There are more than 600 varieties of mint growing throughout the world. A perennial that grows in temperate climates, mint is considered an invasive plant as it spreads underground through creeping stems.
Early North American colonists found Native Americans using mint for medicinal purposes. Ailments such as coughs, chest congestion and pneumonia were all treated using wild and native mint.
Some of today’s most well know mints, spearmint and peppermint were likely not established in America until around the 1730’s and, like most non-native mints, were transported from Europe. The plants, easy to establish, quickly went wild and spread throughout the continent.
By the late 19th century, early American neuropaths, recognizing the healing properties of mint, began prescribing these newer varieties (peppermint and spearmint) to patients suffering from headaches, bronchitis, coughs and stomach distress.
Today, the health benefits of mint are widely accepted. A great way to incorporate mint into your daily diet is making mint tea. This can be done with either peppermint or spearmint. Boil two cups of water and remove from heat. Put four to five torn leaves into the water, cover and steep for five minutes. Mint teas can be enjoyed throughout the day as they are caffeine and sugar free.
Growing your own mint can be very rewarding. It’s a fast-growing plant that can quickly fill an area of your garden and will come back year after year. If you’re worried about the invasive nature of the plant, you can control the spread through the use of containers in your garden and regular pruning.