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Yerba Buena, "The Good Herb"

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

When I was growing up, a cup of yerba buena was the answer for all the world’s problems. When I was at my grandmother’s house, whether I was cold, hot, sad, sick, happy or excited—I needed a cup of yerba buena. I knew it was a cup of herbal tea, I just didn’t know exactly what it was. I later discovered that “yerba buena” is a mint that means “the good herb.” With so many mint varieties, it took a little investigation to learn that spearmint was the mint variety that cured it all—well, according to my grandmother.

Spearmint, also known as garden mint, common mint, lamb mint and mackerel mint, is a species of mint, Mentha spicata, native to Europe and southern Asia. It is grown in many other temperate parts of the world, including northern and southern Africa, North America and South America. Mention of spearmint dates back to at least the 1st century AD, and even has mentions in the Bible. Spearmint grew in popularity during the period of the American Revolution due to the fact that mints, along with other herbal teas, were not taxed by the British government.

Spearmint is a perennial plant that is easy to grow. It is best to grow it in pots since is can be quite invasive. I grow two pots of spearmint to keep up with the demand in my household! My family loves to infuse the spearmint leaves in water to make a soothing spearmint herbal tea. This aromatic and versatile herb is used not only as an herbal tea, but as a flavoring in food and essential oil. Spearmint leaves can be used fresh or dried and can be preserved in salt, sugar, sugar syrup, alcohol, or oil. Spearmint is an ingredient in several mixed drinks, such as the mojito and mint julep. Sweet tea, iced and flavored with spearmint, is a summer tradition in the Southern United States. Although I love many herbs for my herbal teas, I always reach for the sweetheart of herbs—the good herb, spearmint.

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