Introduction and description
Mentha is a genus of plants in the family Lamiaceae (mint family).
Mint descends from the Latin word mentha, which is rooted in the Greek word minthe, personified in Greek mythology as míntha, a nymph who was transformed into a mint plant.
In general, most people are only aware of the common mint, without realising that there are quite a number of plants in the family. Estimates of their number vary from 13 to 18. Because hybridization between some of the species has occurred naturally, it is often difficult to know whether one is looking at a hybrid or not.
- Mentha spicata (Spearmint)
- Mentha aquatica (Water Mint)
- Mentha arvensis var. piperascens (Cornmint)
- Mentha longifolia (Biblical Mint)
- Mentha x piperita subsp. nothosubsp. piperita (Peppermint)
- Mentha x rotundifolia (Applemint)
One of the members of this family - Mentha pulegium – Pennyroyal is better looked on as just a medicine and its description can be found under the heading Pennyroyal. Otherwise varieties like peppermint, spearmint, applemint and so on can be eaten. Mint leaves, without a qualifier like 'peppermint' or 'apple mint', generally refers to spearmint leaves.
To add confusion to an already confusing picture, the geneus Pycnanthemum, also found on the site is called Mountain mint.
The Mentha genus can be found all over the world across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America.
In Spain and Central and South America, mint is known as menta.
In Lusophone countries, especially in Portugal, mint species are popularly known as hortelã.
In many Indo-Aryan languages, it is called pudīna, (Sindhi: ڦُودنو), Telugu: పూదీన, not to be confused with pudenda which is something else entirely [sorry - I jest].
Mints are aromatic, almost exclusively perennial, rarely annual, herbs. They have wide-spreading underground and overground stolons and erect, square, branched stems.
The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, from oblong to lanceolate, often downy, and with a serrated margin. Leaf colors range from dark green and gray-green to purple, blue, and sometimes pale yellow.
The flowers are white to purple and produced in false whorls called verticillasters. The corolla is two-lipped with four subequal lobes, the upper lobe usually the largest. The fruit is a nutlet, containing one to four seeds.
While the species that make up the Mentha genus are widely distributed and can be found in many environments, most grow best in moist soils. They will tolerate quite poor soils. Mints will grow 10–120 cm tall and can spread over an indeterminate area. Due to their tendency to spread unchecked, some mints are considered invasive.
My father had an alloment in the Fens and the ground was stone free, loamy and very fertile. He grew marvellous asparagus, but had a mint 'bed' which he had to surround by an underground wall made of slates and anything else he found handy to stop the mint taking over the whole plot.
It will grow in pots, it will grow from very unpromising cuttings. It is a very hardy plant. What it thrives on most of all is sun and warmth, it does not like shade conditions. It actually makes quite a nice border to a paved path.
In the UK at least, it dies down in winter and resprouts in the spring. All you need to do is cut down the woody stalks in the winter.
To have enough mint for winter use, gather leaves in summer and freeze them in 'packets'. In other words put enough leaves for a helping in a square of aluminium foil and then fold over the packet and freeze it. In order to use it, you get a pair of scissors and simply snip the frozen leaves into whatever it is you want to use them in. The leaves quickly defrost in the mint sauce or yoghurt, for example, and keep their texture and taste. Do not dry mint, it is horrible. All the taste of mint comes from the volatile oils and being volatile they disappear.
As if to add icing on the cake, mint also has considerable medicinal value.
The observations below show the activities the mentha family can help with. Each observation describes the specific mint involved, as chemically they may all have slightly different constituents and properties.
It is worth mentioning that Limonene is to be found in practically all the mint species and Limonene is a selective adenosine A2A receptor agonist, which means it is potentially a really useful as an aid to relaxation. Thus mint tea, which is described below, should be an extremely relaxing calming drink, good for frayed nerves and stress.
Furthermore, Menthol acts as a weak kappa Opioid receptor agonist, which is why it is supposed to have some pain relieving qualities. I suspect few who smoke menthol cigarettes, for example, realise they are smoking an opioid, albeit a very weak opioid!
One of the culinary favourites of the English is mint sauce. It is only ever served with lamb [or mutton - though caper sauce tends to be the standard with mutton]. The ingredients sound unpromising, but I can assure you, you are unlikely to want anything else with lamb after you have tried it.
Mint sauce [for lamb]
It should only ever be made with fresh mint. There are bottled varieties of mint sauce and .......... well ................ best forgotten. In a small jug, dissolve two tablespoons of sugar in two table spoons of very warm water. Now add a small cup of malt vinegar [it must be malt vinegar] to the jug. Let it cool to room temperature. Chop a very large handful of fresh mint fairly finely. Now add the mint to the vinegar.
Serve as it is spooned over the lamb - chops or roast, so that you get a bit of the vinegar [sweet sour] and the mint.
Put green tea leaves and fresh mintleaves into a tea pot. Pour boiling water over the two. Leave to steep. Serve in a china cup with sugar to taste. NO MILK!!
The tea goes well with home made Turkish delight, and/or figs.
Peel and dice courgettes. Add salt to taste and chopped mint to plain creamy yoghut eg Greek yoghurt. Add courgettes. Serve with lamb or fish.
