Mint: Flavor and Health Benefits

One of the best parts of conservation with family and friends is chatting over delicate, brightly colored glasses of Moroccan mint tea. Not only is the tea soothing and delicious, the mint provides a cozy aroma and a cool, refreshing taste.

The mint plant is possibly the most widely used and familiar plant. It is the herb that flavors our toothpaste, toothpicks, dental floss, mouthwash, chewing gum, breath fresheners, cough drops, throat lozenges and many varieties of drinks, teas and deserts including mint chocolates and ice cream. Mint is also very common in aromatherapy oils, soaps and shampoos, lip balms and cosmetics, skin cleansers and toners, air fresheners, candles, and household cleaning products. This leafy herb is very easy to distinguish: just follow the crisp, pungent smell of mint.

Mint has been an important herb for centuries. It was treasured as an aromatic, cleansing, seasoning and medicinal herb in the ancient civilizations on the Indus River. Mint was used to scent baths and homes and for its medicinal purposes. Remedies for everything from colic, to digestive orders and skin wounds called for mint leaves.

Centuries later, when the colonists sailed to the New World, they brought mint for headaches, indigestion, gas and insomnia. They also drank tea brewed from mint leaves, not only because it was a refreshing, healthy drink, but also because it was not taxed as tea was by the British rulers.

Medicinal Uses

The leaves of the mint plant are the part that is used medicinally, in food and in other preparations. They contain high amounts of pure essential oils. The main ingredient is the volatile oil menthol, which evaporates quickly in air giving that characteristic, cooling and cleansing feeling and taste. Different varieties of the herb contain varying amounts of the essential oil. Other components in the essential oil derived from the leaves include menthone, methyl acetate and menthofuran. Even rubbing or walking on the leaves releases the aromatic oils from the mint plant easily.

Today the fragrant mint plant continues to be used for its pleasant flavouring in cooking and for its medicinal qualities. Menthol is used for its decongestant, anti-spasmodic, diaphoretic, antiseptic and antibacterial and slightly anesthetic properties. Mint can be ingested directly or applied in topical oils, ointments and cleansers on the skin; even its pungent aroma has healing properties. Menthol can help to calm indigestion, clear up a stuffy head, relieve a headache and soothe a sore throat. In indigestion, mint eases pain and discomfort by relaxing the muscles of the intestinal wall. It also increases saliva production in the mouth; this aids proper chewing and swallowing which helps to relieve stomach cramps. In Prophetic natural medicine, mint is said to ease a variety of digestive complaints and even stop hiccups.

Other ailments that mint is a rescue remedy for include motion sickness, cramps and nausea. When taken orally or inhaled as aromatherapy or rubbed on the skin, mint can relieve respiratory conditions such as coughs, colds, breathing difficulties and for bacteria, fungal and viral infections. Additionally, mint oil aromatherapy even helps focus and concentration and clears mental stress.

Mint essential oil must be used in moderation as the menthol in the oil may cause sensitivity in some individuals. It can irritate the skin or mucus membranes if the dosage is too high. Mint and other herbal compounds should not be used in infants and pregnant and lactating women should only use very small amounts.
With all the benefits of mint, it’s a favorite for gardeners. Growing mint is simple; the hard work is in keeping it from taking over your garden. This hardy herb is low maintenance and flourishes in medium, rich moist soil whether in the shade or in indirect sunlight. Most mint species will also thrive as houseplants: keep one in your kitchen and cut fresh leaves whenever you need them. And your plant will keep away ants and other insects!

Therapeutic Uses

  • Treat indigestion, cramping, dyspepsia, stomach ulcers, spastic colon, irritable bowel syndrome and gas.
  • Soothe morning sickness, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.
  • Use mint tea, lozenges and rubs to clear up flus, colds, and bronchial and upper respiratory infections.
  • Use ointments containing mint compounds for muscle and joint pain and bruises.
  • Use on cuts, scrapes and rashes for its antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.
  • Use externally on the skin for itchiness, burns, rheumatism, ringworm and as an insect repellent.
  • Ease mental tension and aid concentration and memory.
  • Mint aromatherapy can comfort and influence positive emotions.