The mint family consists of about thirty species. 11 of them naturally grow in Lithuania. The most valuable is peppermint, but it doesn’t grow in Lithuania.
This herb was mentioned even in the Gospel of Matthew. In fact, there is not a single bad thought about peppermint. It seems that everyone is cooled down by its scent. In the ancient days people believed that peppermint helps to drive away evil spirits, so having dried peppermint was a must for every careful housekeeper.
Peppermint is a perennial, especially fragrant and melliferous herb plant. The leaves for medicinal purposes are harvested right before blooming or at the beginning of blooming. Dried herbs are characterised by a nice smell and strong, cooling taste. Dried leaves are dark green, fragrant and have a pleasantly cooling flavour. The amount of essential oil in mint, depending on the kind, varies from 1.89 to 3.44 % and includes 32.4-60.9 % of menthol.
It is important to harvest, when the herb accumulates the most of essential oil — during the blooming period in August. The best time to harvest is on a clear day, when 30-50 % of the herbs are in bloom. Harvested herbs should be dried in a well-ventilated shed or a special dryer, by spreading a 6-8 cm layer on shelves or wire mesh and turning them over every 2-3 days. If the air is dry, herbs dry out in 12-15 days. The temperature in heated dryers cannot exceed 25-30 °C. The leaves are separated from the stems by grating the raw material through large wire mesh.
Although peppermint is a perennial plant, it is usually grown for no longer than two or, in rare cases, three years. Then the old plants are replaced by new.
Dried leaves must be dark green, fragrant and have a pleasantly cooling flavour. Dried mints should contain no more than 14 % moist, at last 1 % of essential oil, no more than 5 % of stems, truss or very small particles, no more than 1 % of organic and mineral additives, while upon burning it must produce no more than 12 % ash.
Depending on the kind, the amount of essential oil in mint cultivated in Lithuania varies from 1.89 to 3.44 % and includes 32.4-60.9 % of menthol.
Medicine uses peppermint leaf infusion. This soothing remedy relieves cramps and stimulates bile secretion.
Its active substances have various effects on the body’s physiology. They soothe, relieve cramps, stimulate bile secretion, prevent microbe development, reduce pain and expand the coronary arteries. The major active substance is menthol, constituting about 50 % of peppermint essential oil.
Peppermint essential oil is widely used not only in pharmacy, but also food industry, bakery and perfume making.
Practitioners of folk medicine claim that peppermint leave preparations eliminate microbes, relieve pains and cramps, reduce inflammations and stimulate bile secretion. Peppermint also improves appetite, intestinal activity, glandular secretion, digestion, prevents processes of fermentation and decay, nausea, vomiting and gastric cramps. Peppermint preparations can be also used in cases of increased sensitivity and insomnia. This herb gives energy to the heart and eliminates headaches.
Peppermint goes well with other herbs and thus is a popular additive to various herbal mixes, which improve digestion, stimulate bile secretion, perspiration, relieve pains and heart ailments.
Raw or dry mint or peppermint leaves can be used to spice cottage cheese or meat dumplings, meat or fish dishes, as well as salads and soups.
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