Mint is a common and simple herb that actually packs a lot of punch. It has many medicinal and culinary uses. This wonderful tasting aromatic plant has been in use since bible times. It was a common plant grown in gardens. The wild mints were said to start in Egypt and then spread to Israel.
Multiple Historical Uses of Mint
You can find recipes that include mint in the Talmud. In Tractate Avoda Zara a mixture of cumin, soap, mint, wormwood, cedar-blossom, and hyssop is recommended to be used as an ointment, or infused in wine, water, and beer. This was recommended for heart, flatulence, and uterine pains. Mint was commonly taken as a digestive aid. It was used for it’s cooling effects, for rheumatic pain, headaches, and toothaches.
Because mints are so aromatic they were often used for sanitation and to mask odors. Mint was thrown on dirt floors and hung in houses to create a clean, welcoming smell. It was also used as a druid sacred plant, and weaved into roman laurels.
Mints have always had many culinary uses such as seasoning meat, sauces, and salads. It was also placed in milk because it was thought to help preserve it. Mint has been studied for use as a food preservative because of it’s high antioxidant capabilities.
Mint is said to possibly be one of the bitter herbs originally used for Passover because it is bitter when cooked. However it is more likely that it was a wild lettuce.
Mint Mentioned in The Bible
Yeshua mentions mint in Matthew and Luke as one of the spices the pharisees were diligent to tithe. Yeshua was not against their diligence in this matter but against their hypocrisy of not attending to the weightier matters of God’s law and putting their man made laws above God’s law.
“Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah — justice, mercy, trust. These are the things you should have attended to — without neglecting the others!
Matthew 23:23 (CJB)
“But woe to you P’rushim! You pay your tithes of mint and rue and every garden herb, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You have an obligation to do these things — but without disregarding the others!
Luke 11:42 (CJB)
“Every year you must take one tenth of everything your seed produces in the field, and eat it in the presence of Adonai your God.
Deuteronomy 14:22 (CJB)
We can see from these scriptures that during the time of Yeshua people were growing mint in Israel, as it was the agricultural crops that were tithed. It is probable that the mint crops they were tithing from were just small household gardens. In fact the herbs mentioned in Matthew 23:23 above would make a great digestion combination. The mint was probably spearmint as it is an older mint than peppermint.
The Greek word is heduosmon Easton’s Bible dictionary describes it as; mint “having a sweet smell”.
Mint is not found in the Tanakh but is discussed in the Talmud and Jewish literature. Horse mint (Mentha longifolia) grows wild in Israel and sometimes has the nickname biblical mint. Unfortunately it does not have the pleasant aromatic smell of spearmint or peppermint and is even said to be unpleasant smelling. It does still have the beneficial medicinal qualities. It is possible that this was the mint mentioned in the New Testament.
Today the mints are used for medicine, tea, cosmetics, flavoring, essential oil, topical pain relief and much more.
There are 25 true mints but there are over one thousand hybrid varieties. for materia medica purposes we will cover spearmint and peppermint. Both of these herbs have similar medicinal qualities but are used in slightly different ways. Spearmint is the milder of the two and is often more appropriate for children. It is said to be the oldest and probable biblical mint as discussed above.
Spearmint (Mentah spicata), Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Parts used: aerial portions
Properties: Spearmint: antiemetic,Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Carminative, Diuretic, Restorative, Stimulant, Stomachic
Peppermint: diaphoretic, aromatic, carminative, calmative, mild alterative
Uses: Spearmint: fevers, headaches, digestion. Peppermint: cold and flu, fevers, digestion, gas, gallstones, Irritable bowel syndrome, local anesthetic, depression
This is by far not all the uses for the mints, each variety has a slightly different use.
Constituents: Peppermint: essential oil, mentol menthone, fasmone, tannic (labiatic acid), bitter principle
Dosage: 1 tsp to 8 oz water as tea, 1-2 ml tincture 3 times a day
Precautions: The essential oil of peppermint should not be used in children under six. It has been linked with severe respiratory difficulty in young children. Use caution with GI reflux.
Columella Salad Recipe
The recipe I am going to share with you is based off of an ancient Roman salad. We made this recipe for a homeschool project and I fell in love with it. I have only used peppermint in this recipe, however spearmint could work as well. Recipe adapted from Around the Roman Table by Patrick Faas
The original recipe is by weight but I am altering it here and providing volume measurements (not direct conversions).
- 1/2 cup mint
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 1/4 cup parsley
- 1 medium leak
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 8 ounce Salty cheese such as feta
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- bunch of spinach
Chop the herbs very fine. Slice the leak. Mix with nuts and crumbled cheese and put over cut and washed spinach. Add your favorite homemade vinaigrette dressing.
*note- I use cilantro in this recipe, the original recipe says only coriander. Coriander seed would provide a different taste and may be very good. I use Pastures of Eden Israeli sheep feta that can be purchased at Trader Joe’s. When you taste it you will understand why I am in love with that cheese!
Let me know in the comments if you try the recipe and how any alterations come out.