Mint, from Greece to Morocco

This article is also available in: Italiano

Mint is one of the most appreciated and exploited plants in the whole Islamic world and especially in Morocco, whose origins, however, are to be found in Ancient Greece

The saying

The first glass of mint tea is as sweet as life. The second is as strong as love. The third is as bitter as death.

Moroccan saying

The Greek myth about mint

According to legend, Mint was a beautiful nymph, daughter of Cocito, one of the 5 rivers of the Underworld. In a short time she would become Hades’ favorite concubine, clashing with the wrath of Persephone, the new queen of the underground kingdom. It is said that Mint, after provoking the latter concerning her skills in bed, was killed and torn to pieces by her. Hades, however, felt sorry for his concubine and decided to turn it into the grass so well known to us. Finally, it will be Demeter who will put the condition of sterility in the plant, a posthumous punishment for the attempt on marriage.


Traces of this legend can still be found in Greece, especially in the Elis region, where Mount Mint stands. Right on the latter, there is one of the very rare temples dedicated to Hades, surrounded by a forest sacred to Demeter. For its connection with the world of the dead, mint was long considered central to the Eleusinian mysteries, mystical rites of ancient Greece.

The herb of infertility

The myth also addresses one of the most interesting characteristics of mint, namely its sterility. Many ignore, in fact, that there are several cultivars of this species, several of which are sterile. The best known example is certainly that of peppermint, one of the best known and most used. The latter, in fact, is not a species that grows spontaneously, but the result of the cross between Mentha spicata and Mentha aquatica. From the union of the two, one of the strongest and most intense types of the plant was born, still used today for the production of toothpastes, spirits and much more.

Again with regard to sterility, it is very interesting to observe how a variety, the “poleggio mint”, was exploited since ancient times for its abortive properties. In fact, there were many women who drank essential oils to put an end to the “inconvenience”, so much so that in many of Aristophanes’ comedies it is mentioned how portentous contraceptive. But be careful: throughout history there were several who died just from ingesting wrong quantities; if you need help, contact your doctor, do not try to experiment because the consequences could be unexpected.

Properties and taste

All kinds of plants enjoy antiseptic and antiviral properties thanks to its incredible abundance of polyphenols. In addition, it has antispasmodic, balsamic and sedative properties and proves to be an incredible ally in the fight against flies. Finally according to the great Ibn Sina / Avicenna: “Its flowers are a stimulant and a digestive, moreover they eliminate the headache derived from the cold”.

As far as cooking is concerned, Maghreb mint tea, a drink that makes the green herb absolute princess of every meal and every meeting, cannot be mentioned. Although the introduction of tea was fairly recent, the pairing soon became a must, so much so that in just a century and a half it became an almost sacred ritual within the Maghreb communities (primarily Moroccan). It is no coincidence that Morocco is the first producer of peppermint in the world with 92% of world production, while Argentina, second in the ranking, covers just 8%; it must be said however that, being an invasive plant, its real is vast and even Italy has its typical varieties.

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