Sage

Botanical: Salvia officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae

Synonyms: (Old English) Sawge. Garden Sage. Red Sage. Broad-leaved White Sage. Narrow-leaved White Sage. Salvia salvatrix.
Parts Used: Leaves, whole herb.

The Common Sage, the familiar plant of the kitchen garden, is an evergreen undershrub, not a native of these islands, its natural habitat being the northern shores of the Mediterranean. It has been cultivated for culinary and medicinal purposes for many centuries in England, France and Germany, being sufficiently hardy to stand any ordinary winter outside. Gerard mentions it as being in 1597 a well-known herb in English gardens, several varieties growing in his own garden at Holborn.

Basic Description: Sage generally grows about a foot or more high, with wiry stems. The leaves are set in pairs on the stem and are 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, stalked, oblong, rounded at the ends, finely wrinkled by a strongly-marked network of veins on both sides, greyish-green in color, softly hairy and beneath glandular. The flowers are in whorls, purplish and the corollas lipped. They blossom in August. All parts of the plant have a strong, scented odor and a warm, bitter, somewhat astringent taste, due to the volatile oil contained in the tissues.

Habitat: Sage is found in its natural wild condition from Spain along the Mediterranean coast up to and including the east side of the Adriatic; it grows in profusion on the mountains and hills in Croatia and Dalmatia, and on the islands of Veglia and Cherso in Quarnero Gulf, being found mostly where there is a limestone formation with very little soil. When wild it is much like the common garden Sage, though more shrubby in appearance and has a more penetrating odour, being more spicy and astringent than the cultivated plant. The best kind, it is stated, grows on the islands of Veglia and Cherso, near Fiume, where the surrounding district is known as the Sage region. The collection of Sage forms an important cottage industry in Dalmatia. During its blooming season, moreover, the bees gather the nectar and genuine Sage honey commands there the highest price, owing to its flavor.

In cultivation, Sage is a very variable species, and in gardens varieties may be found with narrower leaves, crisped, red, or variegated leaves and smaller or white flowers. The form of the calyx teeth also varies, and the tube of the corolla is sometimes much longer. The two usually absent upper stamens are sometimes present in very small-sterile hooks. The Red Sage and the Broad-leaved variety of the White (or Green) Sage – both of which are used and have been proved to be the best for medical purposes – and the narrow-leaved White Sage, which is best for culinary purposes as a seasoning, are classed merely as varieties of Salvza officinalis, not as separate species. There is a variety called Spanish, or Lavender-leaved Sage and another called Wormwood Sage, which is very frequent.

A Spanish variety, called S. Candelabrum, is a hardy perennial, the upper lip of its flower greenish yellow, the lower a rich violet, thus presenting a fine contrast.

S. Lyrala and S. urticifolia are well known in North America.

S. hians, a native of Simla, is hardy, and also desirable on account of its showy violet-and-white flowers.

The name of the genus, Salvia, is derived from the Latin salvere, to be saved, in reference to the curative properties of the plant, which was in olden times celebrated as a medicinal herb. This name was corrupted popularly to Sauja and Sauge (the French form), in Old English, ‘Sawge,’ which has become our present-day name of Sage.

In the United States Pharmacopceia, the leaves are still officially prescribed, as they were formerly in the London Pharrnacopceia, but in Europe generally, Sage is now neglected by the regular medical practitioner, though is still used in domestic medicine. Among the Ancients and throughout the Middle Ages it was in high repute: Cur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto? (‘Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?’) has a corresponding English proverb:
‘He that would live for aye,
Must eat Sage in May.’

The herb is sometimes spoken of as S. salvatrix (‘Sage the Saviour’). An old tradition recommends that Rue shall be planted among the Sage, so as to keep away noxious toads from the valued and cherished plants. It was held that this plant would thrive or wither, just as the owner’s business prospered or failed, and in Bucks, another tradition maintained that the wife rules when Sage grows vigorously in the garden.

In the Jura district of France, in Franche-Comte, the herb is supposed to mitigate grief, mental and bodily, and Pepys in his Diary says: ‘Between Gosport and Southampton we observed a little churchyard where it was customary to sow all the graves with Sage.’

The following is a translation of an old French saying:
‘Sage helps the nerves and by its powerful might
Palsy is cured and fever put to flight,’
and Gerard says:
‘Sage is singularly good for the head and brain, it quickeneth the senses and memory, strengtheneth the sinews, restoreth health to those that have the palsy, and taketh away shakey trembling of the members.’
He shared the popular belief that it was efficacious against the bitings of serpents, and says:
‘No man need to doubt of the wholesomeness of Sage Ale, being brewed as it should be with Sage, Betony, Scabious, Spikenard, Squinnette (Squinancywort) and Fennell Seed.’

Many kinds of Sage have been used as substitutes for tea, the Chinese having been said to prefer Sage Tea to their own native product, at one time bartering for it with the Dutch and giving thrice the quantity of their choicest tea in exchange. It is recorded that George Whitfield, when at Oxford in 1733, lived wholesomely, if sparingly, on a diet of Sage Tea, sugar and coarse bread. Balsamic Sage, S. grandiflora, a broad-leaved Sage with many-flowered whorls of blossoms, used to be preferred to all others for making tea. An infusion of Speedwell (Veronica officinalis), Sage and Wood Betony is said to make an excellent beverage for breakfast, as a substitute for tea, Speedwell having somewhat the flavour of Chinese green tea. In Holland the leaves of S. glutinosa, the yellow-flowered Hardy Sage, both flowers and foliage of which exhale a pleasant odour, are used to give flavour to country wines, and a good wine is made by boiling with sugar, the leaves and flowers of another Sage, S. sclarea, the Garden Clary. The latter is known in France as ‘Toute bonne’ – for its medicinal virtues.

It was formerly thought that Sage used in the making of Cheese improved its flavour, and Gay refers to this in a poem:
‘Marbled with Sage, the hardening cheese she pressed.’

Italian peasants eat Sage as a preservative of health, and many other country people eat the leaves with bread and butter, than which, it has been said, there is no better and more wholesome way of taking it.

A species of Sage, S. pomifera, the APPLEBEARING SAGE, of a very peculiar growth, is common on some of the Greek islands. It has firm, fleshy protuberances of about 3/4 inch thickness, swelling out from the branches of the plant and supposed to be produced in the same manner as oak apples, by the puncture of an insect of the Cynips genus. These excrescences are semi-transparent like jelly. They are called Sage Apples, and under that name are to be met with in the markets. They are candied with sugar and made into a kind of sweetmeat and conserve which is regarded by the Greeks as a great delicacy, and is said to possess healing and salutary qualities. It has an agreeable and astringent flavour. This plant is considerably larger than the common Sage of our gardens and its flavour and smell are much more powerful, being more like a mixture of Lavender and Sage. It grows very abundantly in Candia, Syros and Crete, where it attains to the size of a small shrub. The leaves are collected annually, dried and used medicinally as an infusion, the Greeks being particular as to the time and manner in which they are collected, the date being May 1, before sunrise. The infusion produces profuse perspiration, languor, and even faintness if used to excess. There is a smaller Salvia in Greece, the S. Candica, without excrescences.

Another south European species, an annual, S. Horminum, the RED-TOPPED SAGE, has its whorls of flowers terminated by clusters of small purple or red leaves, being for this peculiarity often grown in gardens as an ornamental plant. The leaves and seed of this species, put into the vat, while fermenting, greatly increase the inebriating quality of the liquor. An infusion of the leaves has been considered a good gargle for sore gums, and powdered makes a good snuff.

Certain varieties of Sage seeds are mucilaginous and nutritive, and are used in Mexico by the Indians as food, under the name of Chia.

Cultivation—The Garden Sage succeeds best in a warm and rather dry border, but will grow well almost anywhere in ordinary garden soil; it thrives in a situation somewhat shaded from sunshine, but not strictly under trees.

Description—It is a hardy plant, but though a perennial, does not last above three or four years without degenerating, so that the plantation should be renewed at least every four years. It is propagated occasionally by seed, but more frequently by cuttings. New plantations are readily made by pulling off the young shoots from three-year-old plants in spring, generally in the latter end of April, as soon as they attain a sufficiency of hardness to enable them to maintain themselves on the moisture of the ground and atmosphere, while the lower extremities are preparing roots. If advantage be taken of any showery weather that may occur, there is little trouble in obtaining any number of plants, which may either be struck in the bed where they are to grow, inserting a foot apart each way, or in some other shady spot whence they may be removed to permanent quarters when rooted. The latter plan is the best when the weather is too bright and sunny to expect Sage to strike well in its ordinary quarters. See the young plants do not suffer from want of water during their first summer, and hoe the rows regularly to induce a bushy growth, nipping off the growing tips if shooting up too tall. Treat the ground with soot and mulch in winter with old manure. Cuttings may also be taken in the autumn, as soon as the plants have ceased flowering.

Sage is also often propagated by layers, in the spring and autumn, the branches of old plants being pegged down on the ground and covered with 1/2 inch of earth. The plant, being like other of the woody-stemmed garden herbs, a ‘stem rooter,’ each of the stems thus covered will produce quantities of rootlets by just lying in contact with the ground, and can after a time be cut away from the old plant and transplanted to other quarters as a separate plant.

