If you follow me on YouTube, you may have noticed a video I posted in January, about a plant that is endemic to the Southeast (at least according to most botanists), specifically around the St. John’s River. I figured that it may be fun to go into a little more detail here.
This little plant is known as St. John’s Mint or Browne’s Savory (Clinopodium brownei or Micromeria brownei for the scientific name) is found along lake edges and in freshwater wetlands, floodplain forests, and wet disturbed sites throughout much of the Southeast, especially in Florida. It blooms from spring into fall (though here in Central Florida, you can find flowers year round). The tiny flowers attract a variety of small pollinators, even some of our native bee species. Browne’s Savory flowers are tubular, five-lobed and lavender to pinkish-white with dark purple throats. The lobes are fused (three on top, two on the bottom) giving the flower a two-lipped appearance. Leaves are arrow-shaped with wavy margins and toothed apices. They are oppositely arranged on distinct petioles. Stems are square, pubescent, and angled. They grow in all directions and root at the nodes, forming large mats. When the leaves are crushed, a strongly minty scent is often noticed. They have all the major hallmarks of plants in the Lamiaceae (Mint) family, of which they are a member.
St. John’s Mint is a wetland plant and will not survive in areas that dry out. It does, however, make a nice ground cover in the right conditions (river banks, or the banks of a lake or pond) and will also do well in a container or hanging basket. It’s often sold as an aquatic plant for freshwater aquariums and is often called Creeping Charlie in those situations.
There are several patches in Orlando that I love to visit when I’m stressed out. Just walking on the minty ground cover, releasing those essential oils into the air, inhaling the smell of freshly crushed mint. That’s enough to relax me and ease some of my stress. I also enjoy laying on those same patches on a spring/fall (or what equates to those seasons in Florida at least) day.
If you haven't seen it (or want to revisit it) check out my video on YouTube
Common Names- Browne’s Savory, St. John’s Mint, Creeping Charlie
Scientific Name- Clinopodium brownei, or Micromeria brownei
Edibility- The entire plant is edible, both raw and cooked, and has a strong mint flavor. It makes an excellent tea.
Summary of Actions- Abortifacient, Anti-inflammatory, Carminative, Diaphoretic, Emmenagogue, Rubefacient, and Stimulant
Parts Used- The aerial parts of the plant (everything above ground).
Essential Oil- The herb can be steam distilled fresh or slightly dried to produce the oil, which is clear to pale yellow. As you might expect, it will have a very fresh, herbaceous, and minty scent. Much like Pennyroyal, Browne’s Savory blends well with Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Sage (Salvia officinalis).
Insect Repellent- The plant is used as an insect repellent. When rubbed on the body it is said to repel ticks.
Digestion- Almost universally, plants in the Lamiaceae (Mint) family are digestives and carminatives. This little Florida mint is no exception. Munch on a few, fresh, leaves to help relieve gas and bloating, reduce stomach cramps, and improve digestion. Drink a tea after your meal to stimulate digestion and soothe stomach pains. Bonus point alert! It also has a wonderfully minty flavor that improves breath after your meal!
Dental Health- *The following information is from my own personal use, not from any clinical studies.* I have used the fresh leaves to help reduce inflammation in the gums. It also helps to soothe the pain associated with this inflammation. A strongly brewed tea, or an alcohol tincture, also makes an excellent mouth wash that helps to fight a number of nasty germs in the mouth, especially the ones responsible for bad breath and plaque formation.
Upper Respiratory- Most plants in this family have some use in a number of upper respiratory conditions. So it comes as no surprise that St. John’s Mint can be used to help open up congestion and reduce cough.
Fever- Browne’s Savory can be used in the same way as Pennyroyal to induce sweating and help to sweat out a fever.
Women’s Complaints- As an emmenagogue (a substance that stimulates or increases menstrual flow), you can imagine that it’s a potent herb for women. However, it can be dangerous if used when pregnant.
Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Since it is so similar to Pennyroyal, all the warnings from that plant also apply to this one. In large quantities this plant, especially in the form of the extracted essential oil, can be toxic if taken internally. Skin contact with the pure essential oil can cause dermatitis. Do not harvest wild in South Florida! It is listed as "critically imperiled" by Regional Conservation's IRC South Florida Status.
I only included a basic introduction to this wonderful Florida native. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!
American Pennyroyal: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/h/hedeoma-pulegioides=american-pennyroyal.php
Browne’s Savory: Florida Foraging: https://www.floridaforaging.com/plant/clinopodium-brownei
Clinopodium Brownei: Atlas of Florida Plants: http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3353
Clinopodium Brownei: Florida Native Plant Society: https://fnps.org/plants/plant/clinopodium-brownei
Clinopodium Brownei: Useful Tropical Plants: http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Clinopodium+brownei
Flower Friday- Browne’s Savory: Florida Wildflower Foundation: https://flawildflowers.org/flower-friday-clinopodium-brownei/
Hedeoma: Henriette’s Herbal Homepage: https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/hedeoma.html
Hedeoma pulegioides: Plants for a Future: https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Hedeoma+pulegioides
Micromeria Brownei: Eat The Weeds: http://www.eattheweeds.com/tag/micromeria-brownei/
Micromeria Brownei: TRAMIL: http://www.tramil.net/en/plant/micromeria-brownei
Pennyroyal Essential Oil Uses: Mom Prepares: https://momprepares.com/essential-oils/pennyroyal/