The Mint Family

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The MINT family has a lot of relatives, having over 3500 species, and probably is the most beloved of the plant families! Most of you will be familiar with many of these plants: sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, and peppermint, to name a few of the culinary plants used regularly. There are many others such as lavender, lemon balm, hyssop and more.

THE MOST DOMINANT CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MINT FAMILY:

 

  •  Square (four-sided) stems. There are a few exceptions (loosestrife,  verbena, and nettle), are not members of the mint family but have square stems.
  •  Strongly aromatic- strong aroma due to their high volatile oil content,   particularly menthol.
  •  Pairs of opposite leaves - the leaves get smaller toward the top of the   stem. 
  •  Tiny irregular flowers with five joined petals.
  •  Flowers arranged in whorls- Cluster of flowers located at the base of the leaves or the end of the spikes. (See Wildflower Mint on right)           

Wildflower Mint

Many herbs of the Mint family are aromatic, a characteristic of having a pleasant or distinctive odour or scent. All aromatic plants have volatile oils that imply those oils are unstable. If you brush up against them or crush a leaf, the volatile oils will vaporize into the air. Not surprisingly, culinary herbs often contain volatile oils.

 

When used medicinally, volatile oils are generally spicy, stimulating and warming, causing the body to open up and sweat. This action comes in handy when you want to raise a mild fever a little higher to cook the microorganisms responsible for the infection. This sweating action seems to be most helpful at the onset of a cold. Just a word to the wise; the use of the sweating action can be harmful if there is already a high fever and therefore is not to be used in this case.

 

As these volatile oils heat the body, they have a decongestant effect that makes your nose run, especially after a spicy meal! This warming action also opens up the blood vessels, which allows blood to flow freely; helpful in cases of delayed menstruation by getting the blood vessels to relax.

As the warming action of the volatile oils heats the body, it will produce a sweat, which then cools the body by carrying away the heat as sweat. It seems nature has it right by growing the warming herbs in hot climates to be used to cool the body.

Volatile oils work similarly as bitters when it comes to dispelling gas. They stimulate the salivary, stomach, and intestinal glands to improve digestion as well as directly interacting and breaking down digestive gas.

 

Many of the Mint family herbs have volatile oils used to kill or expel worms as well as killing the microorgisms that cause infections. Also, these volatile oils are often mildly sedative and can calm the nerves and relax smooth muscles to ease cramps and spasms.

 

The MINT family because they contain VOLATILE OILS oils are good for:

1. Antimicrobial (kills microorganisms)

2. Digestive - dispels gas

3. Calming and mildly sedative

4. Warms the body to bring on a sweat - diaphoretic action


NOTE: Before using any herb, please do your homework as some herbs are not safe for pregnancies, young children or the elderly.

Sage is a member of the Mint family and is used as a culinary herb and to stop excessive sweating

The flowers of Skullcap look like little sleeping hats.  This plant is excellent for slowing a 'swirling out of control' mind down. 

Lavender is used for so many purposes! It has beautiful-smelling volatile oils.

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