The mint family (Lamiaceae) of plants is widespread throughout the world and includes many important culinary, medicinal and magical plants including monarda (often called bergamot mint or horsemint), oregano, thyme, lavender, and many others. Mints are generally characterized by their square stems, opposite leaves, and unique labiate flowers- they look like they have two lips, usually arranged in whorls or clusters. Most members of the mint family are highly aromatic.
The mints discussed in this article are those generally referenced just as “mint”, that is, peppermint and spearmint which share the genus Mentha. They feature the ability to reproduce via stolons (stems that can produce roots where they touch the ground), and flowers that are composed of four united petals resembling lips.
Varieties of Mint
Peppermint Mentha balsamea Wild is a naturally-occurring cross between spearmint and watermint. Peppermint is usually the mint reference in magical context and for topical healing. Peppermint can be found throughout the world in moist, shady places. Peppermint is a low-growing but upright plant. Leaves are ovular and pointed with serrated edges, dark green with reddish veins and a bit of fuzz. The flowers appear in clusters and are pale purple.
Spearmint Mentha spicate Native to Turkey and the Balkan Peninsula but naturalized through much of the world. Its name comes from the elongated shape of its leaves, like a spear. Spearmint is the mint most often used in confectionary and flavoring. It has very little menthol and its flavor is sweeter and not as strong as peppermint, it adds flavor without making your mouth tingle unpleasantly.
Watermint Mentha aquatica Native to Europe, Northern Africa and Western Asia and naturalized throughout much of the world. Watermint is tallish and unbranched with opposite, ovate and pointed, serrated leaves, dark green to reddish. The plant is unbranched and topped with pinkish-to purple balls of flowers. It usually grows along river banks and other bodies of water, sometimes right in the water, rising above the surface.
History and Folklore
Minthe was a nymph lover of Hades who was jealous when he chose Persephone for his Queen instead of her and made some trouble so that either Persephone or Demeter turned her into a plant. Alternatively, they trampled her into dust and Hades made the plant grow from the dust. Either way, mint was used in Greek funerary rites to mask the smell of the body and so was associated with the kingdom of Hades.
Mints are hardy plants known for spreading out rapidly given proper growing conditions so are considered rather invasive in the garden. They do wonderfully planted in pots and make very nice houseplants.
Mints can be grown from seed though germination is slow and spotty and peppermint is not likely to breed true from seed, which is usually sterile anyway. However, all mints grow quite well from cuttings; their rhizomatous stems are eager to take root wherever they find purchase. Mints like to be kept moist but not waterlogged and enjoy a bit of shade.
Harvesting and Storing Mint
Harvest mint just before the plant flowers by cutting the whole stem to about 1/4 of the growth. Sheer it right down to the last few sets of leaves, it will come back. Dry in a well-ventilated area away from light until the leaves are crisp, then strip them from the stems and store them in a cool, dark, dry place. Leaves can also be frozen for later use.
Cooking with Mint
Mint is a popular flavoring for sweets, chocolates, ice cream and chewing gum. It is also used to flavor fruit dishes, including preserves, and is a refreshing addition to beverages, including alcoholic beverages.
Healing with Mint
Some find mint tea useful for upset stomach and indigestion while others find it causes heartburn, increasing their discomfort. However, the scent of mint can be soothing when you’re nauseated, even if ingesting it is unhelpful.
Mint tea is also used for lower abdominal issues, particularly for temporarily relief of symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome.
The scent of mint is also helpful for headaches, especially where nausea is also present. It is also good for relieving nasal congestion and opening up airways.
Peppermint contains active compounds (sp. menthol) that create a warming-cooling sensation on the skin. This can be added to salves and massage oils for soothing aching muscles and joints and arthritic conditions and for chest rubs to soothe coughs and congestion. A peppermint foot bath is soothing for aching feet and it has anti-fungal properties, not to mention it makes them smell better. (See precautions below.)
Mint (usual spearmint) is a popular flavor and fragrance additive to oral care preparations including toothpastes and powders and mouthwashes to sweeten the breath. In addition to its breath-freshening fragrance mint has some anti-bacterial properties that may inhibit bacteria that cause bad breath.
Using Mint for Magick
Mint corresponds to the element Air and the planet Venus. It is a strengthening herb that aids us in psychic and verbal communication and adds strength to our words. Because mint is so often used in sweets iconic to the midwinter season, it can be used in any Winter Solstice celebration as a food additive or fragrances.
Mint was used in ancient Greek funerary rites to mask the scent of decaying bodies and was tied to Hades in myth. Thus, it is an appropriate herb to use in ritual related to the dead and the underworld.
The Key of Solomon the King1 recommends combining mint with vervain, fennel, lavender, sage, valerian, garden-basil, rosemary, and hyssop tied in a bundle for use as an aspergillum to sprinkle holy water while the Grimorium Verum2 suggests using mint, marjoram, and rosemary bundled for the same purpose.
Drunk as a tea, mint adds strength to our words, increasing the success of all oratory, including, prayers, spells, speeches and presentations, vows of love, legal arguments- or any arguments, political debates, business negotiations, and performances.
Mint is a powerful herb that can be used to increase personal strength and build up the fortitude needed to overcome difficulties and restrictions placed upon you whether through magical or mundane means. Thus, it is an excellent addition to uncrossing mixtures as well as working for courage and strength to prepare for upcoming challenges in the workplace and in relationships. It can be for breaking streaks of bad luck of all sorts and jinxes, whether self-inflicted or otherwise and it can be carried to protect from falling victim to streaks of bad luck or trickery from other people by keeping the mind alert to those “red flags” that tell us that a person or situation might be trouble down the road and helping to give us the strength to walk away before things get too bad.
Mint can be used as a floor wash or grown in and around the house to keep away trouble and troublesome people. After a disruption in the household, such as a family argument or break up, this floor wash can help return the home to calm and harmonious energy and encourage normal and fruitful communication.
Carry mint in your shoe or your pocket to prevent bad luck and other obstacles from interfering with your goals and success. Keep some in your wallet to keep your money flowing smoothly.
Combine mint with High John the Conqueror root and calamus to increase your fortitude when you’re getting ready to address whatever situation is getting in the way of your success. (Whether it be curses, crossed conditions, petty people, legal issues or red tape.)
Mint can be added to psychic-enhancing tea, incense, and fragrance oils. Placing mint under your pillow is said to encourage prophetic dreams.
Other Uses for Mint
Some people swear by growing mint around the house and using mint floor and window washes to keep away mice and flies. Peppermint oil is known to contain high concentrations of pulegone, which has shown effectiveness against mosquitoes. Spearmint oil shows promise as a larvicide against mosquitoes and can be used to protect clothing against moths. Despite this, it is said that rubbing a beehive with mint with attract a swarm to it and prevent resident bees from leaving.
Mint Toxicity and Precautions
Extreme caution should be used when using mint topically as it can cause severe topical allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to it and can cause extreme discomfort in anyone if it is not properly diluted.
Mints contain menthol in varying degrees (Peppermint contains the most, spearmint not so much) and this compound is known for producing a freezing-burning sensation on the skin. Thus mint essential oils should never be used directly on the skin or in the bath. These oils will stick to the skin and are very difficult to wash off. Only use fresh mint leaves for bath teas and well-diluted oils in salves.
Those who are taking iron supplements, immunosuppressants or drugs to reduce stomach acid production or to control heart conditions or high blood pressure should consult with their physician before using mint internally.
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