The courgettes can be replaces by sliced cucumber in which case you have the claasic Indian dish Raita.
Pudina Kobbari Pachadi ~ Mint Coconut Chutney
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves/kothimira/dhania
1 cup fresh grated coconut
2 green chillis (slit lengthwise)
1 tbsp dalia/roasted chana dal/putnala pappu
¼ tsp cumin seeds/jeera/jeelakara (optional)
salt to taste
2 tsps oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp split gram dal/minapa pappu
pinch of hing/asafoetida/inguva
few curry leaves
1/2 tsp oil
1 Heat 2 tsps oil in a vessel, add cumin seeds, let them splutter. Add the coriander leaves, mint and green chillis and fry for 3 mts. Remove from heat and cool.
Again this can be served with lamb.
Boil one cup of basmati rice in a pan of water with one tablespoon of whole coriander seeds. When tender, drain and add generous amounts of butter to the rice. Finally add at least 3 tablespoons of chopped mint and serve immediately.
- Anti-Candida activity of Brazilian medicinal plants 020544
- Antimicrobial activity of plant essential oils against bacterial and fungal species involved in food poisoning and/or food decay 023171
- Chemical Composition and In Vitro Antibacterial Activity of Mint against Common Food-Borne Pathogenic Bacteria 023167
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Mentha aquatica L. (Lamiaceae) -- Water Mint 019416
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Mentha arvensis var. piperascens MALINV. EX L. H. BAILEY (Lamiaceae) -- Cornmint, Field Mint, Japanese Mint 019410
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Mentha longifolia (L.) HUDS. (Lamiaceae) -- Biblical Mint 019412
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Mentha sp (Lamiaceae) -- Mint 019413
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Mentha spicata L. (Lamiaceae) -- Hortela da Folha Miuda, Spearmint 019415
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Mentha x piperita subsp. nothosubsp. piperita (Lamiaceae) -- Peppermint 019414
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Mentha x rotundifolia (L.) HUDSON (Lamiaceae) -- Applemint 019411
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing ARGININE 017958
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing LYSINE 017957
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing SELENIUM 020550
- Dr Duke's list of plants for Superactivity Arteriosclerosis/Atherosclerosis 017744
- Dr Duke's list of plants having chemicals with vasodilatory activity 017836
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anti-aggregate activity 017520
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antibacillus activity 018351
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antibacterial activity 018352
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antibronchitic Activity 018357
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antibrucellosic activity 018358
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anticancer (cervix) activity 018454
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anticancer (kidney) activity 018460
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anticancer (lung) activity 018462
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anticancer (pancreas) activity 018464
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anticancer (prostate) activity 018465
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antiedemic activity 018443
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with AntiHIV activity 017975
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antikeratitic Activity 019936
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antilisteria activity 018400
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antimalarial activity 018057
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antimelanomic activity 024204
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antineuralgia activity 019580
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antipolyneuritic activity 022051
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antisalmonella activity 018398
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antisinusitic Activity 019886
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antistaphylococcic Activity 018276
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antistreptococcic Activity 018392
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antitumor (brain) activity 018451
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antiuremic activity 018429
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Candidicide Activity 021073
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Candidicide activity 018389
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Metal chelating ability from FERULIC ACID - PART 2 018254
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Myorelaxant Activity 019681
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Neuroprotective activity 019583
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Radioprotective activity 018062
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Radioprotective activity at high chemical concentrations 018063
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Superactivity Premenstrual Syndrome/PMS activity 019158
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Tranquilizer activity 018138
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Trichomonicide activity 018065
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Trichomonicide activity of high chemical potency 018066
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Varroacide activity 018928
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with [Natural] Nematicide activity 018292
- Dr Duke’s list of Chemicals in Plants with high Antibacillus Activity 023162
- Dr Duke’s list of Plants with high Antiescherichic activity 021245
- Ethnobotanical study on traditional use of medicinal plants in South-Western Serbia, Zlatibor district 017661
- Ethnomedicine of menstruation in rural Dominica, West Indies 019418
- Extracts from peppermint leaves, lemon balm leaves and in particular angelica roots mimic the pro-secretory action of the herbal preparation STW 5 in the human intestine 020212
- Heartburn, ulcers and plants 006253
- Herbs and herpes 005371
- Impact assessment of mercury accumulation and biochemical and molecular response of Mentha arvensis: a potential hyperaccumulator plant 019417
- Patent literature on mosquito repellent inventions which contain plant essential oils--a review 016774
- Phytochemical Profile and Evaluation of the Biological Activities of Essential Oils Derived from the Greek Aromatic Plant Species Ocimum basilicum, Mentha spicata, Pimpinella anisum and Fortunella margarita 023029
- Prevention of selenite induced oxidative stress and cataractogenesis by luteolin 017697
- Repellent effectiveness of seven plant essential oils, sunflower oil and natural insecticides against horn flies on pastured dairy cows and heifers 016861
- Rheumatoid arthritis and plants 006778
- The effects of oral administration of (-)-menthol on nasal resistance to airflow and nasal sensation of airflow in subjects suffering from nasal congestion associated with the common cold 017696