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It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing to 30–90 cm (12–35 in) tall, with smooth stems, square in cross section. The rhizomes are wide-spreading, fleshy, and bare fibrous roots. The leaves are from 4–9 cm (1.6–3.5 in) long and 1.5–4 cm (0.59–1.6 in) cm broad, dark green with reddish veins, and with an acute apex and coarsely toothed margins. The leaves and stems are usually slightly hairy. The flowers are purple, 6–8 mm (0.24–0.31 in) long, with a four-lobed corolla about 5 mm (0.20 in) diameter; they are produced in whorls (verticillasters) around the stem, forming thick, blunt spikes. Flowering is from mid to late summer. The chromosome number is variable, with 2n counts of 66, 72, 84, and 120 recorded.
Peppermint is sometimes regarded as 'the world's oldest medicine', with archaeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago.
Peppermint has a high menthol content, and is often used as a flavouring in tea, ice cream, confectionery, chewing gum, and toothpaste. The oil also contains menthone and menthyl esters, particularly menthyl acetate. It is the oldest and most popular flavour of mint-flavoured confectionery. Peppermint can also be found in some shampoos and soaps, which give the hair a minty scent and produce a cooling sensation on the skin.In 2007, Italian investigators reported that 75% of the patients in their study who took peppermint oil capsules for four weeks had a major reduction in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, compared with just 38% of those who took a placebo.
Similarly, some poorly designed earlier trials found that peppermint oil has the ability to reduce colicky abdominal pain due to IBS with an NNT (number needed to treat) around 3.1, but the oil is an irritant to the stomach in the quantity required and therefore needs wrapping for delayed release in the intestine. Peppermint relaxes the gastro-esophageal sphincter, thus promoting belching. Restaurants usually take advantage of this effect by taking advantage of its use as a confectionery ingredient, which they then call "after-dinner mints."
Peppermint flowers are large nectar producers and honey bees as well as other nectar harvesting organisms forage them heavily. A mild, pleasant varietal honey can be produced if there is a sufficient area of plants.
Peppermint oil is used by commercial pesticide applicators, in the EcoSmart Technologies line of products, as a natural insecticide.
Outside of its native range, areas where peppermint was formerly grown for oil often have an abundance of feral plants, and it is considered invasive in Australia, the Galápagos Islands, New Zealand, and in the United States.
Mentha spicata (Spear Mint or Spearmint) is a species of mint native to much of Europe and southwest Asia, though its exact natural range is uncertain due to extensive early cultivation. It grows in wet soils. It is an invasive species in the Great Lakes region where it was first sighted in 1843.
It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing 30–100 cm tall, with variably hairless to hairy stems and foliage, and a wide-spreading fleshy underground rhizome. The leaves are 5–9 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin. Spearmint produces flowers in slender spikes, each flower pink or white, 2.5–3 mm long and broad.
Hybrids involving spearmint include Mentha × piperita (Peppermint; hybrid with Mentha aquatica), Mentha × gracilis (Ginger Mint, syn. M. cardiaca; hybrid with Mentha arvensis), and Mentha × villosa (Large Apple Mint, hybrid with Mentha suaveolens).
The name 'spear' mint derives from the pointed leaf tips.
Spearmint is edible and Medicinal, the leaves and flowers are edible raw or cooked. A strong flavor, they are used in salads or added to cooked foods. A medicinal herb tea made from the fresh or dried leaves has a very pleasant and refreshing taste, leaving the mouth and digestive system feeling clean. Also great for mint jelly, an old favorite.
