History and Traditional Uses of Spearmint
Spearmint or Mentha Spicata is named thus due to the lance shaped leaves which are a rich green color. This perennial shrub also goes by a plethora of names in different cultures such as Garden Mint, Menthol Mint, Sage of Bethlehem and Silver Mint. Recorded history contains references that the Greeks used this aromatic herb to make their bathwater fragrant and also used its curative properties against venereal disease. The Romans used it to preserve milk in pre-refrigerator days and also scrubbed the kitchen tables with the leaves prior to hosting a lunch for guests for its minty fresh aroma. The Japanese have distilled its oil for various purposes, and the Hebrews used spearmint leaves to purify and cleanse the floors of their synagogues. Spearmint was also prized as an agent for maintaining minty fresh breath and oral hygiene. This medicinal herb grows wild and is a native shrub of Europe.
Amongst a variety of mints that are cultivated and used, Spearmint is the most sought after and common mint that turns up in kitchens and/or medicinal chests worldwide. It is widely used in cooking and medicinal purposes as well. It has been used by the Greeks, early American settlers, and Europeans to treat a number of ailments, and to flavor various dishes.
Spearmint is a perennial plant and is not particular about soil conditions. It grows anywhere as a wild shrub excluding very dry soil. It prefers sunny patches to blossom grow the best. The flower tops and leaves are sources of an essential oil that is aromatic and has healing properties.
Natural Healing Properties of Spearmint
The active chemical components of Spearmint are numerous. They include beneficial substances like beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, borneol, calcium, acetic acid and many energy-boosting vitamins and trace minerals. The main chemicals in spearming fall under the general umbrella of Flavonoids/Glycosides which are found as colored pigments or chlorophyll.
These protect the plant from ultraviolet radiation by its antioxidant action besides conferring the attractive coloring to leaves which change with the seasons. These very same agents in spearmint benefit people by enhancing heart function and blood circulation. They reduce stress caused by environment, detoxify the body by neutralizing the effects of free radicals. Spearmint provides other general immunity-boosting benefits against viruses, bacteria, and other microbes thereby reducing inflammation.
Spearmint is an alternative option for treatment of various conditions in times past in many cultures. The ailments for which it has been administered span a variety of conditions from sores and ulcers to cholera and tumors. Since it works as an antipyretic and anti-inflammatory, it has been commonly used to bring down fevers, chills cold headaches and to relieve bronchitis and nasal congestion. Since it has antispasmodic and anti-emetic properties it is used to relieve cramps, nausea, and painful periods. The crushed leaves of Spearmint are used topically in poultice form to cure wounds, boils, bruises, dermatitis and also offer relief to sore muscles, muscle stiffness, and symptoms of rheumatism. Spearmint is also a gentle restorative and stimulant used for energy replenishment and a general feeling of freshness offered in the form of a drink.