Last week, I shared 12 ways to use up an abundance of Lemon Balm. Today, I’m going to highlight its equally prolific cousin: Mint.
Though it attracts beneficial insects and has many practical uses for home and health, mint can quickly become unruly in the garden. Be sure to plant it in an out of the way spot or a container to help keep it reigned in a bit.
Besides common peppermint or spearmint, you should be able to use: orange mint, apple mint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, and lemon mint in the recipes as well; keeping in mind that the flavors/scents will be affected to varying degrees.
For the projects listed in this article, we’ll need to gather and dry some mint leaves, then infuse them in oil. If you don’t have any available, you can order dried peppermint & spearmint through Mountain Rose Herbs.
Another place to look is your local grocery store. Our area grocery stores carry a small selection of fresh herbs, including peppermint, in the produce section for only a few dollars.
Gather up some leaves from your plant, then gently spread them out in a single layer on a paper towel and let them air dry where no one will disturb them for a few days.
Let these dry until they feel fairly crispy. The leaves should still have a strong minty smell when you crumble one between your fingers.
Take a large mason jar (or other heat proof glass container) and pour a few inches of a light oil into the bottom then start crumbling mint leaves into it. Swirl or stir this so that the leaves are covered, then repeat layering oil and adding leaves as needed. You can aim for a ratio of around 1/3 leaves to 2/3 oil, but I really just wing it each batch, so don’t get hung up on numbers.
The reason I layer this way is to make sure that all of that good mint scent is caught in the carrier oil and doesn’t have a chance to escape.
Note that even this way, your infused oil will only faintly smell of mint. Most of that minty scent will need to be replaced with peppermint essential oil in some recipes.
For type of oil for your infusion: I prefer Sunflower Oil, but you can also use: Sweet Almond Oil, Jojoba, Apricot Kernel Oil, light Olive Oil and so forth; keeping in mind that you don’t want a strongly scented oil to compete with the hint of mint.
Now, cap tightly and tuck this oil away for 3 to 4 weeks, shaking every so often – if you remember. (Though I never do!)
If you’re in a super hurry, you can also set the jar of oil down into a pan containing a few inches of water. Set the pan over medium lowish heat for a few hours and let the warm water speed up the infusing process. Keep an eye on this and check water level and condition of oil frequently, adjusting burner temperature as needed.
I position a canning lid, lightly on top of the jar while it heats – to keep the vapors in – but I don’t put the outer ring on or create a tight seal until it has cooled. Let the jar have a way to “breathe” a bit.
Once your oil has sufficiently infused, it should have a nice, very light minty smell when you open the top. Strain out the mint leaves and then your oil is ready for use!
Today, I’ll share three recipes, but there are plenty of other uses for this oil. Besides making lip balms and salves, you can also use it to make soaps, lotions, creams, body/foot scrubs or as a refreshing massage oil for achy muscles.
HERBAL SALVES & BALMS
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Spearmint Lip Balm
You don’t have to use just spearmint for this; use any type of mint you have on hand. The castor oil lends unparalleled gloss and smoothness, but if you don’t want to use it – substitute more mint infused oil instead.
- 2 1/2 tablespoons mint infused oil (1 oz, by weight)
- 1/2 tablespoon castor oil
- 1 tablespoon mango, shea or cocoa butter (.5 oz by weight)
- 1 tablespoon beeswax (.4 oz by weight)
- optional: around ten drops of spearmint (or peppermint) essential oil
Place the oils, wax & butter in a heat proof jar or pyrex measuring cup.
Set it down into a pan filled with a few inches of water. Set the pan on your oven burner & bring the water to just under a simmer, over medium-low heat.
Heat until the wax and butter are melted, then turn off the burner and remove from heat.
Add essential oil, if using, and then carefully pour into containers while still hot. This recipe fills around 8 or 9 lip balm tubes or 3 to 4 small, half ounce tins.
Cocoa Mint Lip Balm
This lip balm is made almost exactly like the recipe above, the only difference being the addition of chocolate and peppermint essential oil.
Follow all of the steps for Spearmint Lip Balm, only add a tiny corner of a square of unsweetened baking chocolate or a pinch of unsweetened cocoa powder to the other ingredients before heating.
Stir occasionally as everything melts to see if the level of cocoa needs adjusting. Keep in mind that it will look much lighter when it cools and sets up. The lip balm pictured here was a rich, dark chocolate color when I first poured it into tins.
Add around ten to 15 drops of peppermint essential oil, if you wish, then pour into tubes or tins.
Peppermint is a classic revitalizer and pick-me-up, so this salve is perfect for sore, tired feet or aching muscles. It also has a mild analgesic effect which makes it great for rubbing on your temples when you have a headache.
- 3 1/2 ounces of mint infused oil
- 1/2 ounce beeswax pastilles
- 35 to 40 drops peppermint essential oil (optional, adjust amount according to scent level preference)
Add the oil and beeswax into a heat proof jar or glass measuring cup. Set it gently into a pan containing several inches of water, creating a makeshift double boiler.
Gently bring the temperature up to medium-low and let the container stay in the heated water until the was has melted. Turn off the burner and remove from heat.
Add peppermint essential oil, if using, then pour into containers.