Spearmint

(Mentha spicata) Spire Mint (Prior) is the correct name (spicata), not Spearmint, but the latter has persisted while the former has fallen into disuse. Mint is shy; one should never look at it for a month after planting. It needs time to settle down, or so they say in Somerset (Tongue. 1965). A sprig of mint in the kitchen will keep bluebottles out (Vickery. 1993). Put some in the barn before putting any grain there, to keep rats out of it (Fogel). A sprig in the milk keeps it from turning, and mint rubbed over a new hive will keep the bees from deserting it (Tongue. 1965).

If the women of the Abruzzi region in Italy came across a mint plant, they would bruise a leaf between their fingers to ensure that on the day of their death, Jesus would help them (Clair).

In the form of an essential oil, like peppermint, it is used by confectioners, chiefly in America, and at one time perfumed soap contained this oil (Fluckiger & Hanbury). One of the commonest uses now is for flavouring chewing gum. In the form of an aromatic tea, it has been a great favourite in domestic medicines. American Indians like the Miwok used this tea to relieve stomach trouble and diarrhoea (Barrett & Gifford), and herbalists still prescribe it for these complaints (Fluck). Gerard described it as

"marvellous wholesome for the stomacke", and in the 18th century Sir John Hill declared it as "excellent against disorders of the stomach". Country people in Ireland tie a sprig round the wrist for a stomach upset (O'Farrell). It is used in Russian folk medicine for heart complaints (Kourennoff).

Gerard noted that "it is applied with salt to the bitings of mad dogs", and he also quoted a contraceptive use: "Dioscorides teacheth, that being applied to the secret part of a woman before the act. It hindreth conception". Gypsy lore has it that to cure hay fever permanently, one should pick some fresh mint each day, and put it in a muslin bag in one's pillow, so that the scent can be inhaled during sleep. Also one should wear some each day (Vickery. 1995).

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