Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mint Magic: From the Mundane to the Mystical


By Mikereichold via Wikimedia Commons
Many people connect with the spirit of Mint on a daily basis, perhaps without realizing it. The popularity of Mint (Mentha spp.) is huge: it's in our mouthwash and toothpaste, in soaps and bath salts, in sprays and vapor rubs, in candies and flavorings, even in menthol cigarettes. One thing is for sure--Mint knows how to get around!

To be clear, this post will treat Mint as a singular plant spirit, even though there are many species. Although most of my experience has been with Peppermint and Spearmint, all varieties of Mint have similar medicinal properties. It's generally accepted that Peppermint is one of the most potent varieties, while Spearmint has a gentler effect. So, in talking about medicinal uses, I usually refer to Peppermint. But because these plants cross-pollinate so easily, I suspect that they have either a single plant spirit or a set of very similar personalities. Regardless, I felt the need to clarify.

In fact, clarity is a major key word for Mint. After many years of wondering what this plant was about on the archetypal or spiritual level, it's now begun to teach me a few of its lessons. As a result, I've come up with a list of words that help to sum up this plant's powers:


Mint's Magic Words:
 Clarity, Inner Truth, Boundaries, Focus,
Personal Path, Individuality, Discernment



 A Solar Plexus Remedy

Peppermint is a superb remedy for nausea, hiccups, irritable bowel syndrome, gas, indigestion, and cramps in the gastrointestinal tract. But these are only the physical uses of Mint. The digestive system is linked with the solar plexus, the third chakra that sits a few inches above the belly button. This energy center is the seat of our personal power and self esteem, as well as a potent area of intuition. The solar plexus is like our personal sun--it provides the energy needed to fuel our actions, helping us manifest our hopes and dreams into reality. It also governs confidence, a necessary foundation to pursuing what we love.

Physically, the solar plexus holds a bundle of nerves connected to the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. These nerves form an intricate system that help us with intuition and discernment. Ever had a "gut feeling" before? That's your solar plexus doing its job. It can tell you when something isn't right, when someone is deceiving you--or when you're on the right track. Mint boosts the power of the solar plexus, helping us tune in to our inner truth.

I find that Peppermint is especially good for the kind of nausea that comes from "worrying yourself
sick." This makes Mint a wonderful remedy for Cancers or people with a strong Cancer influence in their astrological chart. Cancer, the archetypal mother, is well-known for its tendency to worry, especially about family matters. Peppermint is also a good choice for worrying moms (or nurturing dads) of any sign of the zodiac. It can help you release worry and nervousness, making it easier to discern the fine line between fear and intuition.

Chew on This

According to the Flower Essence Repertory, the essence of Peppermint is used to aid decision making, intuition, and thinking capacities of all kinds. Interestingly, they also emphasize the connection between food and the mind. The Flower Essence Society specifically recommends Peppermint for those struggling with eating disorders, or people who feel mentally sluggish after a meal:

"Those who need this remedy have a struggle between the lower and upper parts of their being, especially between the metabolic/digestive forces and the thinking/creative forces."

There's another connection to the solar plexus--the notion that food and digestion are closely linked with our ability to perceive and understand the world around us. Indeed, the solar plexus is often referred to as our "second brain." Louise Hay sees the digestive system as a physical manifestation of our ability to digest ideas and experiences. Her affirmation to heal indigestion is, "I digest and assimilate all new experiences peacefully and joyfully."

If this is you after a meal, try some Peppermint!
This explains why a plant that acts upon the digestive system can also help the mind function clearly. Think of how our language reflects this deeper truth: To "ruminate" means to literally chew something, like a cow chews its cud, but the word also means to ponder or think about an idea. Another example is when we find something "hard to swallow." The term "chew on this" is also a good example--and oddly enough, this phrase was a slogan for Trident gum back in the '90s. I can't help but love how pervasive the Mint plant spirit is--it even infiltrated our mundane television commercials in the hopes of getting us to connect with our solar plexus!

Mental Clarity

In aromatherapy, Peppermint essential oil is often used to foster wakefulness and mental clarity. If you have a long road trip coming up, I recommend bringing along a bottle and having a whiff any time you feel fatigued. It's ability to treat nausea also makes it a nice companion on the road. Plus, Mint is good for treating headaches--just rub the essential oil into the temples and forehead for migraines or headaches caused by nervousness, illness, or information overload.

