Thursday, 20 October 2011

Mint flowers.

Prunella vulgaris
Self heal, a member of the mint family, is a common flower 

Flowering:June - September
Height:Up to 12" (30 cm)
throughout Britain. It can be found in in grassland, woods and lawns.

It grows in small spreading clumps with spikes of purple/violet flowers (10-15 mm high).
As its name suggests, it is used in herbal medicine for sore throats and mouth ulcers. In the past it was used to stop bleeding. 
  Greek mythology, 'Minthe' (from where the herb gets its name 'Mentha'), was a woman who was turned into a plant by Persephone (wife of Hades, God of the Underworld) after she found out her husband was in love with her. The intention behind doing this was so people would walk all over her. However, Hades, unable to remove the curse of his wife, gave the plant a sweet aroma so that people would not destroy her.

In ancient Greece and Rome, mint was used as a perfume, a bath scent and for various medicinal and culinary purposes. Today too, mint has found a use in nearly every product known to us – food, snacks, tea, other beverages, ice-creams, cakes, chocolates (either in a soft form like the 'After Eight' chocolate or hard), sweets ('Polo', 'Tic-Tac'), toothpastes, mouth fresheners, chewing gum, inhalers and many others. In food, we use pudina in salads, curries, dips, chutneys, soups and other delicacies.

Menthol, which is extracted from mint oil is used in aromatherapy treatments, many perfumes and cosmetic products. Mint oil is environment friendly and used as an insecticide.

 apple mint stem.
 Good for colds and headaches - The mint herb and its oil is used to treat colds, coughs, headaches and vomiting. Since mint has a strong aroma, it helps in breaking up a congested nose, throat, lungs and bronchi. It also removes the mucous and phlegm that may have deposited in the respiratory tract. Hence, it can be good for asthmatic patients (check with doctors first!) and is found in various inhalers. Since mint has a soothing quality, it helps treat coughs (like 'Halls'). Balms made from mint can relieve headaches when spread on the forehead ('Vicks'). Mint helps the nervous system and so is recommended for people with migraines.

Helps in treating stomach problems - Mint has an antispasmodic effect on the digestive tract and relaxes the muscles around the intestines, so, it is effective in fighting indigestion, heartburn, stomach pains and gas. Nausea and dizziness too can be dealt with by this herb. Inhaling the oil or crushed mint leaves will make you feel better.

Good for the skin - Mint contains a number of beneficial elements which make it useful for the skin. Face masks, lotions and body creams contain mint and help the skin feel fresh and rejuvenated. You can also say bye-bye to acne, pimples, blackheads and clogged pores when using mint-based face creams. Crushed pudina leaves are used to treat insect bites because of the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties of mint. The herb also cleanses the blood.

Great for the teeth - There is a reason (besides flavour) that makes mint an important ingredient in toothpastes and mouth-fresheners. It is germicidal and reduces the growth of bacteria in the mouth. It is effective in treating ulcers, swollen gums and toothaches. Plus, it gives you great 'minty' fresh breath!

Helps in building immunity - Mint keeps the body safe from infections and bacteria. When used in tea, the added nutrients of both (phosphorus, calcium, Vitamins B, C, D and E) all contribute to a stronger immune system.

Other benefits - Mint eases cramps during menstruation and when heated and applied on aching joints, the leaves do wonders in relieving pain and discomfort.

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Mint  belongs to the family 'Lamiaceae' and is found in the regions of Europe, Western and Central Asia, the eastern Himalayas, eastern Siberia and in North America. It grows best in moist soil and wet climates. The leaves of the mint plant come in twos and are located opposite each other. They can be grayish green, dark green, purple, pale yellow or even blue in colour. The flowers vary from pale purple to white and pink and are found in clusters along the mint stem. Mint comes in different varieties such as peppermint, spearmint, apple mint etc. Its appealing quality is its cool, refreshing, bitter-sweet taste that makes you feel good in many ways.

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