This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Spear Mint (Mentha Viridis), Or Garden Mint, is an allied herb which is of popular use for making Mint sauce, to be eaten with roast lamb. It likewise possesses a fragrant aromatic odour, and a warm, spicy taste; bearing the name also of "Mackerel Mint," and in Germany of "Lady's Mint." Its volatile oil makes this herb antiseptic, and conducive to the better digestion of young immature meat, whilst the vinegar and sugar added in Mint sauce, help forward the solution of crude albuminous fibre. But, as is well said, "Mint often makes lamb out of an old sheep." Mint sauce was described by Tusset, and blest by Cobbett. Dr. Hayman has supposed it to historically reflect the bitter herbs of the Jewish Passover. When some fresh leaves of this herb are macerated in milk the curdling thereof is slower than if the milk clots by itself; therefore Spear Mint, or its essence, is much to be commended for use with milk foods by delicate persons, and for young children of feeble digestive powers. A distilled water of Spear Mint is made which will relieve hiccough, and flatulence, as well as the giddiness of indigestion, wherefore Martial called the herb "Ructatrix mentha." "This is the Spear Mint,"writes our Poet Laureate, "that steadies giddiness." The name Spear, or Spire, indicates the spiry form of its floral blossoming.
Washington Irving, in Knickerbocker, speaks of New Englanders who "were great roysterers, much given to revel on hoe-cakes, and bacon, Mint julep, and apple-toddy." Julep is an ancient Arabian name for a calming drink (originally containing opium, with mucilage), and possibly connected with the Persian "salep" made from bulbs of an orchis. Culpeper wrote: "The Mints are extreme bad for wounded people; and they say a wounded man that eats Mints his wound will never be cured, but that is a long day." Nevertheless, modern experience teaches that the Mints are to be credited with terebinthine antiseptic healing virtues, notably peppermint, rosemary, and thyme. "As for the Garden Mint," wrote Pliny, "the very smell of it alone recovers, and refreshes the spirits, much as the taste stirs up the appetite for meat, which is the reason that it is so general in our acid sauces wherein we are accustomed to dip our meat".