Peruvian Mint

| 1/24/2013 9:42:05 AM

Peruvian mint leavesAt some point in the mid 1980s, we’d acquired a vining succulent plant which we’d never seen before. The seller at the flea market told us the plant was called Peruvian Mint. We planted it in the yard and it spread and spread. I especially liked where I planted it along paths, and when I walked there, the crushed leaves would perfume the air with its mintiness.

We had so much of it that we began to pot and sell it when we went to farmers markets and flea markets. One day in the early 1990s, while selling potted Peruvian mint at the Pasadena City College flea market, we met a man who told us that he was the one who introduced this plant into the United States. (I don’t recall his name). We had no reason to doubt him, and he explained that he’d introduced the plant about 10 or so years earlier. That explained why we’d not seen the plant in earlier years.

It took us awhile to learn the Latin name for this plant. Though sometimes called Peruvian mint elsewhere, we also saw people calling it the Vick’s plant, as in the Vick’s cough drops, because of the plant’s strong aroma resembling cough medicine. The Latin name is Plectranthus cylindraceus, and also known as P. marrubioides. It turns out that the plant is originally from South Africa, not from Peru.

Over the years, we’ve made minty infusions from the leaves and drank it just for flavor. It’s good with or without sweeteners. It is strongly mint flavored, with a touch of eucalyptus flavor.

We have also taken the leaves, rubbed them between our hands to mush them up, and then applied the mush to minor cuts, wounds and skin conditions with generally favorable results.

Due to its strong aroma, we’ve found that the mushed-up leaves can also be used as a body deodorant.

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