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September 19, 2019
As much as it offends my feminist sensibilities, I am sad to say that women fighting over men, who are just not all that, is a theme that goes back as far as stories being told. For example, the Greek mythological story of Mintha, dates between circa 1st century B.C.E. and circa 1st century C.E. That’s right- this story is from around year zero. Mintha, Naiad-nymph of Cocytus, basically a low-level deity assigned to an underworld river, was lover to Hades, god of the underworld. Yes, she was sleeping with her boss. Her situation was kinda OK, until Hades kidnapped and seduced Persephone, who was significantly higher up on the deity social ladder than Mintha. Hades married Persephone because, well, wouldn't want a scandal. Predictably, there was some tension between Mintha and Persephone. The exact details as to who mouthed off first about the other being a god- stealing, underworld skank is open to debate. Also unclear is whether it was Persephone or her mother Demeter who exacted revenge for the jealousy-fuelled, trash talk. But by the end of the story, Mintha is turned to a field of the herb mint. Really, it’s a cautionary tale about sleeping with one’s boss. But it also makes the point that as an herb, mint has a long history. And grows the world over.
Scientific Name”Mentha haplocalyx” Common Name (Western)”Mint, Field Mint, Wild Mint“ Chinese Name (Pin Yin)Bo He Origin You would be hard pressed to find a place where anything grows and mint doesn’t.
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First mentioned in classical Chinese text Lei Gong Pao Zhi Lun (Grandfather Lei’s Treatise on Medicinal Processing) circa 500 C.E., mint has long been mentioned in TCM writings with emphasis on its special preparation method. Mint leaves are traditionally dried and only added to the herbal decoction in the last 5 minutes of cooking, in order to avoid overcooking and losing the volatile oils. If you’ve ever been close enough to smell the air as the bartender muddles the leaves at the bottom of a mojito, you know it doesn’t take much to set those fragrant oils free.
Mint has two main uses in traditional herbal medicine. First, it often appears in formulas for early stage febrile diseases. This is the time when people say something like “I think I feel like I am getting sick with a cold.” Particularly, mint relieves throat irritation. Mint’s other common use is in formulas that combat the effects of emotional stress. While helpful for physical symptoms like tightness in the ribs, it particularly excels at combating emotional instability. More common in past times, mint was also used to help vent rashes, especially in early stage measles. But as my herb professor in school pointed out, we don’t see so many cases of measles these days.
Traditionally, the use of mint was cautioned in cases of extreme weakness in patients recovering from chronic illness. That doesn’t mean it was never used for those patients, it means it had to be combined with other herbs appropriately to protect their constitutional strength. A modern caution is for nursing women, as some sources site the possibility of decreased milk production. I recommend that for women who have established breastfeeding, especially if the baby is also eating solid food and not solely reliant on breast milk for nutritional support, mint is fine.
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