Last week, I was out biking on an urban trail and came upon a large patch of mint – spearmint, to be specific. Although winter in the San Francisco Bay area is quite mild compared to my home state of Minnesota, it’s still cold enough here to suppress growth of some tender perennials, including the mints. In addition, after four years of drought here, something as commonplace as spearmint had become hard to find outside of garden beds. So, I was quite excited to see not only a few plants, but hundreds of them, on both sides of the trail. The winter rains had done well – everything green is bursting anew!
As an herbalist, I work a lot with both common mints: spearmint and its cousin peppermint. Peppermint is a hybrid of spearmint and watermint. High in menthol, peppermint is given to supporting the digestive system in numerous ways – it soothes bloating, indigestion and irritable bowel, while easing nausea and abdominal pain. Peppermint is also good for colds and coughs, general pain relief and easing headaches and stress.
Spearmint has similar properties, and I couldn’t help but bend down and pick some to make tea with. Just the scent of it brought instant calm. Breathing deeply in, I felt myself at home, as if the plant had taken me under its leaves. The beautiful thing about the smell is that it’s both soothing and stimulating. You can’t help but feel more awake afterwards.
The next time you see a mint patch in the wild, I invite you to stop and drink in the medicine. The joy of mint is not just found in teabags. It’s right there in the growing leaves, just waiting for your visit.
Photo by Nathan Thompson – all rights reserved