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Mentha spicata - L.                
                 
Common Name Spearmint
Family Lamiaceae or Labiatae
Synonyms M. viridis.
Known Hazards Although no records of toxicity have been seen for this species, large quantities of some members of this genus, especially when taken in the form of the extracted essential oil, can cause abortions so some caution is advised.
Habitats Roadsides and waste places, usually in damp soils and sunny positions[4, 16, 17, 37].
Range C. Europe. Naturalized in Britain.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary       

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Mentha spicata is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Aug to September, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.It is noted for attracting wildlife.


USDA hardiness zone : 3-7


Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Mentha spicata Spearmint


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Koeh-096.jpg
Mentha spicata Spearmint
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Miguel303xm
   
Habitats       
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Tea.

Leaves - raw or cooked. A strong spearmint flavour, they are used as a flavouring in salads or cooked foods[2, 4, 5, 183]. The leaves are often used in 'mint sauce', which is used as a flavouring in meals[238]. A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves[21, 183]. It has a very pleasant and refreshing taste of spearmint, leaving the mouth and digestive system feeling clean[K]. An essential oil from the leaves and flowers is used as a flavouring in sweets, ice cream, drinks etc[46, 57, 183]. A spearmint flavour[183].
Composition                                         
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Leaves (Fresh weight)
  • 0 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 83%
  • Protein: 4.8g; Fat: 0.6g; Carbohydrate: 8g; Fibre: 2g; Ash: 1.6g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 200mg; Phosphorus: 80mg; Iron: 15.6mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 2700mg; Thiamine (B1): 0mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0mg; Niacin: 0.4mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes:
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiemetic;  Antiseptic;  Antispasmodic;  Cancer;  Carminative;  Diuretic;  Poultice;  Restorative;  Stimulant;  Stomachic.

Spearmint is a commonly used domestic herbal remedy. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used in the treatment of fevers, headaches, digestive disorders and various minor ailments[222]. The herb is antiemetic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, restorative, stimulant and stomachic[4, 21, 46, 218]. The leaves should be harvested when the plant is just coming into flower, and can be dried for later use[4]. The stems are macerated and used as a poultice on bruises[218]. The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic, though it is toxic in large doses[222]. Both the essential oil and the stems are used in folk remedies for cancer[218]. A poultice prepared from the leaves is said to remedy tumours[218].
Other Uses
Essential;  Repellent;  Strewing.

An essential oil is obtained from the whole plant, the yield is about 4K of oil from 1 tonne of leaves[46, 57]. The oil is used commercially as a food flavouring and oral hygiene preparation[238]. The plant repels insects and was formerly used as an strewing herb[14, 18, 20]. Rats and mice intensely dislike the smell of mint. The plant was therefore used in homes as a strewing herb and has also been spread in granaries to keep the rodents off the grain[244].
Cultivation details                                         
A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils and situations so long as the soil is not too dry[200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. A sunny position is best for production of essential oils, but it also succeeds in partial shade[4]. Prefers partial shade and a slightly acid soil[4, 16]. Often grown as a culinary herb in the herb garden, spearmint is also commercially cultivated for its essential oil, the yields are about 3.5 to 4.5 kilos per tonne of leaves. There are some named varieties[200, 238]. Most mints have fairly aggressive spreading roots and, unless you have the space to let them roam, they need to be restrained by some means such as planting them in containers that are buried in the soil[K]. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. The whole plant has a strong spearmint smell. The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies[24]. A good companion plant for growing near cabbages and tomatoes, helping to keep them free of insect pests[14, 20]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233].
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. Germination is usually fairly quick. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Mentha species are very prone to hybridisation and so the seed cannot be relied on to breed true. Even without hybridisation, seedlings will not be uniform and so the content of medicinal oils etc will vary. When growing plants with a particular aroma it is best to propagate them by division[K]. Division can be easily carried out at almost any time of the year, though it is probably best done in the spring or autumn to allow the plant to establish more quickly. Virtually any part of the root is capable of growing into a new plant. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. However, for maximum increase it is possible to divide the roots up into sections no more than 3cm long and pot these up in light shade in a cold frame. They will quickly become established and can be planted out in the summer.
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
17200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[5]Mabey. R. Food for Free.
Edible wild plants found in Britain. Fairly comprehensive, very few pictures and rather optimistic on the desirability of some of the plants.
[14]Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs.
A good herbal.
[16]Simons. New Vegetable Growers Handbook.
A good guide to growing vegetables in temperate areas, not entirely organic.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[18]Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B. Companion Plants.
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
[20]Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Fairly good.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[24]Baines. C. Making a Wildlife Garden.
Fairly good with lots of ideas about creating wildlife areas in the garden.
[37]Thompson. B. The Gardener's Assistant.
Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[57]Schery. R. W. Plants for Man.
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[218]Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
[222]Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
[233]Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[244]Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs
Deals with all types of herbs including medicinal, culinary, scented and dye plants. Excellent photographs with quite good information on each plant.

Readers comment                                         
 
Elizabeth H.
Mon May 5 2008
I think somebody may have plagarized your website: http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Mentha+spicata
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