Nurse Becca is a member of my Healthy School Planning Committee – a team of various stakeholders from the school community who strategize ways to make the school food environment a healthier one. At East End Community School in Portland, Maine, immigrant and refugee families make up a large part of the student body. With so many cultures represented, Nurse Becca noted at our planning meeting: parents often share food-based remedies for ailments when they come to pick up their sick children. For example, parents recommended to “give a child warm tea with milk and honey for stomachaches.” She expressed interest in wanting to know more about the medicinal benefits of foods and how she could incorporate them into the nurse’s office.
She was in luck, and so was I! I practice herbalism as a hobby and am passionate about using food and herbs as medicine. During garlic planting classes with my students, I share information about the anti-viral properties of the allium. In garden club, I have kids make tea bags out of the herbs we grow, as we talk about the herbs’ medicinal benefits. I could not have imagined a more excellent request from the school nurse.
Nurse Becca suggested that something simple like medicinal tea in the nurse’s office would be a good way to incorporate this interest. My mind went to the garden that was being taken over by mint. It had filled the asparagus bed, was strangling the strawberries, and was creeping out of the borders of the garden into the pathways. I have always been a proponent of using your weeds for food and medicine, and here was the perfect opportunity to teach that to the students. Our new club project would to make mint tea for the nurses office – connecting our garden directly to our epicenter of health in the school – the nurse’s office.
The next Tuesday, my morning Rise N’ Shine club went to work cleaning up the strawberry beds by pulling out the invasive mint. We pulled out bundles of mint, cut off the roots, and hung it to dry in the garden shed.
A couple of weeks later the students stripped the mint leaves from the stalks to prepare the tea. As the room became potent with the smell of mint many students noted that “it smelled like candy and gum.” When finished, we put all the tea leaves in a jar, learned about its health benefits, and enjoyed some tea ourselves. We delivered the jar of tea leaves to Nurse Becca along with medicinal information about mint.
Mint is the perfect tea to offer in the nurse’s office because it is kid friendly, and gently addresses many common ailments. Some of its benefits are:
- Eases indigestion, nausea, and stomach aches
- Reduces headaches
- Lifts the mood
- Clears sinuses and breathing passages for asthma and allergy related symptoms.
- Has a stimulating effect that sharpens brain function – perfect for the school environment!
- And of course, mint has an affinity for oral health.
Even the act of preparing and offering someone a cup of tea is healing in itself. Add some honey and it will ease sore throats as well!
We are grateful our team came together to brainstorm one of many inspiring ideas to enhance the healthy school environment at East End Community School. Sometimes, creating a space to let conversations and ideas flow brings out gems: like using garden herbs to make medicinal mint tea for the nurse’s office. So far, our nurse has offered tea in her 5-2-1-0 club – a healthy eating habits club. If you would like to implement a similar project, here is a on link to medicinal information on mint, found on OrganicFacts.net, both in poster form and with a longer description.