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The Spearmint (Mentha viridis) is found growing apparently wild in England, but is probably not an indigenous herb. It occurs in watery places, and on the banks of rivers, such as the Thames, and the Exe. If used externally, its strong decoction will heal chaps and indolent eruptions.
It possesses a warm, aromatic odour and taste, much resembling those of Peppermint, but not so pungent. Its volatile oil, and its essence, made with spirit of wine, contain a similar stimulating principle, but are less intense, and therefore better adapted for children's maladies.
The Spearmint is called "Mackerel Mint," and in Germany "Lady's Mint," with a pun on the word munze. Its name, Spear, or Spire, indicates the spiry form of its floral blossoming. When the leaves of the herb are macerated in milk, this curdles much less quickly than it otherwise would; and therefore the essence is to be commended for use with milk diets by delicate persons, or for young children of feeble digestive powers, though not when feverishness is present.
"Spearmint," says John Evelyn, "is friendly to the weak stomach, and powerful against all nervous crudities." "This is the Spearmint that steadies giddiness," writes Alfred Austin, Poet Laureate.
Our cooks employ it with vinegar for making the mint sauce which we eat with roast lamb, because of its condimentary virtues as a spice to the immature meat, whilst the acetic acid of the vinegar serves to help dissolve the crude albuminous fibre.
The oil is less used than that of Peppermint. From two to five drops may be given on sugar; or from half to one teaspoonful of the spirit of Spearmint with two tablespoonfuls of water. Also a distilled water of Spearmint is made, which will relieve hiccough, and flatulence, as well as the giddiness of indigestion.
The tincture prepared from the dried herb looks of a bright dark green by day, but of a deep red colour by night. Martial called the Spearmint Rutctatrix mentha. "Nec deest ructatrix mentha."