Red Sage is always propagated by layering or by cuttings, as the seed does not produce a red-leaved plant, but reverts back to the original green-leaved type, though efforts are being made to insure the production of a Red Sage that shall set seed and remain true and develop into the red-leaved plant.

Sages backed by late-flowering Orange Lilies go very well together, and being in flower at the same time make an effective grouping. The calyces of Sage flowers remain on the plants well into late summer and give a lovely haze of reddish spikes; the smell of these seeding spikes is very distinct from the smell of the leaves, and much more like that of the Lemon-scented Verbena, pungent, aromatic and most refreshing.

At the present day, by far the largest demand for Sage is for culinary use, and it should pay to grow it in quantity for this purpose as it is little trouble. For this, the White variety, with somewhat pale green leaves should be taken.

In Dalmatia, where the collection of Sage in its wild condition forms an important cottage industry, it is gathered before blooming, the leaves being harvested from May to September, those plucked in midsummer being considered the best. The general opinion is that it should be gathered before the bloom opens, but the Austrian Pharmacopoeia states that it is best when gathered during bloom.

Chemical Constituents: The chief constituent of Sage and its active principle is a yellow or greenish-yellow volatile oil (sp. gr. 0.910 to 0.930) with a penetrating odour. Tannin and resin are also present in the leaves, 0.5 to 1.0 per cent of the oil is yielded from the leaves and twigs when fresh, and about three times this quantity when dry.

The Sage oil of commerce is obtained from the herb S. officinalis, and distilled to a considerable extent in Dalmatia and recently in Spain, but from a different species of Salvia. A certain amount of oil is also distilled in Germany. The oil distilled in Dalmatia and in Germany is of typically Sage odour, and is used for flavouring purposes. The botanical origin of Spanish Sage oil is now identified as S. triloba, closely allied to S. officinalis, though probably other species may also be employed. The odor of the Spanish oil more closely resembles that of Spike Lavender than the Sage oil distilled in Germany for flavoring purposes, and is as a rule derived from the wild Dalmatian herb, S. officinalis. The resemblance of the Spanish oil to Spike Lavender oil suggests the possibility of its use for adulterative purposes, and it is an open secret that admixture of the Spanish Sage oil with Spanish Spike Lavender oil does take place to a considerable extent, though this can be detected by chemical analysis. It is closer in character to the oil of S. sclarea, Clary oil, which has a decided lavender odor, although in the oil of S. triloba, the ester percentage does not appear to be as high as in the oil of the S. sclarea variety.

Pure Dalmatian or German Sage oil is soluble in two volumes of 80 per cent alcohol, Spanish Sage oil is soluble in six volumes of 70 per cent alcohol.

Sage oil contains a hydrocarbon called Salvene; pinene and cineol are probably present in small amount, together with borneol, a small quantity of esters, and the ketone thujone, the active principle which confers the power of resisting putrefaction in animal substances. Dextro-camphor is also present in traces. A body has been isolated by certain chemists called Salviol, which is now known to be identical with Thujone.

English distilled Sage oil has been said to contain Cedrene.

S. cypria, a native of the island of Cyprus, yields an essential oil, having a camphoraceous odour and containing about 75 per cent of Eucalyptol.

S. mellifer (syn. Ramona stachyoides) is a labiate plant found in South California, known as BLACK SAGE, with similar constituents, and also traces of formic acid.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Stimulant, as tringent, tonic and carminative. Has been used in dyspepsia, but is now mostly employed as a condiment. In the United States, where it is still an official medicine, it is in some repute, especially in the form of an infusion, the principal and most valued application of which is as a wash for the cure of affections of the mouth and as a gargle in inflamed sore throat, being excellent for relaxed throat and tonsils, and also for ulcerated throat. The gargle is useful for bleeding gums and to prevent an excessive flow of saliva.

When a more stimulating effect to the throat is desirable, the gargle may be made of equal quantities of vinegar and water, 1/2 pint of hot malt vinegar being poured on 1 OZ. of leaves, adding 1/2 pint of cold water.

The infusion when made for internal use is termed Sage Tea, and can be made simply by pouring 1 pint of boiling water on to 1 OZ. of the dried herb, the dose being from a wineglassful to half a teacupful, as often as required, but the old-fashioned way of making it is more elaborate and the result is a pleasant drink, cooling in fevers, and also a cleanser and purifier of the blood. Half an ounce of fresh Sage leaves, 1 OZ. of sugar, the juice of 1 lemon, or 1/4 OZ. of grated rind, are infused in a quart of boiling water and strained off after half an hour. (In Jamaica the negroes sweeten Sage Tea with lime-juice instead of lemon.)

Sage Tea or infusion of Sage is a valuable agent in the delirium of fevers and in the nervous excitement frequently accompanying brain and nervous diseases and has considerable reputation as a remedy, given in small and oft-repeated doses. It is highly serviceable as a stimulant tonic in debility of the stomach and nervous system and weakness of digestion generally. It was for this reason that the Chinese valued it, giving it the preference to their own tea. It is considered a useful medicine in typhoid fever and beneficial in biliousness and liver complaints, kidney troubles, haemorrhage from the lungs or stomach, for colds in the head as well as sore throat and quinsy and measles, for pains in the joints, lethargy and palsy. It will check excessive perspiration in phthisis cases, and is useful as an emmenagogue. A cup of the strong infusion will be found good to relieve nervous headache.

The infusion made strong, without the lemons and sugar, is an excellent lotion for ulcers and to heal raw abrasions of the skin. It has also been popularly used as an application to the scalp, to darken the hair.

The fresh leaves, rubbed on the teeth, will cleanse them and strengthen the gums. Sage is a common ingredient in tooth-powders.

The volatile oil is said to be a violent epileptiform convulsant, resembling the essential oils of absinthe and nutmeg. When smelt for some time it is said to cause a sort of intoxication and giddiness. It is sometimes prescribed in doses of 1 to 3 drops, and used for removing heavy collections of mucus from the respiratory organs. It is a useful ingredient in embrocations for rheumatism.

In cases where heat is required, Sage has been considered valuable when applied externally in bags, as a poultice and fomentation.

In Sussex, at one time, to munch Sage leaves on nine consecutive mornings, whilst fasting, was a country cure for ague, and the dried leaves have been smoked in pipes as a remedy for asthma.

In the region where Sage grows wild, its leaves are boiled in vinegar and used as a tonic.

Among many uses of the herb, Culpepper says that it is:
‘Good for diseases of the liver and to make blood. A decoction of the leaves and branches of Sage made and drunk, saith Dioscorides, provokes urine and causeth the hair to become black. It stayeth the bleeding of wounds and cleaneth ulcers and sores. Three spoonsful of the juice of Sage taken fasting with a little honey arrests spitting or vomiting of blood in consumption. It is profitable for all pains in the head coming of cold rheumatic humours, as also for all pains in the joints, whether inwardly or outwardly. The juice of Sage in warm water cureth hoarseness and cough. Pliny saith it cureth stinging and biting serpents. Sage is of excellent use to help the memory, warming and quickening the senses. The juice of Sage drunk with vinegar hath been of use in the time of the plague at all times. Gargles are made with Sage, Rosemary, Honeysuckles and Plantains, boiled in wine or water with some honey or alum put thereto, to wash sore mouths and throats, as need requireth. It is very good for stitch or pains in the sides coming of wind, if the place be fomented warm with the decoction in wine and the herb also, after boiling, be laid warm thereto.’
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Marjoram

Botanical: Origanum marjorana (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae

Synonyms: Knotted Marjoram. Marjorana hortensis.
Parts Used: Herb, leaves.

Sweet or Knotted Marjoram is not an annual, but is usually treated as such, as the plants – native to Portugal – will not stand the winter elsewhere, so must be sown every year.

Seeds may be sown, for an early supply, in March, on a gentle hot-bed and again, in a warm position, in light soil, in the open ground during April. Plants do well if sown in April, though they are long in germinating. The seed is small and should be sown either in drills, 9 inches apart, or broadcast, on the surface, trodden, raked evenly and watered in dry weather. On account of the slowness of germination, care should be taken that the seedlings are not choked with weeds, which being of much quicker growth are likely to do so if not destroyed. They should be removed by the hand, until the plants are large enough to use the small hoe with safety. Seed may also be sown early in May. In common with other aromatic herbs, such as Fennel, Basil, Dill, etc., it is not subject to the attacks of birds, as many other seeds are. When about an inch high, thin out to 6 or 8 inches apart each way. It begins to flower in July, when it is cut for use, and obtains its name of Knotted Marjoram from the flowers being collected into roundish close heads like knots.

Marjoram has been cultivated on a small scale at Sfax, Tunis, for a long time, and is called by the natives ‘Khezama’ (the Arab name for lavender).

Before the War, the herb was bought by agents and exported to Marseilles and other places. The plant is suitable to the sandy soil of the country.

