Spear Mint
Mentha spicata L.
Family: Lamiaceae, Mint
Genus: Mentha
Synonyms:
Other names: spearmint, garden mint
Nomenclature: spicata = in spikes
Nativity / Invasiveness: introduced plant
Edible plant
Medicinal plant
Description

General: perennial from creeping rhizomes, 30-100 cm tall, hairless or almost so, sometimes glandular.

Leaves: opposite in many pairs, often stiff-hairy along the main veins beneath, mostly stalkless, the stalks, if present, not over about 3 mm long, the blade lance-ovate or elliptic, 2-7 cm long, 0.8-2.5 cm wide, 2-3.5 times as long as wide, sharp-toothed and more or less pointed.

Flowers: numerous in many whorls of flowers crowded into slender, terminal spikes, the whorls sometimes interrupted below, 3-12 cm long and 0.5-1 cm wide at flowering. Calyx 1.5-2 mm long, the 5 slender, pointed lobes generally stiff-hairy on the edges, the tube without hairs. Corolla 2-4 mm long, pale lavender to sometimes white, with short tube and nearly regularly 4-lobed limb, the upper lobe formed by the fusion of the two lobes of the upper lip, tending to be broader than the other lobes, and slightly notched. Stamens 4, conspicuously protruding. June-August.

Fruits: 4 small, ovate nutlets.


Distribution

Banks of streams and ditches, and other moist places, in some parts of MT. Native of Europe, now widely introduced in parts of America.
Edible Uses

The leaves of spearmint are edible raw or cooked. Having a strong spearmint flavor, they are used as a flavoring in salads or cooked foods. The leaves are often used in 'mint sauce', which is used as a flavoring in meals. A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves. It has a very pleasant and refreshing taste of spearmint, leaving the mouth and digestive system feeling clean. An essential oil from the leaves and flowers is used as a flavoring in sweets, ice cream, drinks etc. It has a spearmint flavor.



Medicinal Uses

Spearmint is a commonly used domestic herbal remedy. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used in the treatment of fevers, headaches, digestive disorders and various minor ailments. The herb is antispasmodic, urine-inducing, restorative, stimulant, and has agents that prevent vomiting, that relieve and remove gas from the digestive system, and give tone and strength to the stomach. The leaves should be harvested when the plant is just coming into flower, and can be dried for later use. The stems are macerated and used as a poultice on bruises. The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic, though it is toxic in large doses. Both the essential oil and the stems are used in folk remedies for cancer. A poultice prepared from the leaves is said to remedy tumors.



Other Uses

An essential oil is obtained from the whole plant. The oil is used commercially as a food flavoring and oral hygiene preparation. The plant repels insects and was formerly used as an strewing herb. Rats and mice intensely dislike the smell of mint. The plant was therefore used in homes as a strewing herb and has also been spread in granaries to keep the rodents off the grain.


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