MINT (Mentha spp.): Origin: native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. This herb is symbolic of violent love and consolation. Ancient Jewish priests (Pharisees) paid tithes using mint. Associated with Jupiter and Venus, mint reportedly stirred up “body lust.” An ancient Greek myth relates that Pluto left his Underworld to visit the light, and encountered the nymph Mintho. Pluto’s wife, Persephone the daughter of Demeter, became enraged and turned Mintho into an herb. Tradition holds that while Persephone had achieved revenge, and that Mintho had lost her human beauty, she still was able to attract male suitors because of her “freshness and fragrance.

The Gerarde herbal identified a range of positive virtues for mint: it is marvelous and wholesome for the stomach; when mixed with water and vinegar mint stops vomiting of blood. Mint is good treatment for watering eyes and can be applied positively to children’s foreheads; when powdered and taken inwardly mint is effective against sea scorpions and serpents; when mixed with salt can be applied to the bites of mad dogs; and keeps milk from curdling in the stomach. If mint is applied to the secret part of a woman before the act, it hindereth conception. Garden mint eaten with meat [with food in general] or warm drinks strengthen the stomach and cause good digestion; when mixed with parched barley meal it reduces tumors and hard swellings; mint water appeases headaches and staieth vexing and vomiting, and works to prevent gravel and stone in the kidneys. If mint leaves are applied to wasp or bee stings the pain and swelling will be reduced.

The Culpeper herbal links mint with the goddess Venus and causes lust to rise. If mint juice is mixed with vinegar it will stop bleeding; mint leaves mixed with pomegranate juice stops hiccough and vomiting. Eating mint will reduce the quantity of milk in nursing mothers and lead to breast shape changes. When hen mixed with salt can be used to treat mad dog bites; when mixed with mead or honey water, can ease ear pain; if rubbed on the tongue mint will make the tissue soft. Mint leaves soaked or boiled in water will prevent milk from curdling in the stomach; leaves applied to the forehead and temple areas will ease headache.

Culpepper also recommended s washing children’s heads with mint steeped in water to prevent development of ores and scabs. Distilled mint water will protect against the poison of venomous creatures; mint strengthens the belly, improves digestion, and prevents vomiting and hiccough. Mint provokes appetite, removes liver obstructions, and because it stirs up body lust so too much must not be taken the blood will be thinned. When mixed with wine mint helps women undergoing difficulties during childbirth. It is a good treatment to reduce kidney stones; when leaves are smelled it improves memory; decoctions gargled will cure gum sores and mend an ill-savoured breath. He writes that through personal experience decoctions of mint can treat leprosy. When mint is mixed with vinegar and applied to the head, this will reduce dandruff. Culpepper ends with a mint leaf -related caution: A wounded man that eats Mint, his wound will never be cured …

Throughout the Middle Ages, mint was thought able to cure speech disorders, especially lisp. Additional healing properties attributed to mint included use to heal bites from serpents, sea-scorpions, and mad dogs – but at the same time – mint should not be applied to open wounds. Medieval English believed that an infusion of mine would prevent curdling of milk. For centuries it has been considered especially inappropriate to give mint to wounded soldiers in the belief that wounds would not heal. Medieval European men used mint to scent their bodies. Japanese mint is considered by some (erroneously) to be a contraceptive. A 19th century American cure for mad dog bite called for blending peppermint with salt and applying it to the wound. It is said in England that mint placed in a vase and set in the kitchen will keep away flies. An old English saying holds that the smell of mint stirs the mind and increases appetite for meat [i.e. food]. Another old English belief says that if mint is scattered atop of food, mice will ignore the items.

(Summarized from: Gerarde, 1597, pp. 551-552; Culpeper, 1653, pp. 117-118; Skinner, 1911, pp. 178-179;Colin, 1962, pp. 58-59; Northcote, 1971, pp. 32-33; Vickery, 1995, p. 240; Grivetti, 2004, p. 96).

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