Friday, January 11, 2013

Nepitella "Calamint"

Lesser Calamint, Calamintha nepeta (though you might find it labeled C. nepetoides or Satureja nepeta), is often called Nipitella or Nepitella when used for Italian cooking (a better variety for this purpose is C. nepeta subsp. nepeta), and is also often just called Calamint. It is closely related to the Common Calamint (also sometimes just called Calamint) and the Showy Calamint, and not to the Alpine Calamint. At one time the genus Calamintha contained over 30 species, which due to revisions in taxonomy has now been reduced to around 8. Lesser calamint is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 2 feet (60cm) and a spread of 2’6″ (75cm). It prefers neutral to alkaline, light to medium soil and will grow in very alkaline soil where other plants will not survive. It requires full sun. Propagation is by seed sown in heat, by division in Spring or by cuttings in late Spring.
Between the common calamint and lesser calamint, the lesser is the stronger, a great illustration of the concept “less is more”. Both plants are not suitable for use by pregnant women, as they may cause miscarriage.
The part used for medicine is the leaves, which are gathered in July just before flowering, and dried for later use. Lay them out in a single layer out of the sun in an airy place and check them every couple of days, turning them as they dry until they are ready to store in a sealed airtight container out of the light.
Make a standard infusion by pouring 2 1/5 US cups (1 UK pint) boiling water over 1oz (30g) dried or 3 handfuls of fresh leaves. Leave to stand for at least 15 minutes to 4 hours, then strain and use. The dosage is up to 1 cup a day, split into 3 doses.
Calamint can be used to treat flatulence (‘gas‘ or ‘wind‘), painful periods, depression, insomnia, as an expectorant for non-productive coughs, to reduce fevers and induce sweating.

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