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Mints - A Few Facts and Figures
Mint - a legend
Throughout the centuries, mint has been one of the most widely used plants. Even now, scientists are making remarkable discoveries about this herb and indeed its relatives.
The Greeks believed mints could clear the voice and cure hiccups.
Mint is part of Greek mythology and according to legend "Minthe" originally a nymph, and Pluto's lover angered Pluto's wife, Persephone, who in a fit of rage turned Minthe into a lowly plant, to be trod upon.
Pluto who was unable to undo the spell decided to give Minthe a sweet scent which would perfume the air whenever her leaves were trod on.
As a tribute to the nymph, Greek virgins would wear sprigs of fresh mint in their hair on feast days.
Peppermint - this mint was used by ancient Egyptians and the Romans for its aesthetic and culinary properties. In AD77 Pliny wrote about mint in his Natural History; "As touching garden mint, as the very smell of it alone recovereth and refresheth the spirits." Pliny recommended a wreath of mint for his students as he found the smell of mint so exhilarating he believed it sharpened the mind! He also believed that mint juice was extremely beneficial if drunk before any strenuous use of the voice.
In folk legend mint was associated with Venus and Mars and was used to protect travellers, also it attracted love and healing. One country superstition also believed that if mint were placed with the family savings their money fortunes would grow.
If peppermint was placed on your pillow it was also thought you would then be able to see your future in your dreams.
It was believed peppermint strengthened the nervous system and body fluid balances - in other words it cleansed and stimulated the digestive system.
Although peppermint was not used in medicine formally until around the mid-18th century, peppermint, usually in the form of tea, has been one of the favourite home cures for indigestion since Biblical time.
Herbalists have recommended using it internally for colds, flu, stomach cramps, digestive problems, and externally for soothing aching muscles, in foot baths for tired feet, and as a nasal decongestant. It has also been used as an anaesthetic.
Spearmint - refers to the spear-like shape of the leaves and over the centuries has become a firm favourite in the kitchen after its introduction by the Romans. It has a milder flavour that peppermint but similar, although slightly weaker medicinal qualities.
100g of fresh mint provides
4.7g of carbohydrate
11mg of sodium
2425iu of vitamin A
124.40mg of vitamin C
And 3.5mg iron
There is more than one form of catmint, also called catnip - the well known Nepeta cataria - cats absolutely love this plant. The species contains citronella, a substance also found in Melissa officinalis. The leaves are used to make herb tea or when dried to stuff toys for cats. The hardy, lemon scented N.c.Citriodora is a choice cultivar. One of several other catmints is Nepeta racemosa.
See How many different mints are there? for more interesting facts.