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Tenerife herbs: Canary Island Mint or Menta Poleo for tea

Updated on March 4, 2014

Canary Island Mint smells like Mint

You would expect the Canary Island Mint (Bystropogon origanifolius) to smell and taste like ordinary Mint and so it does but it looks nothing like the familiar garden plant. Canary Island Mint, of which there are a number of species, is, however, in the same family of plants which is the Labiatae or Lamiaceae.

The Canary Island Mints grow as aromatic and leafy shrubs that bear clusters of tiny white or pinkish flowers. They have been widely used in traditional folk medicine of the Canary Islands.

Menta poleo photo

Bystropogon origanifolius, Volcan San Antonio, La Palma, Spain
Bystropogon origanifolius, Volcan San Antonio, La Palma, Spain | Source

Canary Island Mint described

The most widely distributed and used species of Canary Island Mint is the species B. origanifolius. It grows on Tenerife and the other Canary Islands with the exception of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. It is also found on the island of Madeira.

In Spanish the herb is commonly known as "Menta Poleo" or "Poleo Menta" and this is what it is called when sold as tea bags in supermarkets and in shops.

This Canary Island Mint tends to be found in and at the edges of forests and on mountain slopes and can grow in dry and rocky ground such as is found in the island's ravines. It has a strong smell that reminds you of MInt straight way and hence its name.

Many people deliberately grow Canary Island Mint in their gardens, although the ordinary Garden Mint (Mentha spicata) is another popular and commonly grown herb as well.

The species B. plumosus is found in similar habitats and is also used as a medicinal herb.

B. canariensis is a wild plant that grows in the forest of the islands and is found in many woodlands in the north of Tenerife.

Medicinal properties of the Canary Island Mint

Canary Island Mint is usually made into an infusion or herbal tea. It is a traditional remedy for coughs and colds, and as a treatment for stomach trouble.

Canary Island Mint can be used as an inhalant as well, and in this form it is employed to combat blocked nasal and respiratory passages and against catarrh and viral infections. The herb has expectorant, antispasmodic and antihistamine-like properties too.

As well as being utilised as a medicinal herb it is used to repel flies and insect pests. Bunches of dried Canary Island Mint can be hung in doorways for this purpose.

Besides enjoying a cup of steaming Menta Poleo tea, I personally enjoy crushing some leaves in my hand and inhaling the wonderful minty aroma!

© 2011 Steve Andrews


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    • Tenerife Islander profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Tenerife

      It doesn't flower all the time, no! I suppose you could use it as a low hedge. The canariensis species grows to as much as 2 metres high but it likes forest areas.

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      I absolutely love mint and I find it interesting that the mint grows on Madeira. You mentioned growing it deliberately and I think I would like to do that. Does it always flower like that or are there flowering periods? It looks like it would make a great hedge as well. You really know all there is to know about Tenerife! Thanks for writing yet another, informative hub, Tenerife Islander.


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