in Sicily, Minthe was not amused and "complained loudly" in jealousy, claiming to be more beautiful than Persephone, boasting Hades would soon return to her own bed and banish all others. Persephone's mother was Demeter, Queen of the underworld, from whence springs all plants. Demeter protected her daughter by transforming Minthe into dust from which grew the aromatic plant, mint, which was given her name.

5. Bothered bees love it. Even cats in trees love it.

Mint, or rather the menthol from mint, is used as a miticide in bee colonies. Catnip (mint) or Nepeta, sends Kitty into paroxysms of delight. Try Nepeta racemosa, catmint 'Walker's Low' for masses of lovely violet blue flowers, wonderful in mass plantings or as a tall border plant.

6. A really, really good herb.

In spite of the odd aberration, and every family, including plant families, has a black sheep, mint is a very good herb. For one thing, it is an excellent pain reliever which is why it is used in so many topical rubs. Its main ingredient is menthol; some varieties, such as corn mint, contain as much as 85 per cent menthol. Menthol is a natural analgesic, an astringent and an antiseptic.

7. More virtues of menthol.

Menthol has several tricks in its arsenal. It stimulates thermo receptors in skin cells that tell the brain that it is experiencing cold. It has been demonstrated that the topical application of 3.5 per cent menthol gel reduces blood flow by an average of 24 per cent for up to 10 minutes following application, an effect similar to applying a half kilogram of crushed ice. Menthol works faster and lasts longer than the ice.

8. Headache, bloating and nausea treatment.

The University of Maryland Medical Centre recommends menthol to treat headache, indigestion, poison ivy, hives, bloating and flatulence. It has also been found that a menthol rub can treat nausea and vomiting and counteract vertigo. Many people report being better able to sleep after inhaling menthol fumes from products such as Vicks Vapo Rub. The jury is still out in the scientific community about the efficacy of menthol products, so you have to be the judge. If it works for you, go for it!

9. Big Business.

Menthol is used in a long list of over the counter products and many tons of mint are grown and sold each year. About 75 per cent of commercial mint comes from the U.S. Menthol has now been synthesized and is often made from a petroleum product.

10. The bad side.

Mint has two sides to its character. Although it's an extremely useful herb, used to excess, it can make you very ill. One famous variety, Mentha pulegium, known as pennyroyal and long touted as an abortifacient, can cause irreversible damage to kidneys and liver. In the doses needed to cause an abortion it can actually kill you. M. pulegium is a creeping mint often used as a ground cover.

Dorothy Dobbie Copyright© Pegasus Publications Inc.

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