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I love it when I can grow one thing for multiple uses. Take the tomato, for instance. I know the taste of a fresh juicy tomato straight from the garden in unsurpassable, but tomatoes are also good for removing essence of skunk, if you have ever had the misfortune to be, um, let’s say, perfumed by one. But by far, I find one of the easiest things to grow is also one that has many uses. Peppermint.

Peppermint isn’t just for bad breath. Peppermint actually has many talents. From a health standpoint, you can also use peppermint to help calm an upset stomach, relieve muscle spasms and pain, and a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball can help ease a headache. It’s also used to combat the nausea from chemotherapy and radiation, and can possibly reduce the damage done from both. Hot flashes? Try a peppermint tea. The cooling sensation of the menthol in peppermint may help ease the heat.

For hair and skin assistance, try adding a few drops into your shampoo or body wash. It assists in getting rid of dandruff with its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Remember the old treatment for lice? Try peppermint oil instead. And, the cooling properties of peppermint can greatly assist a warm bath in helping to get rid of stress.

Having a few memory problems? Try crushing a few peppermint leaves and inhaling the scent. It is said to aid in improving your memory – something I often find myself needing. Around the farm, I am constantly forgetting to bring a certain tool to a date with a fence repair, or closing the barn door behind me. It is also said that Rosemary helps in the same way.

Have you got a problem in the house with ants or mice? Try a sachet of peppermint leaves. Put them in the corners or places that mice like to hang out. Place a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball and rub it along the pathway that the ants like to travel. Neither one of these critters like the smell, so they will avoid it if at all possible. To me, peppermint leaves and oil are so much better than poisons, traps or the stinky sprays.

With all the benefits of this great plant, everyone should grow at least a large container of it. Peppermint is best grown from cuttings, and should never be harvested until the plant is at least 10 to 12 inches tall (but no worries – it grows fast!). Plant in a moderately rich soil in a partially shaded location. Because it spreads from runners underground, it is smart to either plant in containers, or dig a trench at least 18” inches deep and put a barrier around the plant. Give it at least 1” of water a week. To harvest well into the fall, be sure to remove any blooms that begin appearing from July through late August or September, depending on your climate. Wait until the rejuvenation in the spring before you cut back those dead branches, to insure your plant continues to survive.

Don’t let space limitations keep your from some degree of self-reliance. Instead, try growing plants that have more than one use, or do some companion planting. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can do – even in just a large flowerpot!