The Marjoram plants are obtained either by division of clumps in winter, or from seeds planted in parallel lines 2 metres apart, between the almond and olive trees; and the soil, being of necessity worked for cultivation of the trees, this also serves to fertilize the Marjoram. One cutting of plant-clumps is best, a second one weakens it. The stems are cut about 10 cms. from the ground, dried in the sun on earth which has been previously beaten slightly. The leaves are separated from the stems by being beaten with staves; they are discoloured by the sun, broken and mixed with the debris of stems of which the odour is less strong.

Drying in the shade obtains more aromatic and less broken leaves, with less impurities.

Medicinal Action and Uses: The medicinal qualities of the oil extracted from Sweet Marjoram – Oleum majoranae – are similar to that of the Wild Marjoram. Fifteen ounces of the oil are yielded by 150 lb. of the fresh herb. On being kept, it assumes a solid form. It is used as an external application for sprains, bruises, etc., and also as an emmenagogue. In powdered form the herb forms part of certain Sneezing Powders.

Other Species: In addition to the species just mentioned, others are cultivated in this country as ornamental plants, such as O. Dictamnus, the Dittany of Crete, which has roundish leaves thickly invested with white down, and flowers in drooping spikes; and O. sipyleum, which is similar, but taller and less woolly. These last are popularly called Hop Plants, and are often seen in cottage windows.

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Peppermint

Botanical: Mentha piperita (SM.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae

Synonym: Brandy Mint.
Part Used: Herb.

Habitat: The plant is found throughout Europe, in moist situations, along stream banks and in waste lands, and is not infrequent in damp places in England, but is not a common native plant, and probably is often an escape from cultivation. In America it is probably even more common as an escape than Spearmint, having long been known and grown in gardens.

Of the members of the mint family under cultivation the most important are the several varieties of the Peppermint (Mentha piperita), extensively cultivated for years as the source of the well-known volatile oil of Peppermint, used as a flavoring and therapeutic agent.

Description: The leaves of this kind of mint are shortly but distinctly stalked, 2 inches or more in length, and 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches broad, their margins finely toothed, their surfaces smooth, both above and beneath, or only very slightly, hardly visibly, hairy on the principal veins and mid-rib on the underside. The stems, 2 to 4 feet high, are quadrangular, often purplish. The whorled clusters of little reddish-violet flowers are in the axils of the upper leaves, forming loose, interrupted spikes, and rarely bear seeds. The entire plant has a very characteristic odour, due to the volatile oil present in all its parts, which when applied to the tongue has a hot, aromatic taste at first, and afterwards produces a sensation of cold in the mouth caused by the menthol it contains.

History: Pliny tells us that the Greeks and Romans crowned themselves with Peppermint at their feasts and adorned their tables with its sprays, and that their cooks flavored both their sauces and their wines with its essence. Two species of mint were used by the ancient Greek physicians, but some writers doubt whether either was the modern Peppermint, though there is evidence that M. piperita was cultivated by the Egyptians. It is mentioned in the Icelandic Pharmacopoeias of the thirteenth century, but only came into general use in the medicine of Western Europe about the middle of the eighteenth century, and then was first used in England.

It was only recognized here as a distinct species late in the seventeenth century, when the great botanist, Ray, published it in the second edition of his Synopsis stirpium britannicorum, 1696. Its medicinal properties were speedily recognized, and it was admitted into the London Pharmacopceia in 1721, under M. piperitis sapore. The oldest existing Peppermint district is in the neighborhood of Mitcham, in Surrey, where its cultivation from a commercial point of view dates from about 1750, at which period only a few acres of ground there were devoted to medicinal plants. At the end of the eighteenth century, above 100 acres were cropped with Peppermint, but so late as 1805 there were no stills at Mitcham, and the herb had to be carried to London for the extraction of the oil. By 1850 there were already about 500 acres under cultivation at Mitcham, and at the present day the English Peppermint plantations are still chiefly located in this district, though it is grown in several other parts of England – in Herts at Hitchin, and in Cambs at Wisbech, in Lincolnshire at Market Deeping and also at Holbeach (where the cultivation and distillation of English Peppermint oil, now carried on with the most up-to-date improvements was commenced over seventy years ago).

There is room for a further extension of its cultivation, owing to the great superiority of the English product in pungency and flavor.

Most of London’s supplies are grown in a triangle with its base on a line Kingston to Croydon, and its apex at Chipstead in Surrey. This triangle includes Mitcham, still the centre of the Peppermint-growing and distilling industry, the district proving to be specially suited to the crop. There are large Peppermint farms at Banstead and Cheam.

On the Continent Peppermint was first grown in 1771 at Utrecht, but it is now grown in considerable amounts in several countries. In France it is cultivated in the Departments of the Yonne and du Nord, French Peppermint Oil being distilled at Grasse and Cannes, as well as in the Basses-Alpes, Haute-Garonne and other parts, though the French varieties of M. piperita are not identical with those cultivated in England. The variety cultivated in France is known as ‘Red Mint’ and can grow on certain soils where the true Peppermint does not grow. The ‘Red Mint’ can be cultivated for four or five years in the same field, but the true M. piperita can be cultivated in the same field for two years only. ‘Red Mint’ gives a higher yield of oil, but is of inferior quality. In the Siagne Valley, it is calculated that 300 kilos of fresh plant produce 1 kilo of essential oil, elsewhere a yield of 2 kilos to about 1,000 kilos of stems and green leaves is claimed. It has been proved by experience that all parts of the plant do not give the same proportion of oil, and it is more abundant when the plants have been grown in a hot region and have flowered to the best advantage.

The product of absolutely genuine English plants cultivated in French soil varies according to the district, for the soil has a very important influence upon the flavor of the oil and also the climate: badly-drained ground is known to give unfavorable results both as to the quantity and quality of the oil.

An oil very similar to Mitcham oil, and of an excellent quality, is distilled from English plants grown in Italy, mostly in Piedmont and also in Sicily. Next to the essential oils of lemon and orange, that obtained from Peppermint enjoys a high reputation among the numerous volatile oils produced by Italy. Vigone and Pancalieri are the centres of the cultivation and distillation of Peppermint in the province of Turin. This district, which has been designated the ‘Mitcham of Italy,’ yields annually about 11,000,000 kilograms of Peppermint, from which 25,000 to 27,000 kilograms of essential oil are obtained. A new variety of Peppermint, found at Lutra on the island of Tino, in the Grecian Archipelago, has been cultivated in the Royal Colonial Garden at Palermo.

A small amount of Peppermint oil of good quality is distilled from plantations in Germany, at Miltitz, in Saxony and near Leipzig, where the little town of Colleda, before the War, produced annually as much as 40,000 cwt. of the herb. Russia also produces some Peppermint, in the Ukraine and the Caucasus, but most of it is used in the country itself.

With regard to Hungarian oil of Peppermint, organized effort to secure improvement began in 1904 and has been greatly developed. Hungarian oil compares favorably with American oil of Peppermint as regards percentage of Menthol contained: Hungarian oil yielding 43 to 56 per cent of free menthol, and 35 to 65 per cent of total menthol; while American oil yields 40 to 45 per cent free menthol and 60 per cent total menthol.

Peppermint oil distilled in 1914 from Mitcham plants grown at Molo, in the highlands of British East Africa, possesses a most excellent aroma, quite free of bitterness, and a very high figure indeed for the menthol contained, and there is no question that this source of supply should be an important one in the future.

The United States, however, are now the most important producers of Peppermint oil, producing – mostly in Michigan, where its cultivation was introduced in 1855, Indiana, the western districts of New York State, and to a smaller extent in Ohio – rather under half of the world’s total output of the oil. The whole of the Peppermint cultivation is confined to the north-east portion of the United States, and the extreme south of Canada, where some is grown in the province of Ontario. The first small distillery was erected in Wayne County, New York State, in the early part of last century, and at the present day the industry has increased to such an extent, that there are portions of Michigan where thousands of acres are planted with nothing else but Peppermint.

English oil is incomparably the best, but it fetches a very high price, and the French oil, though much inferior, is of finer quality than the American.

The problem is to obtain a strain of mint plants which would yield larger quantities of oil in our climate. It is possible that varieties yielding a more abundant supply of essential oils might be secured by persistent endeavour, without reducing our English standard of refinement. Also economy in harvesting and distilling should be studied. If our English oils could be reduced in price, they would replace the foreign to a greater or less extent depending upon the reduction in cost of production.

There are several varieties of Peppermint. The two chief, the so-called ‘Black’ and ‘White’ mints are the ones extensively cultivated. Botanically there is little difference between them, but the stems and leaves of the ‘Black’ mint are tinged purplish-brown, while the stems of the ‘White’ variety are green, and the leaves are more coarsely serrated in the White. The oil furnished by the Black is of inferior quality, but more abundant than that obtained from the White, the yield of oil from which is generally only about four-fifths of that from an equal area of the Black, but it has a more delicate odour and obtains a higher price. The plant is also more delicate, being easily destroyed by frost or drought; it is principally grown for drying in bundles – technically termed ‘bunching,’ and is the kind chiefly dried for herbalists, the Black variety being more generally grown for the oil on account of its greater productivity and hardiness. The variety grown at Mitcham is classified by some authorities as M. piperita, var. rubra.

