A Brief History Of Mint– The Benefits Of Adding Mint In Your Diet – Nutritional Benefits of Mint– Mint Effects – Are There Any?
Flavor is an important component in every product you’ll make. If you noticed, every drink, candy, chocolate, essential oil, and even beauty products come in variety in order to suit every customer’s preference.
One of these famous flavors is mint.
More than being a flavoring agent, did you know that mint comes with health benefits, too? More so, you can use mint in variety of ways aside from being a staple addition to your favorite drink.
Love it or hate it, here’s what you need to know about mint.
Mint In A Nutshell
Mint or mentha is an aromatic herb that belongs to the Lamiaceae family. A native to eastern Mediterranean, many believed that the name “mint” originated from a mythic nymph called Minthe or Mintho. Persephone turned the nymph into a mint plant after having an affair with the god of the underworld.
In terms of appearance, mints have generally square stem and opposite aromatic leaves. There may be slight difference in the appearance, depending on which type of mint it is. Flowers are often pink, pale purple, or white. You can also find oils in the resinous dots found in the stems and leaves.
The Lamiaceae family has about 15 to 20 plant species under it, including the following:
- Peppermint and spearmint, which are often used as a flavoring agent for food and drinks
- Curly mint, which, together with spearmint, is used in cooking and additional flavor for beverages
- Apple mint
- Orange mint if you prefer the citrus flavor
- Chocolate mint
- Water mint, which commonly grows in ditches
- Wild mint, a type of mint native in Eurasia and North America that is often used in folk medicine
- Bergamots, which is also known as horsemint
- Catnip or catmint
- Dittany or stone mint
- Mint bushes, which are plants of Australian genus, Prostanthera
Although not everyone is a fan, mint is among the popularly used herbs in the market. It gives a cooling sensation; hence making it a popular ingredient in many food and beverages.
Mint is also available in the produce section of the supermarket, together with other herbs. If you’re looking for dried mint, then look at the spice section.
You know that mint’s history can be traced to Greek mythology with Minthe, a river nymph, fell in love with Hades. Since then, ancient Greeks were using mint for variety of uses such as:
- Room freshener
- Cure for indigestion
- Part of funeral rites
Fast forward to the Medieval times, people started using mint as a breath freshener. People will either chew it or mix with vinegar to make a mouthwash. Apart from mint, marjoram, sage, cardamom, and rosemary were also used as a breath freshener.
Then comes Altoids. In 1870, London confectioner Smith & Company created white candies with high dose of peppermint extract. The purpose of this product is to help calm one’s stomach.
Aside from white candies, people started to experiment and include mint in the world of dental hygiene. In the mid-1970s, Washington Sheffield, a dentist, invented toothpaste using baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and mint extracts.
Since then, several products followed including Listerine and gum with peppermint extract. Products with mint were later on marketed to the public as a “breath freshener” or “cure to halitosis.”
Fast forward today, mint is among the widely used herbs and often used as an ingredient in many products, both food and non-food.
Mint Nutrition Facts
In terms of nutrition, here’s what mint can provide:
You can also find traces of the following:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
Despite the nutritional profile, it is not advisable to rely that much on mint alone. The amount of nutrients two tablespoons of mint could provide is not enough to fill in one’s daily dietary requirements.
Nonetheless, it could be a good replacement for sugary, salty, or calorific flavorings. It also supplies your body with potent sources of antioxidants, thereby protecting your body against free radicals that could lead to oxidative stress.
Even if mint is not exceptionally healthy, it still comes with great benefits. This includes:
Mint is a potent source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. This is all because of rosmarinic acid.
It turns out that rosmarinic acid is responsible for mint’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and often used to treat asthma and reactive airway diseases. Consequently, this component is also effective in treating allergic disorders including allergic rhinitis and multiple allergen reactivity.
In a recent study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, experts noted that mint and other members of the Lamiaceae family have anti-allergic potential.
What experts need to unlock now is the correct dosage what constitutes “too little” and “too much.”
Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a common digestive tract disorder. Symptoms include gas, bloating, stomach pain, and changes in bowel habits.
Dietary changes and knowing your food triggers could help manage IBS. Nonetheless, research shows that peppermint oil is also helpful.
According to a study published in the journal Gastroenterology as well as a study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, peppermint oil provides relaxing effects on the muscles in the digestive tract. This is because peppermint oil has a menthol compound that is responsible for the oil’s relaxing effects.
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, experts concluded that peppermint oil is a safe and effective short-term treatment for IBS. Nonetheless, experts noted that although mild and transient in nature, heartburn could be a common side effect.
Take note that in these studies, peppermint oil capsules were used and proven more effective in providing relief against IBS symptoms compared to raw mint leaves.
Relief Against Indigestion
Also known as dyspepsia or upset stomach, indigestion is a general term that describes several gastrointestinal symptoms that happen together. You will often feel pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen, feeling full too early while eating meals, or uncomfortable feeling after every meal.
