A few years ago my family and I were living just outside the beautiful city of Boston. I loved the rich history of the area and we enjoyed visiting many of the old homes from the colonial era. One thing I noticed about the colonial homes is that they all had an herb garden just outside the kitchen. The herbs were used not only for cooking but for medicinal uses as well. I loved the idea of having natural home remedies just outdoor my door.
So over the past few years I have slowly started building, or should I say growing, my own herb garden. Each year I have added a few new herbs and it is getting quite big. Not only are the herbs great for fresh cooking and of course all natural healing remedies, but most produce colorful flowers that add the esthetic look around the house as well. I have chosen the herbs that I grow for specific reasons. Some are because we use them a lot in our recipes and it made sense to have fresh ones on hand. Other herbs were chosen specifically for their medicinal properties. I am always “brewing” up something in the kitchen, weather it is mint tea for a belly ache or sage tea for a cold. I call it being a kitchen witch, just like the herbal healers of past eras.
I am going to take you on a tour of my herb garden. I will explain one herb that I grow in each post. Why I planted it and what I use it for. I am going to start with the first herb I ever planted in my herb garden. Spearmint!
I started with spearmint because my parents use to have it growing all along our pool are as a child. It helped keep the bugs away. But I loved the taste of the leaves and would eat them all the time. So that was the first one I chose to plant because it had good memories for me. Little did I know that my parents had another reason for planting it that i didn’t know until I was older. It taste great in gin and tonic, which happens to be my favorite summer cocktail. So that was an added bonus.
Gin and Tonic with Mint Recipe:
Fill a glass with 1.5 oz gin
Add some ice
Fill the rest of the way with tonic water
Crush a few mint leaves with your fingers to release the oils and add to the cocktail.
Spearmint is good for many other things too. It has antibacterial properties that make it great for medicinal uses. It can be made into homemade mouth wash , which not only freshens breath but helps prevent throat infections.
Spearmint Mouth Wash
8 ounces of grain alcohol
2 tablespoons dried Spearmint Leaf
20 drops Peppermint Essential Oil (or more to preference)
Place herbs in a pint size mason jar. Pour enough boiling water over herbs to just dampen all of them. (this helps release the properties of the herbs).
Pour the grain alcohol into the jar with the Spearmint
Cover tightly and put in a cool dark place for 2-3 weeks, shake often to help release the oils.
Use a cheese cloth to strain out the herbs. Add the oil. Store the remaining “tincture: in a class jar with a lid. I use one with a dropper lid for easy use.
To use your mouth wash mix a mouthful of water with about 40 drops of the tincture and swish well for 30 seconds.
Spearmint can be helpful when you are suffering from sinus troubles, either from allergy or infection. Breathing in the menthol from the plant’s oil helps clear out the congestion. I put Spearmint or peppermint oil in a diffuser in my children’s rooms when they are congested. Sipping on a hot cup of spearmint tea is soothing for soar throats and breathing in the vapors while you drink is amazing for clearing your sinuses.
6-8 oz.boiling water
Hand full of fresh spearmint or you can fill a Tea strainer with 1 tablespoon dried spearmint.
Soak the spearmint int he boiling water for 5 minutes (longer for stronger flavor) remove the spearmint or tea strainer
You can add sugar or honey to taste
Spearmint is a wonderful digestion aid and can help with upset stomachs. It will help relieve bloating and gas. It can soothe nausea and vomiting. I make a ginger and spearmint chews that are great to have around when one of the kids gets an upset tummy. ( Be warned though, mint can make acid reflux worse, so if your gut problems stem from acid reflux or GERD, stay away from the mint.)
I took this recipe :Ginger Chews from Growing Up Herbal Website and added 1/2 cup finely chopped spearmint leaves to the recipe. Ginger and Spearmint are both great for upset tummies.
Spearmint is a great stress reliever and can be added to a warm bath to help you relax and rejuvenate. Spearmint oil can be rubbed on the temples to alleviate the feelings of stress and also to aid in soothing of headaches.
You can make Spearmint oil using the same method as my peppermint oil: DIY Peppermint Oil
As I mention earlier in this post, my parents planted it to keep away bugs. I use it to make a homemade bug repellent and garden spray. You can get my recipe:All Natural Bug Spray.
I am always learning new uses for my Spearmint plants. It is such a versatile herb to have in your medicinal garden. I am glad a chose it as my first herb to plant. Be careful though, spearmint tends to creep everywhere and will try to take over your garden, regular pruning is necessary to keep it at bay. But to me , it is totally worth it.
Thanks for reading. I am hoping to inspire more people to grow their own medicine gardens. It’s good for you and for the earth. Stay tuned for my next Featured Herb: Sage!