Cultivation: Both Peppermint and Spearmint thrive best in a fairly warm, preferably moist climate, and in deep soils rich in humus and retentive of moisture, but fairly open in texture and well drained, either naturally or artificially.

These conditions are frequently combined in effectively drained swamp lands, but the plants may also be commercially cultivated in well-prepared upland soils, such as would produce good corn, oil or potatoes. Though a moist situation is preferable, Peppermint will succeed in most soils, when once started into growth and carefully cultivated. It flourishes well in what are known in America as muck land, that is, those broad level areas, often several thousand acres in extent, of deep fertile soil, the beds of ancient lakes and swamps where the remains of ages of growths of aquatic vegetation have accumulated. In Michigan and Indiana, where there are large areas of such land, mint culture has become highly specialized, a considerable part of the acreage being controlled by a few well-equipped growers able to handle the product in an economical manner, who have of late years installed their own upto-date distilling plants. The cultivation of Peppermint is a growing industry now also on the reclaimed lands of Louisiana.

The usual method of mint cultivation on these farms in America is to dig runners in the early spring and lay them in shallow trenches, 3 feet apart in well-prepared soil. The growing crop is kept well cultivated and absolutely free from weeds and in the summer when the plant is in full bloom, the mint is cut by hand and distilled in straw. A part of the exhausted herb is dried and used for cattle food, for which it possesses considerable value. The rest is cut and composted and eventually ploughed into the ground as fertilizer.

The area selected for Peppermint growing should be cropped for one or two years with some plant that requires a frequent tillage. The tillage is also continued as long as possible during the growth of the mint, for successful mint-growing implies clean culture at all stages of progress.

In one of our chief English plantations the following mode of cultivation is adopted. A rich and friable soil, retentive of moisture is selected, and the ground is well tilled 8 to 10 inches deep. The plants are propagated in the spring, usually in April and May. When the young shoots from the crop of the previous year have attained a height of about 4 inches, they are pulled up and transplanted into new soil, in shallow furrows about 2 feet apart, lightly covered with about 2 inches of soil. They grow vigorously the first year and throw out numerous stolons and runners on the surface of the ground. After the crop has been removed, these are allowed to harden or become woody, and then farmyard manure is scattered over the field and ploughed in. In this way the stolons are divided into numerous pieces and covered with soil before the frost sets in, otherwise if the autumn is wet, they are liable to become sodden and rot, and the next crop fails. In the spring the fields are dressed with Peruvian Guano.

Manuring: Liberal manuring is essential, and the quantity and nature of the manure has a great effect on the characteristics of the oil. Mineral salts are found to be of much value. Nitrate of Soda, applied at the rate of 50 to 150 lb. to the acre both stimulates the growth of foliage and improves the quality of the essence. Half the total quantity should be applied a month before planting and the remainder a month before the harvest. Potash, also, is particularly useful against a form of chlorosis or ‘rust’ (Puccinia menthoe) due, apparently, to too much water in the soil, as it often appears after moist, heavy weather in August, which causes the foliage to drop off and leave the stems almost bare, in which circumstances the rust is liable to attack the plants. Some authorities have calculated that an acre of Peppermint requires 84 lb. of Nitrogen, 37 lb. of Phosphoric Acid and 139 lb. of Potash. Ground Bone and Lime do not seem to be of marked benefit. The top dressing of the running roots with fine loam either by ploughing as above described, or otherwise, is very essential before winter sets in.

In the south of France, sewage (1,300 lb. per acre) is extensively used, together with Sesame seeds from which the oil has been expressed. The latter are especially suited for light and limey soils, and are either worked in before planting or placed directly in the furrows with the plants. Up to 5,000 or 6,000 lb. per acre are applied, giving a crop of from 2,100 to 2,600 lb. per acre. The residues from the distillation of the crop are invariably used as manure. It is found, however, that although these manures supply sufficient nitrogen, they are deficient in phosphoric acid and potash. This shortage must be made up by chemical manures, otherwise the soil will become exhausted. Chemical manures alone are equally unsatisfactory in soils poor in organic matter. In conjunction with organic manures they give excellent results.

On suitable soil and with proper cultivation, yields of from 2 to 3 tons of Peppermint herb per acre may be expected, but large yields can only be expected from fields that are in the best possible condition. A fair average for well-managed commercial plantings may be said to be 30 lb. of oil per acre,but the yield of oil is always variable, ranging from only a few pounds to, in extremely favorable cases, nearly 100 lb. per acre. About 325 lb. of Peppermint, nearly 3 cwt., are required to produce a pound of oil in commercial practice, i.e. about 7 lb. of oil are generally obtained from 1 ton of the herb. The price varies as widely as the yield, the value depending upon the chemical composition.

The presence of weeds among the Peppermint, especially other species of Mentha, is an important cause of deterioration to the oil. M. arvensis, the Corn Mint, if allowed to settle and increase among the crop to such an extent as not to be easily separated, has been known when distilled to absolutely ruin the flavor of the latter. In new ground the Peppermint requires handweeding two or three times, as the hoe cannot be used without injury to the plant.

In America great detriment is occasioned by the growth of Erigeron canadensis, and newly cleared ground planted with Peppermint, is liable to the intrusion of another plant of the order Compositae, Erechtites hieracifolia, which is also highly injurious to the quality of the oil.

Irrigation: Peppermint requires frequent irrigation. In the south of France the crop is irrigated on the I5th of May, and thereafter every eight or ten days. When the plants are fully developed they are watered at least three times a week. It is important to keep the soil constantly moist, although well drained. Absorption of water makes the shoots more tender, thus facilitating cutting, and causes a large quantity of green matter to be produced.

A plantation lasts about four years, the best output being the second year. The fourth-year crop is rarely good. A crop that yields a high percentage of essential oil exhausts the ground as a rule, and after cropping with Peppermint for four years, the land must be put to some other purpose for at least seven years. In some parts of France the plantations are renewed annually with the object of obtaining vigorous plants.

Few pests trouble Peppermint, though crickets, grasshoppers and caterpillars may always do some damage.

Harvesting: The herb is cut just before flowering, from the end of July to the end of August in England and France, according to local conditions. Sometimes when well irrigated and matured, a second crop can be obtained in September. With new plantations the harvest is generally early in September.

Harvesting should be carried out on a dry, sunny day, in the late morning, when all traces of dew have disappeared. The first year’s crop is always cut with the sickle to prevent injury to the stolons. The herb of the second and third years is cut with scythes and then raked into loose heaps ready for carting to the stills.

In many places, the custom is to let the herb lie on the ground for a time in these small bundles or cocks. In other countries the herb is distilled as soon as cut. Again, certain distillers prefer the plants to be previously dried or steamed. The subject is much debated, but the general opinion is that it is best to distill as soon as cut, and the British Pharmacopceia directs that the oil be distilled from the fresh flowering plant. Even under the best conditions of drying, there is a certain loss of essential oil. If the herbs lie in heaps for any time, fermentation is bound to occur, reducing the quality and quantity of the oil, as laboratory experiments have proved. Should it be impossible to treat all the crop as cut, it should be properly dried on the same system as that adopted for other medicinal plants. The loss is then small. Variation in the chemical composition of the essence should be brought about by manuring, rather than by the system of harvesting, though in America the loss caused by partial drying in the field is not regarded by growers as sufficient to offset the increased cost of handling and distilling the green herb. Exposure to frost must, however, be avoided, as frozen mint yields scarcely half the quantity of oil which could otherwise be secured.

At Market Deeping the harvest usually commences in the beginning or middle of August, or as soon as the plant begins to flower and lasts for six weeks, the stills being kept going night and day. The herb is carted direct from the fields to the stills, which are made of copper and contain about 5 cwt. of the herb. Before putting the Peppermint into the still, water is poured in to a depth of about 2 feet, at which height a false bottom is placed, and on this the herb is then trodden down by men. The lid is then let down, and under pressure the distillation is conducted by the application of direct heat at the lowest possible temperature, and is continued for about 4 1/2 hours. The lid is then removed, and the false bottom with the Peppermint resting on it is raised by a windlass, and the Peppermint carried away in the empty carts on their return journey to the fields, where it is placed in heaps and allowed to rot, being subsequently mixed with manure applied to the fields in the autumn. The usual yield of oil, if the season be warm and dry, is 1 OZ. from 5 lb. of the fresh flowering plant, but if wet and unfavorable, the product is barely half that quantity.

If the cut green tops have some distance to travel to the distillery, they should be cut late in the afternoon, so as to be sent off by a night train to arrive at their destination next morning, or they would be apt to heat and ferment and lose color.

Since the oil is the chief marketable product, adequate distilling facilities and a market for the oil are essential to success in the industry, and the prospective Peppermint grower should assure himself on these points before investing capital in plantations.

