Mint Medicine

Mentha spp.

Actions: analgesic, anti-allergic, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial,  anti-nausea,  antioxidant, anti-parasitic, antiseptic,  antispasmodic, antiviral, carminative, cholagogue, choleretic, coolant, diaphoretic, digestive tonic, stimulant, topical anaesthetic

Of the hundreds of varieties and cultivars of the mints, peppermint (M. piperita) is the most used medicinally. It is a cross between water mint and spearmint.  

The German Commission E (equivalent of the FDA) approves the use of fresh or dried peppermint leaf to treat spastic disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and considers it effective in relieving gas in the digestive system. It has been used for hundreds of years for digestive problems, indigestion, bloating, wind and nausea. Peppermint Tea is a common home remedy.

Mint is often added to steam baths for relieving congestion and stuffy nose. It contains menthol, a natural aromatic decongestant that helps to break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel.8 Mint Tea cools and soothes the throat, nose and other parts of the respiratory system and helps alleviate congestion brought on by coughs and colds.

Mint Tea provides quick relief for nausea and may relieve headaches and migraines.You could try simply crushing some fresh mint leaves and rubbing them on your forehead when you feel a headache coming on.

Menthol, the compound in mint leaves that gives them their distinct aroma, also has painkilling and anaesthetic properties. For insect bites, irritated skin, rashes etc. bathe the affected area in Peppermint Tea to cool and soothe. Fresh leaves rubbed on the affected area will reduce the pain of bee and wasp stings.

Mint is a natural anti-microbial agent and breath freshener. Peppermint Tea has a painkilling effect, as a mouthwash can help sore gums and toothache or be used as a  gargle for sore throats.

Peppermint Tea is particularly good for calming the nerves, insomnia and anxiety.

A mild infusion acts as a sedative whilst a stronger infusion acts as a stimulant and a tonic.


Avoid large doses of peppermint if breastfeeding as it can reduce the milk flow.

It should be avoided by those with gallstones, those who have a hiatal hernia or heartburn caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Peppermint should not be given to children under five. Do not take the essential oil internally. Pennyroyal should not be taken internally.

Peppermint Tea

1 tsp. dried mint leaf (or 1 tbsp. of fresh)

250 ml boiling water. Steep together, covered, for 10 minutes.

Peppermint Steam Inhalation

To relieve sinus congestion, put 2 tsp dried peppermint into a bowl of boiling water. Cover and allow to infuse for 5 minutes, remove and then bend over the bowl with a towel over your head. Breathe in the warm steam for 10 minutes. Peppermint is a decongestant and also has relaxing properties which can help a headache.


Mint Lore & Magic

Mentha spp.

Planetary ruler: Venus/Mercury

Element: air

Associated deities: Hecate, Mintha (Minthe, Menthe, Mentha), Pluto, Hades, Zeus

Magical virtues: anaphrodisiac, cleansing, purification, hospitality, thought, memory, death, rebirth

A monk writing during the ninth century said there were so many kinds of mint that he would rather count the sparks of Vulcan’s furnace. [1] It is generally accepted that there are about six species of mint with more than six hundred varieties available which continue to hybridise.  They include water mint (Mentha aquatica), field mint(Mentha arvensis), English horsemint(Mentha longifolia), peppermint(Mentha piperita), and spearmint (Mentha spicata syn. M. viridis or M. sativa). 

The name has a mythological origin: Minthe was a naiad (a water nymph) associated with the river Cocytus. According to the writer Strabo, she became the mistress of Hades (god of the underworld and the dead) but his jealous wife Persephone intervened, trampled upon her and changed Minthe into sweet-smelling garden mint.  [2] There was a hill named after her near Pylos, where there was a temple of Hades and a grove of Demeter, Persephone’s mother, who was sometimes said to have been the one to transform Minthe.  

Mint and death were certainly associated in ancient Greece. It was used in funeral rites, partly because it masked the smell of decay, and partly because it was an ingredient in kykeon, the fermented barley drink used in Demeter and Persephone’s Eleusinian mysteries, which promised a hopeful afterlife for its initiates.

