Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Spearmint is an easy to grow perennial herb that is classified as invasive by most gardeners. If you don't want Spearmint growing out of control it should be planted in containers. Once started it will grow in most soils, although it does prefer moist soil and partial shade. Most mints are difficult to grow from seed. However, they quickly multiply by sending out creeping stems underground. New plants can be started by dividing one plant into many. Any piece of root that has a joint on it will grow a new plant. Spearmint can also be propagated by stem cuttings. Choose young shoots and remove all leaves from the lower half of the stems. Put these stems in a moist, but not soggy, soil in the shade. Keep the soil moist until you see new growth on the stems. This is a good indication that your cuttings have rooted. You can use a rooting hormone if you like, but it isn't really necessary with mints. Stem cuttings can also be rooted in water, but those done in soil tend to be more hardy. Spearmint can be cut at any time, but is usually gathered as the plants come into bloom. Always gather your herbs on a dry day, in the morning before the sun gets hot. This is when the volatile oils are at their highest concentration in the plant.
Spearmint has been used as a culinary herb ,as well as medicinally. As a culinary herb, it is well suited as a compliment to lamb, peas and new potatoes. Medicinally, spearmint calms the stomach, sweetens the breath and eases nausea, vomiting and indigestion. It is antispasmodic and a mild stimulant that cleanses and strengthens the entire body. It is safe for use in infants, children and adults. A weak tea given to an infant with colic will quickly ease the pain and dispel gas. Fresh bruised leaves can also be placed on the stomach area to ease distress.To make mint tea boil one cup of water, remove from the heat and add one teaspoon (or more if you want a stronger tea) of mint leaves, cover and let steep for twenty minutes. Strain, add honey if desired and drink. Mint tea is refreshing both hot and as an iced tea. To give to infants dilute the tea by adding one teaspoon of tea to one half cup of water. Dosages are determined by the weight of the infant or child.As little as one teaspoon of diluted tea added to a bottle or given by dropper can give relief in an infant.Do not use honey for infants under one year of age. Spearmint will also ease the pain of a headache when taken as a tea or by putting the bruised fresh leaves on the forehead.