Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii), translated “good herb,” is a native plant in the mint family here in the U.S., with similar mint cousins bearing the same name further down in the more tropical climes in this hemisphere. In fact, San Francisco was originally called Yerba Buena (it grew well there) until the name was changed in the mid-1800s.
It’s a plant Jack and I need to utilize more, since we’ve had success growing it in a container with no fuss. (That’s one of my goals for 2009…to find multiple practical uses for the herbs we have growing)
He came home with a small container of Yerba Buena from a local store last year, and he was excited to tell me about his acquisition.
It’s now sort of an inside joke with us…my husband sometimes uses words I can’t tell what in the world he’s saying, even though he’s saying them quite clearly. And Yerba Buena ended up being two such words. As a youth, his first language was the Cubano dialect of Spanish, and now he’s of course fluent in English. But certain unfamiliar words and their pronunciations defy my usually-good ear for accents, and when he announced we now had a Jibbaweena plant, I had no idea what he meant.
Is that one word, or two?
Two. Jibba. Weena. Jibbaweena.
(I then have a brief Lucy Ricardo moment, till I go read the plant label…though my husband’s accent sounds nothing like Ricky’s)
Here’s a pic of our “Jibbaweena” patch. Like most mints, it’s easily perpetuated by cuttings and prefers shade or semi-shade and some moisture. The good news is that it can be grown in many planting zones across the U.S., from Alaska all the way down to my neck of the woods (Florida).
It’s a wilder version of what I usually think of as Mint. It has a potent mint flavor, and Jack’s been known to just pick its leaves and eat them. Maybe it’s just to take advantage of some “kissin’ time” in the garden, because it certainly freshens the breath. (boiled in water, it makes a good mouthwash)
That’s not all it’s good for, however. Please consult an herb book for exact amounts (I’m not an herbalist), but a decoction of the leaves and hot water produces a soothing and effective remedy for aches and pains as well as stomach or digestion complaints. The fresh herb can be chopped, or dried leaves can be crushed and boiled for about 15 minutes in an enamel pan, then strained and sipped for use medicinally. A few sprigs go well, of course, for taste alone paired with black tea, hot or chilled…but it’s more potent-tasting than regular mint, so you might prefer a bit less than with spearmint.
It also can be used like its Cuban mint cousin (bearing the same name )to make mojitos…a cold drink made of rum, fresh lime juice, sugar, and yerba buena, originally used for its “medicinal purposes.” You know…like the Baldwin sisters’ “special recipe”?? (cue the Waltons theme song, ha!)
Jack and I are going to experiment a bit with the basic mojito ingredients to see what we can come up with along those lines minus the rum and sugar, or at least cutting the proportions down considerably. Any combination of sugar and alchohol for me (I’m diabetic) is about like intravenous jet fuel to my blood sugar…but we usually find some good versions that “play nicer” if we experiment in the kitchen a bit :) This may be the birth of the first Kombucha mojito…
Yerba Buena, dried and produced in pill form, was tested for public safety, and is now sold in the Phillipines as an over-the-counter analgesic (pain reliever). According to this website, the Mentha spicata variety has been tested in numerous studies of Mexican and American herbal use, and has been shown to have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and analgesic activity applications.
That’s really good news to Jack and me because we like minty things (more palatable than some medicinals), and we could really use its anti-fungal properties, since we’re beginning to think more and more in terms of how our eating and drinking does or does not encourage our bodies’ resistance to internal fungal balance.
In our thinking, anti-fungals help our bodies keep a “clean house” and strengthen the immune system, especially when paired with eliminating overloads of sugar, processed foods, and anything else in our diet that causes fungus (like candida) to go nuts. A daily hot cup of Yerba Buena decoction may be just what we need, and it would keep us from some of the digestive discomfort or gassiness we have as we transition to eating more veggies and beans.
Mmmm, now I want some. I think this calls for a favorite mug and a good pour of hot minty “tea.” And I’ll likely enjoy it enough I won’t even care how good for me it is :)