There is also a market, chiefly for herbalists, for the dried herb, which is gathered at the same time of year. It should be cut shortly above the base, leaving some leafbuds, and not including the lowest shrivelled or discolored leaves and tied loosely into bundles by the stalk-ends, about twenty to the bundle on the average, and the bundles of equal length, about 6 inches, to facilitate packing, and dried over strings as described for Spearmint. Two or three days will be sufficient to dry.

Peppermint culture on suitable soils gives fair average returns when intelligently conducted from year to year. The product, however, is liable to fluctuation in prices, and the cost of establishing the crop and the annual expenses of cultivation are high.

Constituents: Among essential oils, Peppermint ranks first in importance. It is a colorless, yellowish or greenish liquid, with a peculiar, highly penetrating odor and a burning, camphorescent taste. It thickens and becomes reddish with age, but improves in mellowness, even if kept as long as ten or fourteen years.

The chief constituent of Peppermint oil is Menthol, but it also contains menthyl acetate and isovalerate, together with menthone, cineol, inactive pinene, limonene and other less important bodies.

On cooling to a low temperature, separation of Menthol occurs, especially if a few crystals of that substance be added to start crystallization.

The value of the oil depends much upon the composition. The principal ester constituent, menthyl acetate, possesses a very fragrant minty odor, to which the agreeable aroma of the oil is largely due. The alcoholic constituent, Menthol, possesses the wellknown penetrating minty odour and characteristic cooling taste. The flavoring properties of the oil are due largely to both the ester and alcoholic constituents, while the medicinal value is attributed to the latter only. The most important determination to be made in the examination of Peppermint oil, is that of the total amount of Menthol, but the Menthone value is also frequently required. The English oil contains 60 to 70 per cent of Menthol, the Japanese oil containing 85 per cent, and the American less than ours, only about 50 per cent. The odor and taste afford a good indication of the quality of the oil, and by this means it is quite possible to distinguish between English, American and Japanese oils.

Menthol is obtained from various species of Mentha and is imported into England, chiefly from Japan. The oils from which it is chiefly obtained are those from M. arvensis, var. piperascens, in Japan, M. arvensis, var. glabrata in China, and M. piperita in America.

Japan, and to a certain extent China, produce large quantities of Peppermint oil distilled from the plants just mentioned. The oils produced from these plants are greatly inferior to those distilled from M. piperita, but have the advantage of containing a large proportion of Menthol, of which they are the commercial source.

The Japanese Menthol plant is now being grown in South Australia, having been introduced there by the Germans from Japan.

Chinese Peppermint oil is largely distilled at Canton, a considerable quantity being sent to Bombay, also a large quantity of Menthol. Peppermint is chiefly cultivated in the province of Kiang-si.

M. incana, cultivated near Bombay as a herb, also possesses the flavor of Peppermint.

M. arvensis, var. javanesa, growing in Ceylon, has not the flavor of Peppermint, but that of the garden mint, while the type form of M. arvensis, growing wild in Great Britain, has an odor so different from Peppermint that it has to be carefully removed from the field lest it should spoil the flavor of the Peppermint oil when the herb is distilled.

The Japanese have long recognized the value of Menthol, and over 200 years ago carried it about with them in little silver boxes hanging from their girdles. The distillation of oil of Peppermint forms a considerable industry in Japan. The chief centre of cultivation is the province of Uzen, in the north-east of the island of Hondo, the largest of the Japanese Islands, and much is grown in the northern island of Hokkaido, but the best oil is produced in the southern districts of Okayama and Hiroshimo, the second largest Peppermint area in Japan, the yield of mint being yearly on the increase. The mint crop is a favorite one for farmers, owing to the distilling work it furnishes during the long and otherwise unprofitable winter.

The roots are planted at the end of November and beginning of December. The plant, which needs a light, well-drained soil, attains its full growth during the summer months and is cut in the latter part of July, during August and in the early part of September, three cuttings being made during the season. The third cutting yields the greatest percentage of oil and menthol crystals. The preliminary steps in the manufacture of Menthol are carried out by the farmers themselves, with the aid of stills of a simple design. The Peppermint plants are first dried in sheds, or under cover from the sun for thirty days. Then they are placed in the stills where they undergo a process of steaming. The resulting vapors are led off through pipes into cooling chambers, are condensed and deposited as crude Peppermint oil. This crude Peppermint is shipped to Yokohama and Kobe to the Menthol factories, of which there are over seventy in various parts of Japan, specially equipped for obtaining the full amount of Menthol. The residue of dementholized oil is further refined to the standard of purity required in the trade, and is known as Japanese Peppermint oil. The oil (known in Japan under the name of Hakka no abura) is exported from Hiogo and Osaka, but is frequently adulterated. The cheapest variety of Peppermint oil available in commerce is this partially dementholized oil imported from Japan, containing only 50 per cent of Menthol.

Adulteration of American Peppermint oil with dementholized Japanese oil, known as Menthene, which is usually cheaper than American oil, is frequently practised. The failure of the mint crop in America in 1925 and the consequent scarcity and high price of the American oil caused this adulteration to be very extensive.

The Japanese oil, termed by the Americans Corn-Mint oil and not recognized by the United States Pharmacopoeia, is at best only a substitute in confectionery and other products, such as tooth-pastes, etc. There are other varieties of so-called Peppermint oil on the market which are residues from Mentholmanufacture and are inferior even to the oil imported from Japan. These are not suitable for use in pharmacy.

As Japanese Peppermint oil, after being freed from Menthol crystals, is inferior both in taste and odour to English and American oil, experiments have been made in Japan with the cultivation of English and American Peppermint, but so far without success.

Adulterants: Camphor oil is occasionally used as an adulterant of Peppermint oil, also Cedarwood oil and oil of African Copaiba. The oil is also often adulterated with one-third part of rectified spirit, which may be detected by the milkiness produced when the oil is agitated by water. Oil of Rosemary and oil of Turpentine are sometimes used for the same purpose. If the oil contains turpentine it will explode with iodine. If quite pure, it dissolves in its own weight of rectified spirits of wine.

In the form in which Menthol is imported, it bears some resemblance to Epsom Salts, with which it is sometimes adulterated.

Before the War about half the Menthol crystals exported from Japan were sent to Germany. During the War the United States became the largest purchaser of these crystals, followed in order by Great Britain, France and British India.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Peppermint oil is the most extensively used of all the volatile oils, both medicinally and commercially. The characteristic anti-spasmodic action of the volatile oil is more marked in this than in any other oil, and greatly adds to its power of relieving pains arising in the alimentary canal.

From its stimulating, stomachic and carminative properties, it is valuable in certain forms of dyspepsia, being mostly used for flatulence and colic. It may also be employed for other sudden pains and for cramp in the abdomen; wide use is made of Peppermint in cholera and diarrhoea.

It is generally combined with other medicines when its stomachic effects are required, being also employed with purgatives to prevent griping. Oil of Peppermint allays sickness and nausea, and is much used to disguise the taste of unpalatable drugs, as it imparts its aromatic characteristics to whatever prescription it enters into. It is used as an infants’ cordial.

The oil itself is often given on sugar and added to pills, also a spirit made from the oil, but the preparation in most general use is Peppermint Water, which is the oil and water distilled together.

Peppermint Water and spirit of Peppermint are official preparations of the British Pharmacopoeia.

In flatulent colic, spirit of Peppermint in hot water is a good household remedy, also the oil given in doses of one or two drops on sugar.

Peppermint is good to assist in raising internal heat and inducing perspiration, although its strength is soon exhausted. In slight colds or early indications of disease, a free use of Peppermint tea will, in most cases, effect a cure, an infusion of 1 ounce of the dried herb to a pint of boiling water being employed, taken in wine glassful doses; sugar and milk may be added if desired.

An infusion of equal quantities of Peppermint herb and Elder flowers (to which either Yarrow or Boneset may be added) will banish a cold or mild attack of influenza within thirty-six hours, and there is no danger of an overdose or any harmful action on the heart. Peppermint tea is used also for palpitation of the heart.

In cases of hysteria and nervous disorders, the usefulness of an infusion of Peppermint has been found to be well augmented by the addition of equal quantities of Wood Betony, its operation being hastened by the addition to the infusion of a few drops of tincture of Caraway.

Preparations: Fluid extract, 1/4 to 1 drachm. Oil, 1/2 to 3 drops. Spirit, B.P., 5 to 20 drops. Water, B.P. and U.S.P., 4 drachms.

The following simple preparation has been found useful in insomnia:

1 OZ. Peppermint herb, cut fine, 1/2 OZ. Rue herb, 1/2 OZ. Wood Betony. Well mix and place a large tablespoonful in a teacup, fill with boiling water, stir and cover for twenty minutes, strain and sweeten, and drink the warm infusion on going to bed.

A very useful and harmless preparation for children during teething is prepared as follows:
1/2 OZ. Peppermint herb, 1/2 OZ. Scullcap herb, 1/2 OZ. Pennyroyal herb. Pour on 1 pint of boiling water, cover and let it stand in a warm place thirty minutes. Strain and sweeten to taste, and given frequently in teaspoonful doses, warm.

