The Benefits of Adding Spearmint to Your Herb Garden
Native to much of Europe and southwest Asia, spearmint (Mentha spicata) is a species of herb that is easily bruised and produces a wonderfully refreshing smell as a result.
This bright green herb, also known as the garden mint or common mint, with its broad feathery-edged leaves is a favorite ingredient of all chefs for it adds a unique flavor to any imaginable dish, making it both look and taste fresh.
It is used as a garnish for recipes as well as for flavoring drink beverages such as mojito and embellishing salads. Often, it is added to iced tea for that extra refreshing zing.
Cultivation of Spearmint
This bright green member of the mint family prefers moist, loose and fertile soil with underground runners.
The herb can grow up to 30 inches in height with characteristic serrated leaves fanning out at 2-3.5 inches long. The herb should be grown under full sun or partial shade conditions in spring or fall. During late summer, it exhibits thin pointed spikes of mauve flowers.
Be warned, though: if you’re not careful, the spearmint’s runners can take over your garden plot in no time.
- Buy a fresh, healthy mother plant from your local grocery store and place it in a pot. Growing mint from seeds is extremely difficult, so unless you’re prepared to dedicate significant time and effort into it, don’t even try.
- Make sure your pot is large enough and has a hole at the bottom. This will allow excess water to flow away. Place a plate at the bottom so that the plant can absorb the leftover water again when needed.
- Place the pot where it can get plenty of morning sun and adequate afternoon shade.
- Spearmint needs plenty of water to survive. You don’t have to water it all day long, but you want to make sure that the soil is always humid. Remember, a thirsty spearmint is a dead spearmint.
- Harvest spearmint sprigs before the plant flowers. You can do this by cutting off spearmint sprigs (quarter of an inch above the junction) from the mother plant and placing them in glasses filled with water.
- Small white roots should grow under the water after a week. Replenish the glasses with water when needed. Wait for the roots to grow to a decent length and when it is long enough, take the sprig out of the water and plant it in another pot. Do this for all your sprigs and you should be on your way to being the owner of a fragrant spearmint garden paradise.
- To extend the harvesting season, pinch off the flowering buds as they appear.
- When planting in a flower bed, submerge the container at least 5 inched under the soil in order to contain the rapid growth of spearmint roots. Otherwise, the herb will take over your garden.
- The importance of super moist conditions for the growth of this plant can’t be stressed enough.
Medicinal Uses of Spearmint
Spearmint has seen commercial use in oral hygiene products such as mouthwash and toothpaste, as well as a flavoring agent for the ever popular breath refresher Mentos.
Since ancient times, this easily bruised perennial rhizome has added flavor to food, transforming mediocre dishes into delicacy.
Given the fame of its flavoring properties, most would be hard pressed to imagine that this verdant herb has an array of medicinal uses as well. Here are some of the known medicinal benefits of this versatile rhizome:
Get rid of bad breath – The essential oil, menthol, has analgesic, counterirritant and anesthetic properties, and can help to keep your mouth feeling fresh and devoid of pesky germs.
No more stomach aches – Spearmint can take of various digestive disorders, including indigestion, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gas, diarrhea, gallstones and many more.
Soothe all sorts of pains – Headaches, stress, fatigue, nervous conditions and irritable itching stand no chance against a good old spearmint oil massage or the more subtle and sophisticated spearmint aromatherapy.
Breathe freely – While a good remedy for stress, fatigue and headaches, the spearmint really show it versatility with its ability to alleviate several respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis and catarrh.
Maintain healthy and radiant skin – Applying liberal amount of spearmint cream or lotion to affected skin can get rid of itching, dermatitis and hives.
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