Medicinal Herb – Peppermint and Spearmint

peppermint plant spearmint

Medicinal Herb Post #21 written on June 26, 2018

Peppermint – Mentha piperita (on the left)
Spearmint – Mentha spicata (on the right)

I’m posting about both of these herbs together because they are closely related in their medicinal properties, however they do hold different qualities and are worth going over. All plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, have square stems with alternating and opposing leaves coming off the stem. If a plant has a square stem or its leaves are opposing and alternating, but don’t posses both qualities, it’s not in the mint family. All mints usually have two jobs, first they want to do something to your nervous system and second, they want to kill something. They tend to affect the digestive system in some way as well. This group of plants is very large.

Peppermint likes to grow in moist well draining soil. It does well in full sun or part shade. It can be very invasive and should be grown in a small bed surrounded by concrete (not concrete edging)/deep barrier or in a large pot. It can serve as a nice ground cover, especially if you’re harvesting and using it often. I’ve read that it contains the most volitile oils when it has just bloomed, but I still harvest it as needed. All mints and plants that contain mucilage like comfrey and marshmallow retain more medicine when processed as a cold infusion. A cold infusion is simply pouring room temperature water over the herbs and allowing them to steep for 4 to 12 hours over night.

Peppermint is the go to herb for any digestion problem that would cause spasming, like cramping, gas, nausea and vomiting. It makes for a great catalyst herb when used with other mild herbs like Echinacea. It’s great for headaches when combined with chamomile, good foe bee stings, burns when mixed with raw honey and can help relieve toothaches. It’s a powerful antimicrobial and is stimulating to the nervous system. I like to combine it with elder and yarrow to combat the cold/flu. My new favorite herbal tea is equal parts hibiscus petals, peppermint and lemon balm. So refreshing during those hot summer days.

Spearmint is similar to peppermint as it will spread easily by root runners. It really loves water and will do well in full sun or partial shade. It is recommended to plant different kinds of mints separate from each other as they can easily ‘interbreed’ and won’t be as medicinally active. Spearmint is more mild than peppermint and is usually better for children and pregnant women. It is amphoteric, meaning it moves in the direction the body needs. It can be stimulating but also relaxing and is very helpful in nervous system blends. It’s great for digestive issues as well.

My favorite pregnancy tea is equal parts raspberry leaf, spearmint, nettles, rose petals and milky oat tops.

My favorite formula to give to my kids to combat illness is a glycerite made with equal parts yarrow, spearmint, red clover, elder flower and mullein.

For a calming remedy in children try equal parts chamomile, lemon balm and spearmint. Use as a tea or glycerite.

And finally one of my favorite dishes is a fruit salad I love to eat using either peppermint or spearmint. You can always add more of a particular fruit if you want.
1 pineapple, chopped
1 canteloupe, chopped
1 bunch of green grapes
6 peaches sliced
2 pounds quartered strawberries
2 pints blue berries
2 raspberries and blackberries if you want
Place together in a large bowl.
Mix together 1/2 cup raw honey, zest and juice of 2 limes and 1/4 cup chopped peppermint and drizzle on top. Heavenly!

Emily Saddler

Emily is first a wife to her best friend Ryan, homeschool mom of 7 awesome kids, Holistic Health Practitioner in the state of Utah and Traditional Naturopath outside of the state of Utah, master gardener, yoga/pilates instructor, certified clinical and master herbalist, licensed massage therapist, and doula. She is a very passionate advocate of all things Mother Nature! Emily maintains a blog called “The Organic Farm Girl” where she shares gardening advice, delicious recipes made with fresh, organic ingredients, herbal and natural home care product recipes and loves teaching classes on gardening, plant identification and herbal remedy workshops. Check out the events and classes page for more info.

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