Boiled in milk and drunk hot, Peppermint herb is good for abdominal pains. ‘Aqua Mirabilis’ is a term applied on the Continent to an aromatic water which is taken for internal pains. It is a water distilled from herbs, sometimes used in the following form:

Cinnamon oil, Fennel oil, Lavender oil, Peppermint oil, Rosemary oil, Sage oil, of each 1 part; Spirit, 350 parts; Distilled water, 644 parts.

Menthol is used in medicine to relieve the pain of rheumatism, neuralgia, throat affections and toothache. It acts also as a local anaesthetic, vascular stimulant and disinfectant. For neuralgia, rheumatism and lumbago it is used in plasters and rubbed on the temples; it will frequently cure neuralgic headaches. It is inhaled for chest complaints, and nasal catarrh, laryngitis or bronchitis are often alleviated by it. It is also used internally as a stimulant or carminative. On account of its anaesthetic effect on the nerveendings of the stomach, it is of use to prevent sea-sickness, the dose being 1/2 to 2 grains. The bruised fresh leaves of the plant will, if applied, relieve local pains and headache, and in rheumatic affections the skin may be painted beneficially with the oil.

Oil of Peppermint has been recommended in puerperal fevers. 30 to 40 minims, in divided doses, in the twenty-four hours, have been employed with satisfactory results, a stimulating aperient preceding its use.

The local anaesthetic action of Peppermint oil is exceptionally strong. It is also powerfully antiseptic, the two properties making it valuable in the relief of toothache and in the treatment of cavities in the teeth.

Sanitary engineers use Peppermint oil to test the tightness of pipe joints. It has the faculty of making its escape, and by its pungent odor betraying the presence of leaks.

A new use for Peppermint oil has been found in connexion with the gas-mask drill on the vessels of the United States Navy.

Paste may be kept almost any length of time by the use of the essential oil of Peppermint to prevent mold.

Rats dislike Peppermint, a fact that is made use of by ratcatchers, who, when clearing a building of rats, will block up most of their holes with rags soaked in oil of Peppermint and drive them by ferrets through the remaining holes into bags.

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Spearmint

Botanical: Mentha viridis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae

Synonyms: Garden Mint. Mentha Spicata. Mackerel Mint. Our Lady’s Mint. Green Mint. Spire Mint. Sage of Bethlehem. Fish Mint. Menthe de Notre Dame. Erba Santa Maria. Frauen Munze. Lamb Mint.

Part Used: Herb.

This common garden mint is not a native of these islands, though growing freely in every garden, but is originally a native of the Mediterranean region, and was introduced into Britain by the Romans, being largely cultivated not only by them, but also by the other Mediterranean nations. It was in great request by the Romans, and Pliny according to Gerard says of it: ‘The smell of Mint does stir up the minde and the taste to a greedy desire of meate.’ Ovid represents the hospitable Baucis and Philemon scouring their board with green mint before laying upon it the food intended for their divine guests. The Ancients believed that mint would prevent the coagulation of milk and its acid fermentation. Gerard, again quoting Pliny, says:
‘It will not suffer milk to cruddle in the stomach, and therefore it is put in milk that is drunke, lest those that drinke thereof should be strangled.’

Many other references to it in old writings – among them, that of the payment by the Pharisees of tithes of Mint, Anise and Cumin – prove that the herb has been highly esteemed for many centuries. Mint is mentioned in all early mediaeval lists of plants; it was very early grown in English gardens, and was certainly cultivated in the Convent gardens of the ninth century. Chaucer refers to ‘a little path of mintes full and fenill greene. ‘

Turner states in his Herball (1568) that the garden mint of his time was also called ‘Spere Mynte.’ Gerard, in further praise of the herb, tells us that:
‘the smelle rejoiceth the heart of man, for which cause they used to strew it in chambers and places of recreation, pleasure and repose, where feasts and banquets are made.’

It has, in fact, been so universally esteemed, that it is to be found wild in nearly all the countries to which civilization has extended, and in America for 200 years it has been known as an escape from gardens, growing in moist soils and proving sometimes troublesome as a weed.

Parkinson, in his Garden of Pleasure, mentions ‘divers sorts of mintes both of the garden and wilde, of the woods, mountain and standing pools or waters’ and says:
‘Mintes are sometimes used in Baths with Balm and other herbs as a help to comfort and strengthen the nerves and sinews. It is much used either outwardly applied or inwardly drunk to strengthen and comfort weak stomackes.’

The Ancients used mint to scent their bath water and as a restorative, as we use smelling salts to-day. In Athens where every part of the body was perfumed with a different scent mint was specially designated to the arms.

Gerard says of its medicinal properties:
‘It is good against watering eies and all manner of breakings out on the head and sores. It is applied with salt to the bitings of mad dogs…. They lay it on the stinging of wasps and bees with good success.’

Culpepper gives nearly forty distinct maladies for which mint is ‘singularly good.’

‘Being smelled into,’ he says, ‘it is comfortable for the head and memory, and a decoction when used as a gargle, cures the mouth and gums, when sore.’ Again, ‘Garden Mint is most useful to wash children’s heads when the latter are inclined to sores, and Wild Mint, mixed with vinegar is an excellent wash to get rid of scurf. Rose leaves and mint, heated and applied outwardly cause rest and sleep.’

In the fourteenth century, mint was used for whitening the teeth, and its distilled oil is still used to flavor tooth-pastes, etc., and in America, especially, to flavor confectionery, chewing gums, and also to perfume soap.

Mint ottos have more power than any other aromatic to overcome the smell of tobacco.

The application of a strong decoction of Spearmint is said to cure chapped hands.

Mice are so averse to the smell of mint, either fresh or dried, that they will leave untouched any food where it is scattered. As mice love Henbane and often prove very destructive to a crop, it has been suggested that their depredations might be checked if some mint were planted between the rows of Henbane.

It is probable that Spearmint was introduced by the Pilgrim Fathers when they landed in America, as it is mentioned among many other plants brought out from England, in a list given by John Josselyn. When in this country apparently found growing wild, it occurs in watery places, but is rather rare.

Professor Henslow (Origin and History of our Garden Vegetables) does not consider it truly native to any country. He says:
‘The Garden Mint (Mentha viridis, Linn.) is a cultivated form of M. sylvestris (Linn.), the Horse Mint, which is recorded as cultivated at Aleppo. Either M. sylvestris, or some form approaching M. viridis, which is not known as a truly wild plant, was probably the mint of Scripture.’

Bentham also considers it not improbably a variety of M. sylvestris, perpetuated through its ready propagation by suckers, and though these two plants are sufficiently distinct as found in England, yet continental forms occur which bridge over their differences.

Its generic name, Mentha, is derived from the mythological origin ascribed to it, and was originally applied to the mint by Theophrastus. Menthe was a nymph, who because of the love Pluto bore her, was metamorphosed by Proserpine, from motives of jealousy, into the plant we now call mint.

Description: From creeping root-stocks, erect, square stems rise to a height of about 2 feet, bearing very short-stalked, acute-pointed, lance-shaped, wrinkled, bright green leaves, with finely toothed edges and smooth surfaces, the ribs very prominent beneath. The small flowers are densely arranged in whorls or rings in the axils of the upper leaves, forming cylindrical, slender, tapering spikes, pinkish or lilac in color. The little labiate flowers are followed by very few, roundish, minute brownseeds. The taste and odor of the plant are very characteristic.

There are several forms of Garden Mint, the true variety being of bold, upright growth, with fairly large and broad leaves, pointed and sharply serrated (or toothed) at the edges and of a rich, bright, green color. Another variety, sometimes sold as Spearmint (M. cardiaca), is much smaller and less erect in growth, with darker leaves, the whorls of flowers distant and leafy, but possessing the same odor and flavor, and another has comparatively large, broad or rounded leaves. Yet another has soft hairs, but this, though distinct from what is known as Horse Mint, is inferior to the true Spearmint.

A form with its leaves slightly crisped is common in gardens under the name of M. crispa.

Cultivation: A moist situation is preferable, but mint will succeed in almost any soil when once started into growth, though in dry, sandy soils it is sometimes difficult to grow, and should be planted in the coolest and dampest situations. Leaf mold, road scrapings, burnt ash and similar materials should, on the other hand, be used freely for lightening heavy, tenacious soils. It does best in a partially shaded position: if in a sheltered spot, it will start earlier in the spring than if exposed. Where a long or regular supply is required, it is a good plan to have at least one bed in a sunny and sheltered, and another in a shady position, where gatherings may be made both early and late.

As the plant is a perennial, spreading by means of its underground, creeping stems propagation may be easily effected by lifting the roots in February or March, dividing them – every piece showing a joint will grow – and planting again in shallow trenches, covering with 2 inches of soil. Six inches apart in the rows and 8 inches between the rows are the right distances to allow. Cuttings in summer or offsets in spring may also be utilized for increasing a stock. Cuttings may be taken at almost any time during the summer, always choosing the young shoots, these being struck on a shady border of light soil and kept moist, or a better plan, if possible, is to insert them in a frame, keeping them close and moist till rooted. Cuttings or young shoots will also strike freely in good-sized boxes in a heated greenhouse, in the early spring, and after the tops have been taken off two or three times for use, the plants may be hardened off and planted outside.