The Latin word mente means ‘thought’ as it was believed that mint stimulated the brain. Pliny advised scholars to wear a crown made from the plant to aid concentration. Gerard said of it: “The smell of Mint does stir up the minde,” and Culpepper commented “Being smelled into, it is comfortable for the head and memory”.  

The Roman poet Ovid wrote that mint was a symbol of hospitality, and had the hospitable Baucis and Philemonon scour their table with fresh mint before setting out food for the gods Zeus and Hermes. Gerard wrote that “the smelle rejoiceth the heart of man, for which cause they used to strew it in chambers and places of recreation, pleasure and repose, where feasts and banquets are made.” Pliny recommended stuffing the cushions used at banquets with mint because “just the smell refreshes our spirits and gives zest to food”. Both Greeks and Romans wore mint as banquet wreaths and used it as table sprays. It was used as a strewing herb into Tudor times,

for places of recreation, and where feasts and banquets were held. Not only was it strewn about to freshen the air, but also to deter mice.

Mint was thought to have a calming, if not to say sobering, effect. The followers of Bacchus wore mint to dispel the effects of wine. [3] Aristotle and others forbade the use of mint by soldiers because it was thought to lessen or destroy their aggressiveness. It even worked as an anaphrodisiac, with Pliny warning lovers against using mint as it would dampen their ardour. Hippocrates believed too much mint could cause impotence.

The Hebrews used mint to was and purify synagogue floors, and it is mentioned as one of the consecration herbs of Solomon. In Italy mint was strewn on the floors of churches and on the ground in religious processions. It is a herb of protection and purification. It can be hung in the home or used in charm bags and protection amulets. A mint infusion can be used to cleanse the ritual area, working tools, added to the final rinse for robes or added to the pre-ritual bath. 

Traditionally it was gathered at dawn on St. John’s Day (Midsummer) and kept until Christmas, and legend had it that if it was then placed on the high altar, the dried leaves would revive. Mint is one of the sacred herbs of Midsummer and its powers are strongest when gathered on midsummer morning. It can be dried for use later in the year, or used in the food, decorations, garlands etc. for the Midsummer rites.

Mint is a restorative and can be taken after long rituals, trance work or vision quests. It stimulates the brain and the tea may be taken before ritual or during any studying you are carrying out. Peppermint tea can be drunk to encourage prophetic dreams. Use the tea and incense if you have a big decision to make, while you meditate on the prospect.

[1] Lesley Bremness, The Complete Book of Herbs: A Practical Guide to Growing & Using Herbs, Viking, 1994

[2] Strabo, Geographica VIII.3.14.

[3] Jeanne D’Andréa, Ancient Herbs In the J. Paul Getty Museum Gardens, ©1982 The J. Paul Getty Museum

Herbs in June

My vegetable plot is yielding plenty of salad vegetables and soft fruits now, and I’m having to water the greenhouse copiously. This is my busiest time of year in the herb garden, when most of my herbs are at their best. As well as using fresh herbs for cooking, I am industriously collecting and drying leaves and flowers, as well preparing tinctures, oils, vinegars and salves. Mother Earth is in full bearing, and the Sun God pours his energy into the plants, so that this is the time when they are filled with power. This is why the Sun God in every mythology is the patron of healing.  This is the most potent time of year to collect many herbs for magical purposes too, and I will be trying to lay in a good enough supply of herbs to last the year

I collect mint (Mentha spp.) for tea and for ritual cleansing, oregano for spells of love and friendship, and to add to skin care products, St John’s wort to make macerated oil and tincture, fennel(Foeniculum vulgare syn. Anethum foeniculum), to honour the Sun God, and for protection, dill(Anethum graveolens syn. Peucedanum graveolens) for upset stomach and protection spells.

Elder flowers, sacred to the Mother of the Elves, are gleaming white in the hedgerows, and I make sure to collect and dry a good supply of these to use for fevers and hay fever, as well as skin lotions, elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne.

Peonies for Your Skin

Paeonia sp.

Peonies have become a buzz ingredient in commercial skin formulas, especially those for mature skin.  They contain a chemical called paeoniflorin, which reduces wrinkles.  

