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Monday, July 2, 2012
AMERICAN MOUNTAIN MINT, THREATENED SPECIES NOW: HISTORY OF USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS
AMERICAN MOUNTAIN MINT, PYCNANTHEMUM PILOSUM
American mountain mint was once used by Native Americans for fevers, indigestion and to regulate a woman’s menstrual flow. It is a native of eastern
North America, but is threatened now in some states so is legally protected, and seems to be extinct in Michigan where it once flourished; it has not been formally documented there since 1952. It is a member of the mint of Lamiaceae or Labiatae family, although assigned to a separate genus than the mints such as peppermint and spearmint which are in the Mentha genus.
It is therefore related to calamint, sage, Jupiter’s sage, horehound, self-heal, the chaste tree and the small-flowered Chaste tree, ground ivy, the teak tree, yellow, purple and white dead nettles, motherwort, fragrant premna, common germander, Cretan dittany, bugle, Scarlet Bee Balm, thyme, Mother of Thyme, and marsh woundwort, oregano and other culinary herbs, as well as to other plants.
It can grow to heights of around five feet and is identified by its clumping together and the flower heads. It flowers in August and September, with seeds ripening in September and October. Another name for this plant is Hairy Mountain Mint.The genus name Pycnanthemum means dense (pyknos in Greek) flowers (anthemom) while pilosum means hairy; the hairs are on the leaves of the plant.
The leaves may be eaten raw and added to salads, and generally used as you would use peppermint. The leaves may be used fresh or dried to make a tisane, which has a delicious menthol taste, and is good with a splash of fresh lemon juice. The flower buds are also edible and it is said that the Native Americans used them to tenderize buffalo meat.
The leaves can be dried and used in a pot pourri and have been used as incense; burning them helps to repel unwelcome insects. They are also used as an ingredient in natural insecticides.
They contain a volatile oil whose main constituents are limonene, meothone and pulegone according to a study carried out in the late 1940s.