As an aside, I once toured a major bulk herbs farm that happened to be processing Peppermint at the time. The scene took place in a warehouse surrounded by all of these crazy machines (see below). It was like Willy Wonka's Herbal Factory.






The green stuff in the basin is Peppermint.






The scent of Peppermint was so intense that it made my eyes water. Talk about clarity--I was wide awake after that!

Gardening Woes: Reaping What You Sow

Not only does Mint get around the world in the form of candy and cigarettes, but it also gets around in the garden. This is where the strength of Mint's will power really shows--it absolutely takes over! It spreads aggressively via underground runners, and once it's there, it's nearly impossible to eradicate. Almost nothing will kill this plant!

I made the mistake of planting Spearmint in my garden with the rest of my herbs a few years ago. The first year, it seemed like a normal, healthy plant. By year two, it began taking over. Its runners had spread underneath the roots of other plants, so I couldn't really get the Mint out without hurting my St. John's Wort and other herbs. I started pulling it out like crazy. But, I knew I couldn't just throw it in the compost pile, as it would take root there as well. I don't use chemical weed killers, so I tried dumping it in various pots and five-gallon buckets to dry it out. It didn't work--apparently Mint can also live without water for long periods of time. Instead, what I got were tons of starts for new Mint plants (oh, joy). I felt like the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia--if you don't know what I'm talking about, watch this clip:

 

Thus, it's really best to grow Mint in pots, or else in a very secluded area. To keep the runners from spreading, you'll have to make a barrier by burying something--like a sheet of metal or a wooden board--several inches into the soil all around your Mint plot.

Of course, anything unpleasant is usually ripe with lessons. As I plotted to kill my own beloved garden plants, I started thinking about how the aggressive nature of the Mint plant reflects the importance of boundaries. It was a reminder that sometimes when you have a strong path to follow, it's best to grow alone. Just because you can plant yourself into various and sundry situations doesn't mean that you should. Mint brings us the clarity to know when to act upon opportunities that present themselves, and when not to. Sometimes, strong boundaries and solitude are exactly what we need to thrive. Mint helps us hone in on what will actually nourish us in the long run.

Plants teach us lessons in various ways, but for me it often takes the form of synchronicity. When a particular plant keeps coming up, I look to the rest of my life to see if what is going on might reflect an aspect of the plant spirit. With Mint, I began to detect a pattern--the plant was teaching me ways that my own life needs focus.


My Story

I live in a small community of people who, over the years, have seen me follow various dreams: singing/songwriting, theatrical performance, and making herbal products as a cottage business. Even though I have put each of these projects on hold to focus on writing, people still ask (and sometimes
badger) me to provide herbal products or perform.

As much as I find it heart-warming that people appreciated my former ventures, and as much as I enjoyed them myself, the Universe was simply not backing them. I derived no nourishment from these endeavors; not only was I not making money, but my energy had become scattered. It became clear that the Universe was backing my writing projects, so I had to surrender and go with the flow.

The fact that the community still knows me for my former projects serves as a kind of ongoing test of my inner truth. Because I enjoyed playing music, for example, each time someone suggests a collaboration I am tempted to go for it. And yet, each time I take even one step in that direction, the obstacles return. Just because I can doesn't mean that I should. I have to honor the truth of where I am being guided right now--where my true nourishment lies--even if it means disappointing others.

As I dealt with my Mint meltdown in the garden, I began to realize just how much the situation resembled my life. I was having to weed out something I once cultivated. The lesson? Mint teaches us to be careful of what we start. Some things, once begun, persist long after we'd like them to. 

Peppermint Flowers by Dinnye via Wikimedia Commons

Inner Truth

Another curious quality of the Mint plant is its easy cross-pollination with other mints growing nearby. This means that if you grow more than one kind of Mint, you can't count on using its seeds to grow new plants, because you won't know what you're getting. I once tried to grow Peppermint from seed, and it came up as a rather tasteless variety. In order to get a good, strong Peppermint flavor, it's best to seek out a cutting from someone who grows it. Believe me--they probably won't mind!
 
