A Common Garden Herb: Spearmint (Mentha spicata L.)
by Emirhan Turan, July 11, 2021.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata L.), commonly known as garden mint or common mint belongs to the genus Mentha and Lamiaceae family. This precious herb can be found globally due to the ease of its growth, however, the origin of common mint is Europe and Asia.
The leaves of the plant are used fresh or dried to flavor many foods, sweets, beverages, salads, soups, cheeses, meats, etc. Spearmint has a wide range of usage since ancient times in Asia and Europe. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spearmint was used for its ability to regulate qi-blood circulation and clear heat. In ancient Greek and Roman times, as a tradition, it was used to rub the tables before the arrival of the guests.
''In the 16th century, the name spearmint was coined due to the shape of the leaves reflecting the shape of the warriors spears.''
Tips of Growing
Spearmint can be grown both from seeds or seedlings, however, it is easier to grow them from seedlings. All types of mints can be grown very easily as they do not need so much care or fertilizers. The easiest way to propagate them is to plant the seedling in a plastic nursery pot, and then transplant it to the soil directly with the pot. In this way, the roots will not spread in the soil and lose the energy to grow. To avoid rooting above the soil, the stem of the plant needs to be pruned close to the soil. Spearmint likes partial shade and moist with a neutral to slightly acidic pH soil. Using mulches can be beneficial while growing mint as they are keeping the soil cool and over soil rooting can be prevented.
The main bioactive component of spearmint which is giving the characteristic smell of the plant is the terpenoid carvone. Carvone is found to have a good effect on inhibiting the tumor cells. Carvone the main substitute is reported to be potential in inhibiting bacterial growth, as well as to act as a fungicide, and insect repellent.
Perillyl alcohol is another important bioactive compound from the terpene family which has a regulative role in cell growth and differentiation. Spearmint oil also contains significant amounts of limonene, dihydrocarvone, and 1,8-cineol. The plant contains minimal amounts of menthol and menthone as well.
Spearmint has wide usage for ages as dried and fresh herb. Bioactive compounds are playing important role in the usage of Spearmint in different areas.
In organic farming and/or private gardening the plant can be used as a spray instead of chemical fungicides and insecticides.
In terms of medical uses, spearmint is considered as an herbal medicine in folkloric remedies for treating colds and flu, fever, respiratory problems, gastralgia, hemorrhoids, and stomachache. It was applied to treat some diseases such as nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal disorders. Still, as alternative medicine spearmint oil is used to treat gastrointestinal disorders.
In the food industry, spearmint is used widely in confectionery, fresh in salads, and as a spicy in cooked foods. The plant shows food preservation ability and giving taste and aroma to the food. In several different regions spearmint is used with many dishes like pasta, fish, meat, and chicken. Spearmint due to its fresh taste is used in beverages and liqueurs. Especially during the winter, it is widely used as herbal tea due to its taste and medicinal properties.
Spearmint has been used broadly in the cosmetic industry as well. Scent for soap, dishwashing liquids, and detergents. Due to its anti-microbial activity, it is used in toothpaste, breath fresheners, and antiseptic mouth rinses.
A simple and tasty Spearmint tea recipe
- 1 bunch of Spearmint
- 1 cup of boiling water
- 1 tsp raw honey
- 1 small piece of lemon
''In mythology, Hades finds himself enticed by a tree nymph named Minthe. When Persephone, his wife, and Queen of the Underworld, finds out, she becomes enraged and turns the nymphs into a plant. Hades, still fawning over Minthe, casts a spell that makes the plant smell of mint so that she is never overlooked or forgotten.''
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