We’ve all seen Spearmint in the food we eat, but few people realize that it is actually a powerful herbal remedy too, whose uses are mainly focused on digestive problems.
Spearmint is a herb with a long history. Its name is not, as many suppose, related to the ‘spear’ shape of its leaves, but rather comes from one of its first known locations – the monastery at St. Pierre, France.
Spearmint is an aromatic herb found in European cuisine since Roman times. It is native to Central Europe but it is now found throughout North America, where it was introduced by North America's earliest immigrants in the late 1500's. In those dangerous times it was used to prevent and treat scurvy, due to its high vitamin C content.
Mint has an interesting history in Europe. Roman legend has it that the wife of Pluto was jealous of a young nymph named Minthes and so turned her into a plant. Although Pluto was unable to transform her back, he gave her a delightful aroma that we now recognize as Mint.
When made into a tea or infusion, Spearmint can relieve a wide range of ailments, including nausea, hiccups, flatulence and motion sickness. It has also been found to help with the more severe symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and to act as a diuretic for sufferers of urinary complaints.
Spearmint has long been used for a variety of stomach and bowel complaints, as it tends to increase bile production in the stomach and aid digestion. This is the historical reason for the after-dinner mint!
Another popular use for Spearmint is for expectant mothers, as a mild remedy for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It has also been used to treat hirsutism in women – an imbalance of testosterone that manifests in an abnormal, masculine hair growth.
Spearmint is a very popular world wide flavor of chewing gum, across all brands. The flavor is extracted directly from the spearmint plants. It is also used as a flavoring in all sorts of toothpaste, candy, and shaving creams.
Spearmint appears in cuisine all around the world. Various types of mint are found in Asian and European cuisine, as well as a host of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
The leaves of the spearmint plant are where the flavor and the herbal ingredients reside. They must be cut before the plant flowers, at which point they will lose their flavor. For medicinal purposes an oil is made from the leaves, but many herbologists also recommend making a tea.