|The proven medicinal constituents in spearmint are 1,8-cineole, acetic-acid, acetophenone, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpineol, apigenin, arginine, benzaldehyde, benzyl-alcohol, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, borneol, calcium, carvacrol, carvone, caryophyllene, diosmin, ethanol, eugenol, farnesol, geraniol, hesperidin, limonene, luteolin, menthol, methionine, niacin, oleanolic-acid, perillyl-alcohol, pulegone, rosmarinic-acid, terpinen-4-ol, thiamin, thymol, tryptophan, ursolic-acid, and many vitamins and minerals. An essential oil from the leaves and flowers is used as a flavoring in candy, gum, ice cream, drinks and commercially prepared hygen products (toothpaste, mouthwash, etc). Spearmint has been used as an alternative medicine for centuries on many different continents. It is antiemetic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, restorative, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. The medicinal herb tea made from the leaves is used in the treatment of fevers, bronchitis, chills, cramps, chronic gastritis, common cold, headaches, indigestion, morning sickness, motion sickness, nasal congestion, nausea, halitosis, painful menstruation, and various minor ailments. Externally the stems are crushed and used as a medicinal poultice on bruises. The essential oil in the leaves, is a great rub for stiffness, muscle soreness and rheumatism, the oil also a powerful antiseptic and should not be taken in large doses. Futher research is proving the plant to be of use in many diseases.|
The Gaultheria species share the common characteristic of producing oil of wintergreen. Wintergreen oil is a pale yellow or pinkish fluid liquid that is strongly aromatic with a sweet woody odor (components: methyl salicylate (approx. 98%), a-pinene, myrcene, delta-3-carene, limonene, 3,7-guaiadiene, delta-cadinene) that gives such plants a distinctive "medicinal" smell whenever bruised. Wintergreen essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of the plant following maceration in warm water. Methyl salicylate, the main chemical constituent of the oil, is not present in the plant until formed by enzymatic action from a glycoside within the leaves as they are macerated in warm water. The oil is used topically (diluted) or aromatheraputically for muscle and joint discomfort, arthritis, cellulite, obesity, edema, poor circulation, headache, heart disease, hypertension, rheumatism, tendentious, cramps, inflammation, eczema, hair care, psoriasis, gout, ulcers, broken or bruised bones. It is also used in some perfumery applications and as a flavoring agent for toothpaste, chewing gum and soft drinks, confectionery, in Listerine, and in mint flavorings, but Gaultheria plants are not true mints. Some species of birch also produce oil of wintergreen, but these deciduous trees are not called wintergreens.
Wintergreen is a powerful and useful oil that I have used with success as a topical analgesic on my tough arthritis pain. Because of the toxicity of methyl salicylate, many aromatherapists do not recommend it's use. However as long as you are not sensitive to salicyates, ( I am not, thankfully since I have arthritis), and you can use it with a dose of common sense and respect for the herb.
The oil of wintergreen is used as a flavoring agent in confections, chewing gums, nonalcoholic beverages, herbal teas, toothpaste, and mouthwashes. Synthetic methyl salicylate and, to a lesser extent, an essential oil obtained from young twigs and bark of the sweet or black birch tree, Betula lenta of the Betulaceae family, have largely replaced the use of natural wintergreen for flavoring of products.
As a medicinal plant, wintergreen has been traditionally as an analgesic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, stimulant, and tonic. The plant is used as a folk remedy against colic, headaches, body aches and pains, inflammations, rheumatism, sore throats, skin diseases, and tooth decay. The essential oil can be absorbed by the skin. Methyl salicylylate, a methyl ester of acetylsalicylic acid, is a gastric irritant and known to be toxic if ingested in relatively small amounts, resulting in nausea, vomiting, acidosis, pulmonary edema, pneumonia, convulsions, and death (11.1-136, 14.1-35). There have, however, been no reported cases of toxic ingestions of plant material (11.1-135). Wintergreen is reported to have mitogenic activity and is used in several insecticidal and insect repellent preparations (1.2-9).
Gaultheria cumingiana Vidal is an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine against liver cirrhosis and ascites, traumatic injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, and pains in the joints and back (11.1-10). Gaultheria hispidula (L.) Muhlenb. ex Bigel has been used as a folk remedy in the treatment of cancer (11.1-50). Gaultheria fragrantissima Wallich., a native of India, Ceylon, and Burma and commonly known as Indian wintergreen, reaches heights of 30 meters and yields an oil of wintergreen similar to that of American wintergreen (1.2-9). Bitter wintergreen, an evergreen herb whose leaves are sometimes used for medicinal purposes, is actually Chimaphila umbellata (L.) W. Barton of the Pyrolaceae family.