Mint is one of the most ubiquitous culinary and medicinal herbs known to the western world. If you’ve ever tasted peppermint tea, most chewing gum, or most toothpastes, you’ve experienced its cooling tingle.
“Mint” is really a bit of a catchall term for many plants of the species Mentha. Since it has a wide distribution, isn’t picky about growing conditions, and hybridizes easily, there are dozens of different individual mint species. Some are known for their magical and medicinal properties, while others are less common.
Magical Properties of Mint
When discussing any properties of mint, it’s important to distinguish between varieties.
Peppermint (Mentha × piperita, a hybrid of M. aquatica and M. spicata) is chiefly used in healing and purification spells, though it’s also included in some love- and money-drawing formulas.
This herb is ruled by Venus and Mercury, as well the element of air. Astrologically, it’s associated with Aquarius, Taurus, and Virgo.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is used to enhance focus. It’s also often used in sleep magic for protection.
While peppermint is more commonly used as a magical ingredient, spearmint is a suitable substitution when a gentler, milder action is desirable. Unlike peppermint, spearmint is ruled by the element of water.
Pennyroyal is the common name for another variety of mint (Mentha pulegium). It’s primarily used in for cleansing and protection. Some travel charms include pennyroyal to protect against fatigue and sore feet.
Its cleansing and protective properties make it useful in charms against the evil eye. This herb is ruled by Venus and the element of earth, though some sources associate it with Mars and fire.
See also: Check out Mint leaves here, and Mint essential oils here.
Benefits & Uses
Peppermint is well known as a digestive aid. It contains natural compounds that can relax the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract. Modern research has found that enteric-coated capsules of the essential oil may help some sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome.
When used topically, balms, ointments, and massage oils containing peppermint help ease muscle soreness, provide a cooling sensation, and can take the edge off of headaches.
Peppermint is also antimicrobial. In dental preparations, it helps keep bacteria from forming a biofilm on teeth. It also kills common foodborne pathogens like E. coli, listeria, and salmonella.
The herb contains rosmarinic acid, which reduces the body’s histamine response. This can help allergy and cold sufferers breathe more easily by decreasing inflammation in the nasal passages.
Spearmint is used less often than peppermint, but it has its own health benefits. It contains the compound (-)-carvone, which may help lower blood pressure. Like peppermint, it can also help digestive issues.
Possible Risks & Side Effects
Any herb has the potential to trigger an allergic reaction. This can manifest as anything from a mild rash to anaphylactic shock. If you’re allergic to any members of the mint family, please substitute a different herb.
Both peppermint and spearmint have the potential to be irritating in high doses. Drinking too much mint tea, for example, can cause heartburn. Applying undiluted essential oil to the skin can cause topical burns.
While many mint species are healing, more is not always better. Never use an essential oil undiluted, and don’t consume mint oil outside of an enteric coated capsule designed for that purpose.
Pennyroyal, though it’s related to other mints, is highly toxic. It’s traditionally used as an abortifacient, meaning that it can trigger an abortion.
This requires large doses of the herb, and the doses necessary to cause abortion can also cause liver or kidney damage, or even death. Pennyroyal essential oil is not considered safe at any dose.
History & Folklore
Mint is named for Menthe, a naiad who was in love with Hades. When Hades chose Persephone for his wife, Menthe ranted, raved, and jealously claimed to be more beautiful and desirable than the new Queen of the Underworld.
Demeter, Persephone’s mother, was enraged by this. So enraged, in fact, that she turned Menthe into a plant and trampled her.
Mint’s association with the underworld and afterlife made it an important sacred herb for ancient Greek funerary rites.
It was also an ingredient in a beverage called the kykeon, which was part of the initiatory rites for the cult of Demeter and Persephone. The herb was also used to make wreaths, as a table decoration, and as a culinary herb.
Mint is so ubiquitous that it figures prominently in folklore and medical traditions around the world. The Egyptians cultivated peppermint, and the Icelandic people used it as a medicinal herb.
Getting Started With Mint
Mint is a very easy herb for beginning green witches to grow. In fact, it’s almost too easy — many varieties of mint are known to be aggressively invasive.
For this reason, mint is better off grown in containers than directly in a garden. Otherwise, it won’t be very long before it’s taken over.
Since mint is such a popular flavoring agent, it’s very easy for beginning witches to get a hold of. Brewing a cup of peppermint tea can be a magical ritual all its own, if it’s infused with intent.
First, decide which of the herb’s properties you’d like to call on. Add dried peppermint leaves to a tea strainer, or use a prepared tea bag. Place the peppermint in a cup of boiling water, and stir it with a spoon held in your dominant hand.
As you do, visualize the brew infusing with a potent green energy. Ask the mint to help you with what you desire, then cover the cup and allow it to infuse. When the tea is ready, sip it slowly and feel the mint’s energy filling your being.
Mint is one of the most recognizable herbs in a witch’s cabinet. With its distinctive flavor and aroma, many foods and drinks wouldn’t be the same without it.
Since they’re gentle and have a low potential for toxicity, plants like spearmint and peppermint are ideal herbal allies for beginning witches.
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