In the past calamint was used to calm hysterical outbursts — the sufferer was given calamint conserve to sip and a posy of the herb was tucked into the bodice so that the strong minty scent would help to clear the head.
Calamint, calamintha officinalis, is a delightful hardy perennial which grows along the hedgerows and country lanes in dry places. It is a bushy plant, covered with soft hairs and growing about 12in (30cm) high. Small rosy-purple flowers grow out of the leaf axils and these bloom in July and August. Calamint is an insignificant little plant not easily found in the wild, but it grows well in the garden and has a lovely minty smell.
Sow calamint seed out of doors in April where it is to flower, thinning the seedlings to a hand’s width apart. Once established, further plants can be raised by taking root cuttings in March.
Flowering tops and leaves are the parts of the herb which are used, either fresh or dried. In July the plant is dried and stored in the usual way.
Calamint is a highly aromatic herb and a cordial tea is helpful in the treatment of colds and influenza as it promotes perspiration. It is also a remedy for flatulence and upset stomachs.
* To make calamint cordial: Boil fresh or dried calamint leaves with honey and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Use 2 tablespoons clear honey and crush as many leaves as possible into it in the pan, add the lemon juice and bring the mixture slowly to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes then remove from the heat and leave to cool. Strain and store in a screwtop bottle. Dilute to taste with hot water.
* For stiff muscles, place crushed fresh calamint leaves on the affected part and secure with a bandage. Leave it in place until the muscle returns to normal.
* A preserve made of the fresh young calamint tops is a remedy for nervous disorders.
* Crushed fresh leaves held under the nose like old- fashioned smelling salts will clear the head and revive those who feel faint.
Dried calamint, both flowering tops and leaves, has a strong enduring scent and can be mixed in with other herbs in a potpourri. It can also be used for a refreshing aromatic bath.
* To make a herbal bath sachet: Take a handful of fresh calamint leaves (half the amount if dried) and mix with an equal quantity of other herbs such as lemon balm or rosemary. Tie the herbs in a piece of muslin or cheesecloth and hang it from the bath tap (faucet) so that the water pours down through the cloth. When in the bath you can use the bag as a fragrant massage pad to rub down the skin.