The beds are much benefited by an annual top-dressing of rich soil, applied towards the close of autumn, when all remaining stalks should be cut down to the ground. A liberal top-dressing of short, decayed manure, such as that from an old hot-bed or mushroom bed, annually, either in the spring, when it commences to grow, or better still, perhaps, after the first or second cutting, will ensure luxuriant growth. Frequent cuttings of shoots constitute a great drain on the plants, and if not properly nourished they will fail, more or less. To have really good mint, the plantation should be re-made about every three years, or failing that, it is essential that a good top-dressing of rich soil be added.

A good stock should be kept up, so that plenty may be available for forcing. Cultivators having a greenhouse can easily force mint into an earlier development of new growth than would be in the open garden. Forcing is very easy, the only preparation being the insertion of a quantity of good roots in a box of light soil, which should be placed in a temperature of about 60 degrees and watered freely as soon as growth starts. Cuttings may be made in two or three weeks. Forcing will generally be necessary from November to May – a succession being kept up by the introduction, at intervals of about three weeks, of an additional supply of roots, as forced roots soon decay. Often mint is so grown both upon and under the benches in greenhouses, and the demand for the young, tender stems and leaves during the winter is sufficient to make the plants pay well.

Mint Disease: Unfortunately, mint is susceptible to a disease which in some gardenshas completely destroyed it. This disease, which from its characteristic symptoms is known as Rust, is incurable. The fungus (Puccinia Mentha) which causes it develops inside the plant, and therefore cannot be reached by any purgicide, and as it is perennial, it cannot be got rid of by cutting off the latter. All that can be done is to prevent the spread of the disease by digging up all plants that show any sign of rust. The same ground should not be used again for mint for several years. Healthy stock should be obtained and planted in uninfected soil, some distance away. On account of this liability of mint to rust, it is advisable not to have it all in one bed, but to have several beds of it, placed at some distance from each other.

Harvesting—When the plants are breaking into bloom, the stalks should be cut a few inches above the root, on a dry day, after the dew has disappeared, and before the hot sun has taken any oil from the leaves, and dried for culinary use for the winter. All discolored and insect-eaten leaves should be removed and the stems tied loosely into bunches and hung to dry on strings in the usual manner directed for ‘bunched’ herbs. The bunches should be nearly equal in length and uniform in size to facilitate packing, if intended for sale, and placed when dry in airtight boxes to prevent re-absorption of moisture.

The leaves may also be stripped from the stems as soon as thoroughly dry and rubbed through a fine sieve, so as to be freed from stalks as much as possible, or pounded in a mortar and thus powdered, stored in stoppered bottles or tins rendered airtight. If preparing for market and not for home use, the rubbed herbs will, of course, command a higher price than the bunched herbs, and should be put up in tins or bottles containing a quantity of uniform weight.

When mint is grown commercially on a large scale, it has been estimated to yield from 4 to 5 tons per acre, from which 15 to 20 cwt. of dry should be obtained. Average yields per acre are, however, taken when crops are at maturity, and an estimate of the first cutting crop is hard to form, and is likely to be less profitable than succeeding years, on account of initial expenses.

If Spearmint is being grown as a medicinal herb, for the sake of the volatile oil to be extracted from it, the shoots should be gathered in August, when just coming into flower, and taken to the distillery as soon as possible after picking, the British Pharmacopceia directing that oil of Spearmint be distilled from the fresh, flowering plant. It is estimated that 350 lb. of Spearmint yield 1 lb. of oil. If the distillery is not on the ground or only a short distance away, and the crop has to be dispatched by train, the cutting should take place late in the afternoon on a fine day, before the dew falls, so as to be sent off by a night train to arrive at their destination next morning, having traveled in the cool, otherwise the leaves are apt to heat and ferment, losing color.

Constituents: The chief constituent of Spearmint oil is Carvone. There are also present Phellandrine, Limonene and dihydrocarveol acetate. Esters of acetic, butyric and caproic or caprylic acids are also present. (An Ester is a combination of an alcohol with an acid, the combination being associated with the elimination of water. The esters are highly important and in many cases dominant constituents of numerous essential oils, which owe their perfume largely, or in some cases entirely, to the esters contained. Many of the esters are used as flavoring or perfumery agents, and many are among the most important constituents of volatile salts.)

There are several different essential oils known under the name of Spearmint oil, the botanical origin of the plant used for distillation differing with the country in which the plant is grown. In the United States and in this country several varieties of M. viridis are distilled. In Russia the plant distilled is M. verticellata, and in Germany either M. longifolia, or more generally M. aquatica var. crispa – a plant cultivated in Northern Germany, the oil (called there Krausemünzöl) being imported into this country as German Spearmint oil. It appears to be identical with that from M. viridis. Oil of Spearmint is little distilled in England, either German oil or American oil distilled from M. viridis being imported.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Spearmint is chiefly used for culinary purposes. The properties of Spearmint oil resemble those of Peppermint, being stimulant, carminative and antispasmodic, but its effects are less powerful, and it is less used than Peppermint, though it is better adapted for children’s maladies. From 2 to 5 drops may be given on sugar, or from 1/2 to 1 teaspoonful of spirit of Spearmint, with 2 tablespoonsful of water. Spearmint oil is added to many compounds on account of its carminative properties, and because its taste is pleasanter and less strong than Peppermint. A distilled water of Spearmint will relieve hiccough and flatulence as well as the giddiness of indigestion. For infantile trouble generally, the sweetened infusion is an excellent remedy, and is also a pleasant beverage in fevers, inflammatory diseases, etc. Make the infusion by pouring a pint of boiling water on an ounce of the dried herb; the strained-off liquid is taken in doses of a wineglassful or less. It is considered a specific in allaying nausea and vomiting and will relieve the pain of colic. A homoeopathic tincture prepared from the fresh plant in flower has been found serviceable in strangury, gravel, and as a local application in painful haemorrhoids. Its principal employment is for its febrifuge and diuretic virtues.

Preparations and Dosages: Fluid extract, 1/4 to 1 drachm. Water, B.P. and U.S.P., 4 drachms. Spirit, U.S.P., 30 drops.

When eaten with lamb, very finely chopped in sweetened vinegar, in the form of mint sauce, mint greatly aids the digestion, as it makes the crude, albuminous fibres of the immature meat more digestible. The volatile oil stimulates the digestive system and prevents septic changes within the intestines.

The fresh sprigs of mint are used to flavor green peas and also new potatoes, being boiled with them, and the powdered, dried leaves are used with pea soup and also in seasonings. On the Continent, especially in Germany, the powdered, dried mint is often used at table for dusting upon pea and bean purées, as well as on gravies.

A grating of mint is introduced sometimes into a potato salad, or into a fowl stuffing, and in Wales it is not unusual to boil mint with cabbage.

Mint Jelly can be used instead of mint sauce, in the same manner as red currant jelly. It may be made by steeping mint leaves in apple jelly, or in one of the various kinds of commercial gelatine. The jelly should be a delicate shade of green. A handful of leaves should colour and flavour about half a pint of jelly. Strain the liquid through a jelly bag to remove all particles of mint before allowing to set.

Mint Vinegar is made as follows: Fill a jar or bottle with young mint leaves picked from the stalks. Cover with cold vinegar and cork or cover the bottle. Infuse for 14 days, then strain off the vinegar.

This vinegar is sometimes employed in making Mint Jelly, as follows:

Take 1 pint of water, 1 1/4 OZ. gelatine, the white and shell of an egg, 1/2 gill of Mint Vinegar, 1 dessertspoonful of Tarragon Vinegar, a bunch of herbs, 1 onion, 1 carrot, a stick of celery, 10 peppercorns, salt, 1 lemon. Peel the lemon very thinly, slightly whip the white of egg, wash and crush the shell. Put all the ingredients into a pan, strain in the juice of the lemon and whisk over the fire until just on boiling point. Boil up, then draw the pan to the side of the fire and simmer very gently for 20 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag until clear. Put into a mold to set. If liked, finely chopped mint may be added to the jelly after straining it, or more mint can be used and no Tarragon Vinegar.

To make Mint Punch: Pick a quart of fresh mint leaves, then wash and dry them by shaking them in a clean kitchen towel. Put them into a large jug and mash them with a wooden spoon till soft, when cover with freshly boiled water and infuse for ten minutes. Strain, cool, then set on ice till required. Add two cups of chilled grape juice and strained lemon juice to taste. Sweeten with castor sugar, stir till sugar is dissolved and then add a quart of ginger ale. Fill each tumbler to one-third with cracked ice and fill up with the punch.

The Garden Mint is also the basis of Mint Julep and Mint-water, the cordial distilled from the plant.

Mint Cake is a cake made of flour and dripping or lard, flavored with sugar and chopped fresh mint and rolled out thin.

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Dill

Botanical: Peucedanum graveolens (BENTH.)
Family: N.O. Compositae

Synonyms: Anethum graveolus. Fructus Anethi.
Part Used: Dried ripe fruit.


