The Mint Family
The Mint family has a lot of relatives having over 3500 species and probably is the best beloved of plant families! Most of you will be familiar with many of these plants: sage, rosemary, thyme, basil and peppermint to name a few of the culinary plants used on a regular basis. Also lavender, lemon balm, hyssop, mother wort, skullcap and the list goes on and on.
Generally the mint plants are good for the head, heart and stomach. So how do they work? They contain volatile oils (strong concentrated oils)l with such names as menthol, thymol, citronellal, limonene, to name a few. When we smell these oils the nerve endings are stimulated and send impulses to the limbic system (emotions and memory) in the brain and other structures that mange sense in our organs. As these oils enter our blood they relax smooth muscles in the airways, circulatory system and intestines thus relieving tension. As this relaxation of tension occurs it helps our emotional state to find a place of calm thereby helping with a sense of ease and harmony.
So much medicine is in your spice rack or just outside your door. For nasal congestion, make a cup of peppermint tea. Use thyme as a facial steam to calm coughs. Feeling anxious or nervous make a cup of lemon balm tea and flavour with some honey. Crazy repetitive thoughts keeping you awake take some skullcap and smell some lavender. Bug bites driving you nuts put some lavender on them for immediate relief. Indigestion peppermint can help. Sick with a viral infection take some oregano and the list goes on.. Just a word of caution these herbs can be too powerful for small children always check with your local herbalist or other resources to determine their safety.
So have some fun and incorporate these mint herb allies into your daily life. Eat them, smell them, use them in your bath water and drink them. Sometimes just brushing your hand in the plants as you walk in your garden can bring such a sense of well being into your soul!
If you are interested in the botany here are some of the characteristics of the mint family:
* Square (four sided) stems There are a few exceptions (loosestrife, verbena and nettle) however these herbs do not smell minty.
*Strongly aromatic. strong aroma due to their high volatile oil content particularly methol.
* Pairs of opposite leaves. These pairs alternate direction and get smaller toward the top of the stem.
* Tiny irregular flowers with five joined petals.
* Flowers arranged in whorls. Cluster of flowers located at the base of the leaves or at the end of spikes.
* Probably on your spice rack.
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