Like my lesson in boundaries, this fun fact reflects a deeper truth about the Mint plant spirit. This time, it's a lesson in discernment. It's also about valuing individuality, rather than losing oneself in the crowd of others' thoughts, beliefs, patterns, and behaviors.

Mint recently came up for me in a situation that illustrates this lesson. Someone had sprigs of fresh Peppermint to share with the group. As the Mint was passed around, I overheard another person talking about me. The whispered message implied that I wasn't nearly as wise as the person doing the talking. And my supposed lack of wisdom was about one of the very things I am most passionate for--herbal medicine.

By VaughnSaball via Wikimedia Commons
To top it off, it was already a vulnerable moment for me, as I was worried about a family member. (Sound familiar? I'm a Cancer rising, after all.) I just-so-happened to have given her a mislabeled remedy a couple hours before--a total disaster when you're a recovering perfectionist. So, I briefly succumbed to believing what was being said about me. I went into a downward spiral as feelings of unworthiness crept in. I felt sick. I wasn't a good herbalist--not to be trusted, not good enough.(Remember the connection between the solar plexus and self esteem?)

Then, with the taste of Peppermint on my tongue, I experienced a moment of clarity. I realized that I need not believe these stories, that I had plenty of wisdom--it was simply of a different kind than most people's. I ran the doubter's words through my solar plexus, and they did not ring true--instead, I decided to value my individuality. I realized that I was being underestimated, but that it was perfectly okay. I trusted that I need not get my ego involved by jumping and shouting about my gifts--they will find the right people at the right time. In that moment, the truth set me free.

Manipura Mandala by Morgan Phoenix via Wikimedia Commons

Practical Uses of Mint's Magic

One of my all-time favorite things is uncovering the mystical hidden within the mundane. Mint certainly possesses qualities of both. It pervades everything from chewing gum commercials to ash trays, and yet it brings along deep lessons if we learn how to see them. To honor this omnipresent plant spirit, here are some tips for bringing Mint magic into your life:

  • If you have a major decision to make, enjoy a cup of Mint tea while you're ruminating.   
  • Try Peppermint flower essence for balancing digestion and mental clarity. Here is a link to directions on how make your own flower essences.
  •  Before beginning a new project, take a drop of Peppermint tincture onto your tongue and meditate on whether or not it is really meant for you.
  • If you need to work on making stronger boundaries with people, combine Mint with Yarrow in the form of a tea, tincture, or flower essence.
  • If healing from destructive family patterns (or even if you're just worried about disappointing your parents), combine Peppermint with Black Walnut.
  • Combine Peppermint with Spilanthes when trying to find an area of focus for your life.
  • Honor Mint's presence in your toothpaste and gum by appreciating the healing effects on your digestion and state of mind.
  • Remember that Mint comes in many forms, so it can be used many ways. Keep a sprig of the fresh herb in your water bottle. Rub the essential oil on your temples for headaches or on your belly for stomachaches. Drink a cup of Mint tea, or create a tincture for a fast, potent remedy.
  • And, most of all, call upon the spirit of Mint any time you need help accessing one of Mint's Magic Words: Clarity, Inner Truth, Boundaries, Focus, Personal Path, Individuality, and Discernment.

6 comments:

  1. This was a lovely post! I stumbled across your blog researching yarrow, and I have loved reading everything on here! Mint is one of my very favorite herbs, and I crave mint tea all the time. I run out of it frequently. I love how hardy mint is. I threw it in a pot this summer and absolutely abused it (forgot to water via miserable Texas heat). When I remembered and got back at it, it sprouted up stronger than ever!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Brandi! It's always great to hear when someone connects with what I'm putting out there. It sounds like you and Mint have a lovely connection. :)

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Sarah,
    Thank you for this enlightening article on mint. I am a cancer ascendant too, no wonder I suffer migraines when emotionally strained. I have a potted mint growing in my balcony and its right where I like to sit. I drink it as a tea and also add it to the milk tea (black tea) we drink here in India and also in salads. I was wondering about the plant spirit and what lessons I had to learn. I couldn't agree more on the part about boundaries. I could go on and on about all the things that resonated with me. This was very helpful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for the feedback, Sabrina! It sounds like you have a beautiful connection with Mint. :)

      Delete