Description: Natural Order, Labiatae. Genus MENTHA: Aromatic herbs, with square stems, opposite leaves, small flowers in close axillary clusters, forming capitate whorls which are sometimes almost approximated into terminal spikes. Calyx tubular bell-shaped, five toothed; corolla with a very short tube, and somewhat bell-shaped and four-cleft border. Stamens four, equal and erect. This whole genus is marked by the distinct fragrance of the entire plant. M. PIPERITA: Stem one to two feet high, easily distinguished from others of the genus by its dark-purple color. Leaves ovate-oblong, short-petiolate, acute, smoothish and very dark-green above, paler and sparingly pubescent below. Flowers in crowded whorls toward the top of the stems, forming blunt, interrupted, and leafy spikes; corollas very small and pale purple; calyx and reduced leaves purplish-green. Root perennial.
This plant is common along water courses and wet places in all parts of our country, flowering from July to September. Its fragrance and pleasant taste depend upon a limited quantity of volatile oil, which is most abundant in the leaves. This oil is very powerful and penetrating, with an agreeable and quite warming taste; is pale lemon color when first obtained, but slowly becomes reddish and increases in density and color by oxidation; and is one of the most extensively used of all the volatile oils.
Properties and Uses: This herb is a diffusive stimulant and relaxant, acting as an anti-spasmodic and carminative. It is mostly used for flatulence and wind colic; but may be employed for other sudden pains and crampings through the abdomen, and in cardialgia, hysteria, etc. Most stomachs receive it gratefully, and it often allays vomiting; yet some persons greatly dislike it, and its stimulating qualities unfit it for use when the stomach is sensitive. Many suppose its action to be identical with that of spearmint, but it is quite a different article. The largest medical use now made of it, is as an adjuvant in preparations designed for diarrhea, cholera morbus, and cholera, in compounds with rhubarb. The infusion may be drank freely.
The oil represents the stimulating qualities of the herb more fully than the relaxing, and on that account is not always so acceptable to the stomach. It is employed for the same general purposes; yet the lack of the diffusive relaxation makes it preferable to employ the herb where it can be done. The oil is often used to advantage as an adjuvant in pills containing unpleasant or strong cathartic agents. A single drop, on sugar, is a fair dose; but it is best given in the form of an essence.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com