Dill is a hardy annual, a native of the Mediterranean region and Southern Russia. It grows wild among the corn in Spain and Portugal and upon the coast of Italy, but rarely occurs as a cornfield weed in Northern Europe.

The plant is referred to in St. Matthew XXiii., 23, though the original Greek name Anethon, was erroneously rendered Anise by English translators, from Wicklif (1380) downwards.

Dill is commonly regarded as the Anethon of Dioscorides. It was well known in Pliny’s days and is often mentioned by writers in the Middle Ages. As a drug it has been in use from very early times. It occurs in the tenth-century vocabulary of Alfric, Archbishop of Canterbury.

The name is derived, according to Prior’s Popular Names of English Plants, from the old Norse word, dilla (to lull), in allusion to the carminative properties of the drug.

Lyte (Dodoens, 1578) says Dill was sown in all gardens amongst worts and pot-herbs.

In the Middle Ages, Dill was also one of the herbs used by magicians in their spells, and charms against witchcraft.

In Drayton’s Nymphidia are the lines:
‘Therewith her Vervain and her Dill,
That hindereth Witches of their Will.’
Culpepper tells us that:
‘Mercury has the dominion of this plant, and therefore to be sure it strengthens the brain…. It stays the hiccough, being boiled in wine, and but smelled unto being tied in a cloth. The seed is of more use than the leaves, and more effectual to digest raw and vicious humours, and is used in medicines that serve to expel wind, and the pains proceeding therefrom….’

Description: The plant grows ordinarily from 2 to 2 1/2 feet high and is very like fennel, though smaller, having the same feathery leaves, which stand on sheathing foot-stalks, with linear and pointed leaflets. Unlike fennel, however, it has seldom more than one stalk and its long, spindle-shaped root is only annual. It is of very upright growth, its stems smooth, shiny and hollow, and in midsummer bearing flat terminal umbels with numerous yellow flowers, whose small petals are rolled inwards. The flat fruits, the so-called seeds, are produced in great quantities. They are very pungent and bitter in taste and very light, an ounce containing over 25,000 seeds. Their germinating capacity lasts for three years. The whole plant is aromatic.

The plant was placed by Linnaeus in a separate genus, Anethum, whence the name Fructus Anethi, by which Dill fruit goes in medicine. It is now included in the genus Peucedanum.

Cultivation: This annual is of very easy culture. When grown on a large scale for the sake of its fruits, it may be sown in drills 10 inches apart, in March or April, 10 lb. of the seed being drilled to the acre, and thinned out to leave 8 to 10 inches room each way Sometimes the seed is sown in autumn as soon as ripe, but it is not so advisable as spring sowing. Careful attention must be given to the destruction of weeds. The crop is considered somewhat exhaustive of soil fertility.

Harvesting: Mowing starts as the lower seeds begin, the others ripening on the straw. In dry periods, cutting is best done in early morning or late evening, care being taken to handle with the least possible shaking to prevent loss. The loose sheaves are built into stacks of about twenty sheaves, tied together. In hot weather, threshing may be done in the field, spreading the sheaves on a large canvas sheet and beating out. The average yield is about 7 cwt. of Dill fruits per acre.

The seeds are finally dried by spreading out on trays in the sun, or for a short time over the moderate heat of a stove, shaking occasionally.

Dill fruits are oval, compressed, winged about one-tenth inch wide, with three longitudinal ridges on the back and three dark lines or oil cells (vittae) between them and two on the flat surface. The taste of the fruits somewhat resembles caraway. The seeds are smaller, flatter and lighter than caraway and have a pleasant aromatic odour. They contain a volatile oil (obtained by distillation) on which the action of the fruit depends. The bruised seeds impart their virtues to alcohol and to boiling water.

Constituents: Oil of Dill is of a pale yellow color, darkening on keeping, with the odor of the fruit and a hot, acrid taste. Its specific gravity varies between 0.895 and 0.915. The fruit yields about 3.5 per cent of the oil, which is a mixture of a paraffin hydrocarbon and 40 to 60 per cent of d-carvone, with d-limonene. Phellandrine is present in the English and Spanish oils, but not to any appreciable extent in the German oil.

In spite of the difference in odor between Dill and Caraway oils, the composition of the two is almost identical, both consisting nearly entirely of limonene and carvone. Dill oil, however, contains less carvone than caraway oil.

English-distilled oils usually have the highest specific gravity, from 0.910 to 0.916, and are consequently held in the highest esteem.

Uses: As a sweet herb, Dill is not much used in this country. When employed, it is for flavoring soups, sauces, etc., for which purpose the young leaves only are required. The leaves added to fish, or mixed with pickled cucumbers give them a spicy taste.

Dill vinegar, however, forms a popular household condiment. It is made by soaking the seeds in vinegar for a few days before using.

The French use Dill seeds for flavoring cakes and pastry, as well as for flavoring sauces.

Perhaps the chief culinary use of Dill seeds is in pickling cucumbers: they are employed in this way chiefly in Germany where pickled cucumbers are largely eaten.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Like the other umbelliferous fruits and volatile oils, both Dill fruit and oil of Dill possess stimulant, aromatic, carminative and stomachic properties, making them of considerable medicinal value.

Oil of Dill is used in mixtures, or administered in doses of 5 drops on sugar, but its most common use is in the preparation of Dill Water, which is a common domestic remedy for the flatulence of infants, and is a useful vehicle for children’s medicine generally.

Preparations: Dill water, 1 to 8 drachms. Oil, 1 to 5 drops.

Oil of Dill is also employed for perfuming soaps.

The British Pharmacopoeia directs that only the fruits from English-grown plants shall be employed pharmaceutically, and it is grown in East Anglia for that purpose. The Dill fruits of commerce are imported from central and southern Europe, the plant being largely cultivated in Germany and Roumania.

Considerable quantities of Dill fruit are imported from India and Japan – they are the fruits of a species of Peucedanum that has been considered by some botanists entitled to rank as a distinct species, P. Sowa (Kurz), but is included by others in the species, P. graveolens. Indian dill is widely grown in the Indies under the name of ‘Soyah,’ its fruit and leaves being used for flavoring pickles. Its fruits are narrower and more convex than European dill, with paler, more distinct ridges and narrower wings.

The oils from both Japanese and Indian dill differ from European dill oil, in having a higher specific gravity (0.948 to 0.968), which is ascribed to the presence of dill apiol, and in containing much less carvone than the European oil. It should not be substituted for the official oil.

African dill oil is produced from plants grown from English imported seed. The fruits are slightly larger than the English fruits and a little paler in color, their odor closely resembling the English. The yield of oil is slightly larger than that of English fruits, and it is considered that if the fruits can be produced in Cape Colony, they should form a most useful source of supply.

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Basil, Sweet

Botanical: Ocymum basilium (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae

—Part Used—Herb.


—Description—Common or Sweet Basil which is used in medicine and also for culinary purposes, especially in France, is a hairy, labiate plant, growing about 3 feet high. The stem is obtusely quadrangular, the labiate flowers are white, in whorls in the axils of the leaves, the calyx with the upper lobe rounded and spreading. The leaves, greyish-green beneath and dotted with dark oil cells, are opposite, 1 inch long and 1/3 inch broad, stalked and peculiarly smooth, soft and cool to the touch, and if slightly bruised exale a delightful scent of cloves.

There are several varieties, differing in the size, shape, odour and colour of the leaves. The Common Basil has very dark green leaves, the curled-leaved has short spikes of flowers, the narrow-leaved smells like Fennel, another has a scent of citron and another a tarragon scent, one species has leaves of three colours, and another ‘studded’ leaves.

—History—The derivation of the name Basil is uncertain. Some authorities say it comes from the Greek basileus, a king, because, as Parkinson says, ‘the smell thereof is so excellent that it is fit for a king’s house,’ or it may have been termed royal, because it was used in some regal unguent or medicine. One rather unlikely theory is that it is shortened from basilisk, a fabulous creature that could kill with a look. This theory may be based on a strange old superstition that connected the plant with scorpions. Parkinson tells us that ‘being gently handled it gave a pleasant smell but being hardly wrung and bruised would breed scorpions. It is also observed that scorpions doe much rest and abide under these pots and vessells wherein Basil is planted.’ It was generally believed that if a sprig of Basil were left under a pot it would in time turn to a scorpion. Superstition went so far as to affirm that even smelling the plant might bring a scorpion into the brain.

Culpepper says:
‘Being applied to the place bitten by venomous beasts, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it. – Every like draws its like. Mizaldus affirms, that being laid to rot in horse-dung, it will breed venomous beasts. Hilarius, a French physician, affirms upon his own knowledge, that an acquaintance of his, by common smelling to it, had a scorpion breed in his brain.’

In India the Basil plant is sacred to both Krishna and Vishnu, and is cherished in every Hindu house. Probably on account of its virtues, in disinfecting, and vivifying malarious air, it first became inseparable from Hindu houses in India as the protecting spirit of the family.

The strong aromatic scent of the leaves is very much like cloves.

Every good Hindu goes to his rest with a Basil leaf on his breast. This is his passport to Paradise.

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