Mesosphaerum suaveolens: American mint

Family: Lamiaceae
Common name: American mint, Bush mint, Hyptis suaveolens, Horehound, Pignut, Chan, Stinking roger, Spikenard, Wild spikenard

American mint, for all its fancy name, is a weed seen in all empty plots, roadsides and hillsides in India. They grow proliferously reaching a height of 1-2 meters with a hairy stem that is square in cross section.

With time, the lower part of the stem becomes thick, woody and brownish green in color; but the upper branches of stems are thin and green. Small rounded leaves are about 5-10 centimeters long, and have a strong minty smell when crushed.

Flowers are tiny, pink or purple, arranged in closely packed bunches at the tip of the stem. They are two-lipped, each lip further divided into lobes. Sepals are very prominent and fused, with tiny green spikes at the top. These sepals become even bigger after the flowers die to house the seeds, which are dark brown or black, flattened circles.

These seeds turn mucilaginous when they are placed in the mouth or when they come into contact with water. They soaked seeds are used in beverages, juices, or in puddings to give it an interesting texture.

Young shoots are used as food flavoring and leaves are used to make herbal tea as a mint substitute. American mint plants also have many medicinal uses. The roots are used in treatment of uterine ailments and rheumatism. The plant is used to treat stomach disorders, fever and cold.

Poultice made from leaves is used in treatment of dermatitis, wounds, snakebites, sores, fungal infections and other skin diseases. Leaves have insecticidal properties and can be used to treat bedbug infestations. Essential oils derived from the leaves have pesticidal and insecticidal properties.

American mint plants produce abundant seeds that are dispersed by wind, water, animal fur or human clothing. The long spikes on the sepals help them to cling on to almost any surface, providing easy transportation and dispersal of seeds. This is the primary reason these plants are considered as invasive species. They also grow rapidly and can choke surrounding vegetation and cultivated crops.

Propagation is through seeds.

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