This is a common condition affecting one in every four people in America. The majority of those who were diagnosed were classified under functional dyspepsia, which means they experienced chronic symptoms without any specific cause.
Medication can help address this condition. Lifestyle changes such as avoiding spicy or greasy food, or no alcohol could help reduce occurrence of indigestion. Believe it or not, here’s what you only need to address this condition: peppermint oil.
Based on a study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology, peppermint oil enhances gastric emptying. As a result, experts are suggesting that it could help patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders.
Here’s another secret: combine peppermint oil with caraway oil. One German study showed that proved that this combination is helpful against indigestion. In fact, it helped improve stomach pain and other digestive symptoms.
Keep in mind that when it comes to treating indigestion, oil variant is recommended than fresh or dried leaves.
Relief Against Colds
Colds can be annoying. It makes it hard for you to sleep and you’ll end up waking up in the morning, unable to breathe.
There are over-the-counter medicines against flu and most of them contains menthol, a main compound of peppermint oil. Since then, it became a nasal decongestant to help improve breathing and airflow.
Did you know that menthol has no decongestant function? In fact, there are multiple studies showing that menthol is not a decongestant and will never work that way. Nevertheless, it can subjectively improve one’s nasal breathing despite the lack of scientific studies.
Despite the lack of scientific studies, one cannot deny the fact how helpful menthol is against colds and other flu-like symptoms.
Reduce Pain That Comes With Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is highly recommended for babies, which is my all moms are encouraged to breastfeed. Despite the many health benefits of breastfeeding, including helping one lose weight, moms often experience sore and cracked nipples. This makes breastfeeding uncomfortable, more challenging, and painful.
Not until you tried putting peppermint oil mixed with water in the area around the nipples after every feeding.
In a study published in International Breastfeeding Journal, peppermint water (essential oil plus water) was better in preventing nipple and areola cracks compared to applying expressed breast milk in the area.
In another study published in Medical Science Monitor, nipple cracks were less likely to happen among breastfeeding mothers who used peppermint oil.
If you need to address this for good, then make sure to apply menthol regularly. A study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences revealed that regular application of menthol essential oil after each feeding decreases pain and severity of nipple cracks. This is better than going for store-bought nipple creams with ingredients that you don’t understand.
Gets Rid Of Bad Breath
What is your quickest way to get rid of bad breath? Brushing your teeth is a good idea but if you are outside, then anything menthol does help.
Why, you might ask.
According to experts, menthol masks the foul-smelling breath for hours. Despite giving you fresher breath, keep in mind bacteria and other compounds that are causing bad breath are still living in one’s method.’
How can you get rid of bacteria at the same time? Based on a study published in Phytotherapy Research, chewing fresh peppermint leaves and drinking peppermint tea could mask bad breath. At the same time, it helps kill bacteria, thanks to its antibacterial properties.
That being said, it’s not surprising why menthol-flavored gums are readily available in the market.
Boosts Brain Function
More research is needed but so far, the effects are promising.
Based on a study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, 144 young adults were asked to smell peppermint oil, five minutes before taking a test. Experts noted that those who took a whiff reported significant improvements in their memory.
Another study published in Aromatic Science showed that smelling peppermint and cinnamon oils led to increased alertness. Consequently, these two oils helped decrease anxiety, fatigue, and frustration.
On the other hand, one study showed that despite the invigorating aroma of peppermint oil that led to less fatigue, it had no direct effect on one’s brain function.
More research is needed to check the effects of mint. Nevertheless, smelling anything mint does help uplift one’s mood.
Easy To Include In Your Diet
You know that mint is good for your health and comes with an impressive nutritional profile. What makes it even enticing is that mint is easy to add in your diet.
You can add mint leaves to green salads, smoothies, or even your water. You can make your own tea as well using the leaves that are readily available in the supermarket.
In other words, you don’t have to worry about skimping on nutrients because you can easily incorporate mint in your daily life.
Mint Side Effects
Unfortunately, the terms “herb” and “natural” do not exempt mint from side effects.
For starters, people with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD must avoid mint at all costs. According to a review published in the Journal of Thoracic Disease, mint is often a trigger for GERD symptoms.
In case you have an existing medical condition, then it is advisable to talk to your doctor first regarding your intention to take mint, regardless of the variant. Some medications may not interact well with mint and could compromise your health.
Don’t get too excited on the mint oil, too. Stick to the recommended dosage because taking, say peppermint oil, in large quantities can be toxic and could lead to adverse effects.
Do not apply on an infant or a child’s face as well. This could cause spasm and lead to difficulty with breathing.
Herbs such as mint generally have shorter shelf life. If you prefer the fresher variant, then this means you need to use it as soon as possible.
The truth is not really. Believe it or not, you can now prolong mint’s shelf life and use it longer than its expected life span.
