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November 9, 2023

Plant of the Month: Mint

Plant of the Month: Mint

Mint – Clarity and Focus

Mint is the perfect plant for summertime. It’s refreshing scent cools excess heat, clears the head, and sharpens the mind. As a medicine, mint is used to reduce inflammation and to open sinus and lung congestion. It can be both invigorating when we are drowsy and grounding when we feel anxious. During this time when many are overwhelmed, mint reminds us to strive for clarity and focus so we can be fully present in the moment and move forward toward our goals.  

Identifying Mint: Wild mint grows in wet fields and along streams and ponds. It has square stems, opposite leaves, and tiny pink to purple flowers that are clustered around the stem. Plants spread by underground rhizomes and grow about a foot tall. The easiest way to identify mint is to crush a leaf and smell it. 

There are hundreds of varieties of mint that you can purchase in nurseries, including orange mint, spearmint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, and chewing gum mint. Mint is easy to grow and prefers partial sun and frequent watering. It spreads quickly and can be hard to contain! Gardeners often grow mint in a big pot or a bed with borders.

Food: Mint is a versatile herb that can be chopped fresh and added to soups, baked vegetables, dips, and desserts. You may find it in many foods around the world including Caribbean and Indian chutneys, Greek tzatziki sauce, and sweet teas of Southern U.S. soul food. Chocolate mint cookies and ice cream are favorite treats. Mint is high in many nutrients including vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals iron, calcium, and manganese. Many popular kitchen spices, including basil, lavender, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme are in the mint family. All are rich in aromatic oils.

Medicine: Mint is one of the most commonly used medicines in the world. It has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cooling, and invigorating properties. Like other plants in the mint family, it is rich in volatile oils that are antimicrobial and encourage circulation and sweating. Mint is used as an appetite stimulant and a digestive aid to ease upset stomach, nausea, intestinal pain, and gas. It also helps to relieve congestion in sinuses and lungs. 

The best time to harvest mint for drying is in spring through early summer when it is fully-grown and the leaves are vibrant green. Aromatic oils are strongest before mint flowers. Cut or pinch off above-ground parts and dry them in baskets, or bundle them and hang them to dry. Once dried, strip the leaves off the stems, place them in a glass jar or bag, and store them in a cool, dark place. They will last about a year.

Mint is a tasty addition to teas and other beverages. Rose Mint tea is a favorite blend at Radiance Herbs in Olympia. The recipe includes equal parts peppermint, spearmint, rose petals, and rose hips, and is delicious hot or cold. Mint combines well with many herbs and can help balance bitter or tart flavors. 

Mint Infused Water

Store-bought flavored waters usually contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors. Try making your own refreshing drinks with mint other aromatic herbs, fruits, and vegetables. You can use fizzy water for added excitement. Preparation is simple:

  • Gather your ingredients using a large glass bottle or jar.
  • Chop or slice fruits and vegetables.
  • Place your ingredients inside the jar and cover with water.
  • Let the water sit for a few hours so the flavors can infuse. The longer it sits, the more flavorful the water will be and more nutrients will be extracted. (tip: prepare an infused water before bed, place it in the fridge, and your delicious water will be ready to enjoy the next day.)
  • Drink the water the day you prepare it if it is room temperature. You can keep flavored waters in the refrigerator for up to three days.
  • Eat the fruit or veggies after your drink your water. They will still be packed with flavor and nutrients. 

Some favorite ingredients include lemon balm, lavender, strawberries, cucumber, and melon. 

Aromatherapy: Mint is a versatile essential oil that is added to many of our everyday products including gum, mouthwash, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, and cleaning products. It is also a popular flavoring for candy. Mint essential oil is an excellent addition to painful heated conditions like sore muscles, sprains, strains, and arthritis because it feels cool to the skin and is anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. A dilution of the essential oil or the tea can help soothe itchy skin including bug bites, hives, and chickenpox. You can also add a drop or two of mint essential oil to a respiratory steam or add it to chest rub or sinus and headache oil to clear sinus and lung congestion. It takes about 300 pounds of mint to yield a pound of essential oil. Too much mint essential oil in a bath can make your teeth chatter! 

Mint for Mindfulness

Mint can be supportive for practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness means staying focused on your current activity or the task at hand. Multitasking is not as effective if you are trying to accomplish something, and it can promote a feeling of overwhelm and stress. Mint helps us to focus on what is called for in the moment. When we are mindful, we can let go of assumptions or judgments about how things should have been in the past or what will happen in the future, and can show up right here, fully in this moment.

You might try using mint when you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or distracted to help you stay present with clarity and focus. You can drink a cup of mint tea—opening all your senses and noticing how you feel in the moment. Let distracting thoughts blow away like clouds in the sky or like leaves falling from a tree in autumn. Keep a mindful mint spray, a roll-on mint perfume, or even a small bottle of essential oil nearby to help you. Reflect on these questions:

  • Can I focus on what skills or tools will serve me best in this situation?
  • With a clear mind, can I see without judgment? 
  • Can I focus on one thing at a time as I move toward my goal? 
Mindful Mint Spray

When you are feeling tired or overwhelmed, use this spritzer to bring you back to the moment. Mint wakes up your senses and promotes focus.

  • Fill a 1 or 2 oz spray bottle with distilled water. 
  • Add 10–15 drops of essential oil per ounce. Use just mint, or blend with another oil of your choice like sweet orange, lavender, or clary sage. 
  • Label the bottle and make sure to keep it away from young children. 
  • Spray in a room or over your body as needed. Avoid spraying near your eyes. 

You can also use a roll-on perfume bottle and add 10–15 drops of essential oil per ⅓ ounce of carrier oil like sunflower or grapeseed. If you don’t have a bottle, filling a little muslin bag with dried mint and smelling it or drinking a cup of mint tea can be helpful! 

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