Mint or Mentha is a genus plant from the family Lamiaceae of which there is about 18 species. The most common mints are peppermint, spearmint, corn mint, and apple mint. The herb leaf, fresh or dried, can be used in foods as it is bursting with fragrance and flavour.
Mint leaves have a warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavour with a cool aftertaste. The herb works well with sweet as well as savoury dishes and tastes great hot or cold. It is most commonly used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, ice creams and lamb dishes. Mint essential oil and menthol are used as flavouring agents in various products such as chewing gum, desserts, candies, and chocolates.
The mint herb is also used for medicinal purposes and/or to increase health as it has several benefits. Some health benefits include aiding digestion, relieving indigestion and heartburn, possibly relieving tension headaches, great source of vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. Some people may experience allergic reactions towards mint.
Mints are exclusively perennial which mean they live more than two years with wide-spreading underground and over ground stolons and erect, square, branched stems. It grows best in wet environments and moist soils. Mints grow 10 to 120 cm tall and can spread over an indeterminate area. Retail stores such as SPAR sells mint in a fresh (in a container or a plant), dried (e.g. dried mint) and preserved form (e.g. mint jelly).
These plants are particularly known for the cooling sensation they impart. They can be added to foods in both fresh and dried forms.
Mint is a popular ingredient in several foods and beverages, ranging from teas and alcoholic drinks to sauces, salads and desserts.
While eating the plant offers some health benefits, research shows that several of mint’s health benefits come from applying it to the skin, inhaling its aroma or taking it as a capsule.
Here are four science-based health benefits of mint.
- Rich in Nutrients
While not typically consumed in large quantities, mint does contain a fair amount of nutrients. In fact, just under 1/3 cup of spearmint contains the following:
- Calories: 6
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Vitamin A: 12% of the RDI
- Iron: 9% of the RDI
- Manganese: 8% of the RDI
- Folate: 4% of the RDI
- May Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive tract disorder. It is characterized by digestive symptoms like stomach pain, gas, bloating and changes in bowel habits. Although treatment for IBS often includes dietary changes and taking medications, research shows that taking peppermint oil as an herbal remedy might also be helpful.
- May Help Relieve Indigestion
Mint may also be effective at relieving other digestive problems such as upset stomach and indigestion.
Indigestion may occur when food sits in the stomach for too long before passing into the rest of the digestive tract. Multiple studies have shown that food passes through the stomach quicker when people take peppermint oil with meals, which could relieve symptoms from this type of indigestion.
- Could Improve Brain Function
In addition to ingesting mint, there are claims that inhaling the aroma of essential oils from the plant could provide health benefits, including improved brain function.
One study including 144 young adults demonstrated that smelling the aroma of peppermint oil for five minutes prior to testing produced significant improvements in memory.