Here are several methods you can do:
Method 1: Like-A-Flower Technique
- Trim the ends of the mint’s stem. Make sure to remove the leaves that are close to the ends or those that might be submerged in the water.
- Fill a Mason jar or mug with water. Then, place the mint stems and add more water to make sure that the cut ends are covered.
- Cover the mint leaves loosely using a plastic bag and then keep it inside the fridge.
- Make sure to change the water every two or three days to maintain freshness and prevent bacteria from growing.
Method 2: Damp Paper Towel
- Wet one or two paper towels. You can use more if you have a lot of mint leaves.
- Lay the mint leaves on the paper towels and then gently wrap them.
- Place the wrapped mint leaves into a plastic bag, preferable Ziploc. Make sure that the plastic bag is big enough not to crush the mint leaves.
- Seal and put it inside the fridge.
This method will keep the mint leaves fresh for at least two weeks.
Method 3: Ice Cube Trick
- Rinse and then dry mint leaves using paper towel.
- Place two to three mint leaves into each ice cube tray.
- Fill the tray with cold water and then place the tray inside the freezer.
- Once frozen, remove the ice cubes from the tray and then place the cubes inside the freezer bags.
This method will make mint leaves last up to three months. When you’re ready to use them, get an ice cube, let the water melt, and then get the mint leaves.
Method 4: Baking Sheet Method
- Rinse and then dry mint leaves by using paper towels. Air dry is also fine.
- Spread mint leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Place it inside the freezer and let it freeze for two to three hours.
- Once frozen, put the mint leaves in an airtight container or freezer bag. Use the leaves as needed.
This method will prolong mint’s shelf life up to three months.
Method 5: Dry Mint Leaves Using Oven
- Wash mint leaves and then let it dry using paper towels.
- Spread mint leaves in a baking sheet in a single layer.
- Put it inside the oven. Make sure that the temperature is not higher than 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Dry mint leaves for two hours, although this could go as longer as four hours. When the leaves start to crunch and crumble, then that means mint leaves are dried. Don’t forget to check every 15 minutes.
- Put the dried mint leaves in an airtight container and then store it in areas away from heat and light.
This is ideal if you don’t have a dehydrator at home. Nonetheless, the drying technique using the oven could still extend mint leaves’ shelf life.
Which method do you prefer?
Mint has a distinct taste, which gives dishes and drinks a unique flavor. What can you use in case you ran out of mint?
Herbal mint tea can be used as a substitute. Just a teaspoon of mint tea stashed in the fridge is enough to give you the flavor you want.
If you don’t have tea on hand, then here are some options:
- Basil – This is the closest herb to mint, which you can also use as a substitute in case you ran out. These two are closely related and has similar refreshing flavors; however, basil has peppery sweet taste. If the recipe calls for one tablespoon of fresh mint, then you can use the same measurement for basil as well.
- Peppermint Extract – Although this is ideal for candies and frosting, peppermint extract can still be a good alternative if you want that mint-y flavor on your drink or dish. Just make sure you go for the pure and natural peppermint leaves and then soak in vodka.
- Marjoram – This herb also belongs to the same mint family. Marjoram can be a good replacement, which gives dishes a citrus and pine flavor.
- Parsley – This is also a good alternative in case you ran out of mint.
- Rosemary – This herb is a member of the mint family as well. This is an ideal alternative for savory meat dishes that calls for mint.
- Tarragon – This is another option when you ran out of mint. Nonetheless, tarragon is recommended for drinks and not on meat.
Mint Usage / Recipes
Mint is versatile and can be used in almost anything. In case you’re not sure where and how to use it, then below are some ideas you can try:
- In a glass of water, add mint leaves and cucumber to give yourself a treat.
- Add mint leaves in your lime juice and then fill the glass with ice for a refreshing drink.
- Chop mint leaves and then mix it in your chocolate chip cookie dough. This will give your cookies instant mint-y flavor.
- Make your own homemade mint tea by steeping mint leaves for five minutes. Give it a twist by using chocolate mint tea leaves.
If mint doesn’t suit your taste, then here’s how you can use it even outside the kitchen:
- Scatter mint leaves around the house to act as a deodorizer.
- Use peppermint oil for aromatherapy.
- Add dried mint on homemade soaps.
The Bottom Line
Whether your like it or hate it, mint is among the popular herbs that is often incorporated in various products. It’s not just about the taste or the aroma. Just like its cousins in the Lamiaceae family, mint is also loaded with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Nonetheless, mint’s nutritional profile cannot keep up with the body’s needs. Still, it helps against IBS, an instant relief against colds or indigestion, and is easy to include in diet. One cannot go wrong, too, in using mint as a breath freshener.
Just watch out if you have GERD because mint might trigger the symptoms.
Overall, mint is a helpful herb that must be included in one’s diet. It is readily available and easy to find in the market. More importantly, it’s hard to go wrong with this.