Macerated Peony Oil

You can try making your own Peony Petal Infused Oil to use neat on your skin or add it to your homemade moisturisers. 

Pack a clean glass jar with peony flowers. Cover them in vegetable oil and fit a lid. Leave on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks, shaking daily. Strain into a clean jar.

Peony Skin Exfoliant Scrub

Alternatively, make a Peony Skin Exfoliant Scrub, wet your skin with water and massage the scrub very gently into your face or body to remove dead cells and leave your skin cleansed and glowing.

To make, put some sugar in a blender with a few peony petals and give them a short blend.  You can add a few drops of your favourite skin oil to this if you like.

Bath-time Treats

Drop a few fresh or dried peony petals into your bath for a relaxing soak that will soothe your skin or make some bath bombs:

Peony Bath Bombs

300 gm bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

150 gm citric acid

4 tbsp dried petals

Few drops essential oil

Spray bottle of water. 

Combine the ingredients in a dry bowl.  Very carefully, a tiny bit at a time, spray water into the mix.  You need to add just enough to make the mixture stick together, and this will be less than you think.  Fashion into balls or press into moulds. 

Peony Medicine

Paeonia sp.

Actions: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antipathogenic, antitumor, hepatoprotective

Peonies have been used medicinally since ancient times.  In Chinese traditional herbalism, peony root (Bai Shao) is still used in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including gout, menstrual cramps, migraine and hepatitis. 

In Europe, the mediaeval monks grew them in their herb gardens, while the English herbalist Culpepper stated that the ‘male’ peony could cure falling sickness and the ‘female’ could drive away nightmares.   

It’s connection with healing goes deep.  It was named by Theophrastus in honour of Paeon, who is said to have used it to cure wounds in the Trojan War.  [1] He is said to have received the flower from Leto, the mother of Apollo, on Olympus, and used it to cure Hades of a wound received in a fight with Herakles.  [2] Paeon was a pupil of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine.  However, Asclepius became jealous of his clever pupil and sought to kill him, but Zeus rescued the youth by changing him into a peony flower.  Sometimes, however, Paeon is used as an epithet of the sun god Apollo, who had aspects as a healer god himself, dispelling sickness just as he dispelled darkness and negativity as he rose as the sun each day.  Sometimes, Paeon is used as a sobriquet of Asclepius himself. 

The Root

The dried and powdered root is used medicinally.  All peony species contain high amounts of anti-inflammatory glucosides, but paeoniflorin is the most abundant one, and it is largely responsible for peony’s medicinal actions, though other compounds likely play a role as well.

A decoction of the dried and powdered roots may be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, muscle spasms and menstrual cramps, mild depression and anxiety. 

The Flowers

Peony has mildly sedative effects, and a tea made from the petals may be taken before bed. The petals make a soothing cough syrup:  

Peony Cough Syrup
2 fresh peony flowers

600 ml/ 1 pint boiling water

450 gm/ 1 lb sugar

½ tsp cloves

Pour the boiling water over the peony flowers and leave for 48 hours, covered.  Strain. Add the sugar and cloves and boil for 40 minutes.  Bottle and keep in the fridge.

CAUTION: Peony is generally considered safe, though an overdose can lead to a stomach upset.  It should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women; peony is an emmenagogue (i.e., it is capable of stimulating menstruation).  Do not take if you are on blood thinning medication, or for two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

[1] Wilfred Blunt, Flowers Drawn from Nature, Leslie Urquhart Press, 1957

[2] Mrs C.F.Leyel, Herbal Delights, Faber, 1937

When do the Four Seasons Begin?

Read about the four seasons, and you will find that there are different dates on which they begin.

Astronomical seasons, for example, use the solstices and equinoxes to divide the year, with spring beginning on the vernal equinox, summer beginning on the summer solstice, autumn beginning on the autumn equinox, and winter at the winter solstice.

On the other hand, the meteorological seasons (in the northern hemisphere) are based on the annual temperature cycle, so spring will always start on 1 March, summer on 1 June, autumn on 1 September, and winter on 1 December.

