CalamintBotanical Name: Calamintha officinalis (MOENCH)
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Synonyms: Mill Mountain. Mountain Balm. Basil Thyme. Mountain Mint.
Part Used: Herb.
Description: Calamint belongs to a genus closely related to both the Thymes and to Catnep and Ground Ivy.
It is an erect, bushy plant with square stems, rarely more than a foot high, bearing pairs of opposite leaves, which, like the stems, are downy with soft hairs. The flowers bloom in July and August, and are somewhat inconspicuous, drooping gracefully before expansion: the corollas are of a light purple colour.
The plant grows by waysides and in hedges, and is not uncommon, especially in dry places. It may be cultivated as a hardy perennial, propagated by seeds sown outdoors in April, by cuttings of side shoots in cold frames in spring, or by division of roots in October and April.
Constituents: It contains a camphoraceous, volatile, stimulating oil in commonwith the other mints. This is distilled by water, but its virtues are better extracted by rectified spirit.
Medicinal Actions and Uses: Diaphoretic, expectorant, aromatic. The whole herb has a sweet, aromatic odour and an infusion of the dried leaves, collected about July, when in their best condition and dried in the same way as Catmint tops, makes a pleasant cordial tea, which was formerly much taken for weaknesses of the stomach and flatulent colic. It is useful in hysterical complaints, and a conserve made of the young fresh tops has been used, for this purpose. Culpepper says that it 'is very efficacious in all afflictions of the brain,' that it 'relieves convulsions and cramps, shortness of breath or choleric pains in the stomach or bowels,' and that 'it cures the yellow jaundice.' He also recommends it, taken with salt and honey, for killing worms: 'It relieves those who have the leprosy, taken inwardly, drinking whey after it, or the green herb outwardly applied, and that it taketh away black and blue marks in the face, and maketh black scars become well coloured, if the green herb (not the dry) be boiled in wine and laid to the place or the place washed therewith.' He also considers it 'helpful to them that have a tertian ague,' and beneficial in all disorders of the gall and spleen.
Gerard says, 'the seede cureth the infirmities of the hart, taketh away sorrowfulnesse which commeth of melancholie, and maketh a man merrie and glad.'
The LESSER CALAMINT (Calamintha nepeta) is a variety of the herb possessing almost superior virtues, with a stronger odour, resembling that of Pennyroyal, and a moderately pungent taste somewhat like Spearmint, but warmer. It is scarcely distinct from C. officinalis, and by some botanists is considered a sub-species. The leaves are more strongly toothed, and it bears its flowers on longer stalks. Both this and the Common Calamint seem to have been used indifferently in the old practice of medicine under the name of Calamint.
The name of the genus, Calamintha, is derived from the Greek Kalos (excellent because of the ancient belief in its power to drive away serpents and the dreaded basilisk - the fabled king of the serpents, whose very glance was fatal.