However, the old names of the festivals of Midsummer, 21 June (in the northern hemisphere) and Midwinter, 21 December (in the northern hemisphere) tell us our ancestors counted the divisions of the year in quite a different way, according to the light of the Sun. The days of greatest darkness fall from Samhain to Imbolc, with Yule at the midpoint, giving us a solar winter. The days of greatest light fall from Beltane to Lughnasa, with the summer solstice at midpoint, giving us a solar summer; the old song tells us “Summer is a comin’ in” on May Day, or Beltane. The Irish call Lughnasa the first day of autumn. The Craft defines the seasons as follows, which draws on the old ways of counting the year, and reflects the relationship of the Sun and Earth:

Winter – Samhain to Imbolc Eve

Spring – Imbolc to Beltane Eve

Summer – Beltane to Lughnasa Eve

Autumn – Lughnasa to Samhain Eve



The whole plant is rich in vitamin C. The plant’s hook-like bristles soften when cooked. The young leaves or whole tender shoots can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable or can be added to soups and stews. The aerial parts may be juiced as a spring tonic drink. Cleavers belongs to the coffee family and its seeds may be ground to make a coffee substitute. A mesh can be made from overlapping cleaver shoots to make a mesh sieve for straining hot oil ointments. The roots yield a red dye when mixed with alum.


A strong infusion of cleavers is a good deodorant.


Cleavers infusion, or the juiced plant, makes a cleansing spring tonic; it has diuretic properties and is good for the lymphatic system. This may benefit rheumatism in particular. Cleavers tea may help induce a relaxing sleep. Applied topically, cleavers infusion or oil will help relieve itching, and may benefit skin conditions like eczema. A poultice of cleavers may be applied to staunch bleeding, treat wounds, scalds, burns, sunburn, and irritated skin.


None known, but and avoid using medicinal amounts during pregnancy or when breastfeeding as a precaution.

Clover Medicinal Uses:

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Actions: anti-inflammatory, laxative, expectorant, phytoestrogen

The flower heads and young leaves of the red clover are used medicinally.  Pick newly opened flowers in early summer.  The plant should be dried quickly, as if it ferments the coumarin it contains converts to dicoumarol, which is a blood thinner. 

Red clover is used to treat PMS and menopausal symptoms.  It contains chemicals called isoflavones, which are as phyto (plant-derived) oestrogens, with an oestrogenic effect to maintain normal oestrogen levels.  Taking Red Clover Tea may help delay osteoporosis in women who have not yet reached menopause.  Some find it a relief for hot flushes.

Red Clover Tea improves the elimination of toxins, increases the flow of urine, moves mucus out of the lungs, increases bile and is a gentle laxative.  It is a soothing expectorant for coughs, bronchitis. 

Red Clover Flower Macerated Oil contains calcium and magnesium which can help ease muscle pain and tension.  Use as a massage oil.  It is also good for rashes, eczema and psoriasis.

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

Actions: analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antiscrophulatic, antiseptic, blood cleansing, depurative, expectorant,  tonic

White Clover Tea can be used to treat fever, coughs and colds, and its antirheumatic and analgesic (pain killing) properties make it useful for rheumatic aches, arthritis and gout.   Use it, cooled, as an eye wash or to clean wounds. 

Like red clover, white clover is anti-inflammatory.  In the form of poultices, the mashed flowers of clover applied directly to the skin helps insect bites and small wounds. 



Do not take medicinal amounts if pregnant or breast feeding, or if you have hormone-dependent conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or cancers of the breast, ovaries or uterus.  Men with prostate cancer should also avoid taking red clover.  Do not use medicinal amounts if you are on antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs, oestrogen replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, or tamoxifen.  

Red Clover Tea

4 to 6 flowers red clover flowers

250 ml/1 cup boiling water

Infuse 10 to 15 minutes and strain.  Take 3-4 cups a day, or when you are having a hot flush.  You can take 5-6 weeks for acne, constipation, eczema, psoriasis, swollen glands, coughs and bronchitis.  

White Clover Tea

4 to 6 flowers white clover flowers

250 ml/ 1 cup boiling water

Pour the boiling water onto the flowers.  Infuse 10 to 15 minutes and strain.  Drink hot, with a little honey if liked or try cooling, adding mint sprigs and ice cubes for an iced clover tea. 

© Anna Franklin, The Hearth Witch’s Garden Herbal, Llewellyn, 2023

Eat Your Clover!

Both red clover and white clover are edible.  Clovers are high in protein, contain trace minerals, beta carotene, plus vitamins B and C.  The leaves have a grassy taste, and the flowers are sweet if picked on a sunny day. 

The flowers can be made into herb teas.  They are lovely added fresh to a salad, especially potato salad.  You can freeze the blossoms in ice cubes to jazz up drinks and cocktails.  The flowers of red clover make a lovely wine.  Clover flowers (red or white) can be dusted with flour and pan fried in oil to make a crispy snack.

The leaves can be added raw to salads or cooked in soups, stews and sauces. 

The seeds can be soaked and sprouted.  A flour can be made from the dried, ground up flowers and seed pods.  Sprinkle this on cooked food. 

Red Clover Tea

4 to 6 flowers red clover flowers

250 ml/1 cup boiling water

Infuse 10 to 15 minutes and strain.  Take 3-4 cups a day, or when you are having a hot flush.  You can take 5-6 weeks for acne, constipation, eczema, psoriasis, swollen glands, coughs and bronchitis.  

White Clover Tea

4 to 6 flowers white clover flowers

250 ml/ 1 cup boiling water

Pour the boiling water onto the flowers.  Infuse 10 to 15 minutes and strain.  Drink hot, with a little honey if liked or try cooling, adding mint sprigs and ice cubes for an iced clover tea. 

Red Clover Wine

2 litres/ 2 quarts red clover flowers

4.5 litres/1 gallon water

3 lemons

2 oranges

900 gm/2 lb.  sugar


Put the flowers in a brewing bin and pour over the boiling water.  Add the juice of the oranges and lemons.   Cool to lukewarm (20 degrees centigrade/ 68 degrees Farenheit) and add the started yeast.  Ferment for 5 days, strain into demijohn and fit an airlock.

Clover Flour

Pick as many white clover flowers as you would like.  Dry them thoroughly, preferably in a dehydrator.  Grind them up in a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar.  You will be left with a gluten free flour that tastes like peas.

© Anna Franklin, The Hearth Witch’s Garden Herbal, Llewellyn, 2023

Lemon Balm (Melissa)

Melissa officinalis

The genus name melissa comes from the Greek meaning ‘bee’. Bees are particularly attracted to the lemon balm and Pliny wrote that “bees are delighted with this herb above all others”. [i] It was sacred to the moon goddess Artemis and used medicinally by the Greeks over two thousand years ago. Lemon balm has a happy reputation as a healing and refreshing plant. In Southern Europe it is called ‘heart’s delight’ and ‘the elixir of life’.


The lemon-scented leaves are used for flavouring food and drinks. Sprinkle in salads, make a lemon balm herb butter, or add to soups, vinegars and sauces, cakes and cookies.  Make a refreshing lemon balm leaf tea, add sprigs to iced tea and cocktails. Try flavouring gins and liqueurs with lemon balm leaves.


Lemon balm is antibacterial, astringent, anti-inflammatory and slightly drying, which helps reduce skin irritation, particularly when treating acne, blocked pores and blackheads. Add to homemade facial toners, use as a facial wash or add to a facial steam. Add to homemade sun and after sun lotions, to protect from UV damage.  Use an infusion as a rinse for greasy hair. It is also refreshing and reviving when added to the bath water.


The aerial parts are used. Lemon balm tea is calming to the central nervous system, used for anxiety, depression, tension, nervous palpitations and anxiety caused digestive problems. The infusion or tincture used to treat nervous headaches, anxiety and mild depression. It is antiviral and particularly good for cold sores – dab on the infusion. Apply the salve or fresh leaves to insect stings, insect bites, spots, boils and sores.


Lemon balm can cause side effects in some individuals, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and dizziness. Avoid large amounts during pregnancy and breast feeding, if you are taking sedative medications, two weeks before surgery or if you have an underactive thyroid.

[i] Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Penguin Classics, Random House, London, 1991