Throughout history, people have used different species of mint plants in medicine. Different types of mint plants offer a range of antioxidant qualities and potential health benefits too. Especially for people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Using fresh mint and other herbs and spices in cooking can help a person add flavor while reducing their sodium and sugar intake. Middle Eastern cuisines, such as lamb, soups, and vegetable salads often contain mint for flavor.
Since mint is relatively easy to grow, people can cultivate it at home. Making it one of the best and sustainable way to add flavor to meals.
Also, please take note that, when preparing mint, use a sharp knife and cut gently. Keeping in mind that, using a dull knife or over-chopping will bruise the herb. Leading to a loss of flavor on the cutting board surface.
What is Mint?
Mint is the name for over a dozen plant species, including peppermint and spearmint, that belong to the genus Mentha. It is a popular herb that people can use fresh or dried in many dishes and infusions.
These plants are particularly known for the cooling sensation they impart. They can be added to foods in both fresh and dried forms. Also, mint is a popular ingredient in several foods and beverages. Ranging from teas and alcoholic drinks to sauces, salads, and even desserts.
While eating the plant offers some health benefits, research shows that several of the mint’s health benefits come from applying it to the skin. As well as inhaling its aroma, or taking it as a capsule. A 2-tablespoon serving or 3.2 grams (g) of fresh peppermint provides:
Mint also contains trace amounts of potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin C, iron, vitamin A, etc.
What is Mint good for?
For instance, manufacturers of toothpaste, gum, candy, and beauty products often use mint oil. Bearing in mind, mint leaves are a tender herb with gentle stems. It is best to add them raw or at the end of the cooking process.
This helps them maintain their delicate flavor and texture. But, it’s important to realize, when buying mint, look for bright, unblemished leaves. Then again, make sure you store them in a reusable plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
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Mint is a particularly good source of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that is critical for eye health and night vision. It is also a potent source of antioxidants, especially when compared to other herbs and spices.
Antioxidants help protect your body from oxidative stress, a type of damage to cells caused by free radicals. Although not typically consumed in large quantities, it contains fair amounts of several nutrients. And is an especially good source of vitamin A and antioxidants.
Other ideas to include on mint:
Making a mint limeade by mixing lime juice with sugar or stevia and muddled mint leaves. Top it off with filtered water and ice cubes.
Incorporating mint into a fresh fruit salsa with chopped apples, pear, lemon or lime juice, jalapeno, and honey. Serve with cinnamon pita chips or on top of baked chicken.
- Jazzing up your water by adding mint leaves and cucumber for a refreshing treat.
- Adding a few chopped mint leaves to your next chocolate chip cookie dough.
- Pouring hot water over mint leaves and steeping for 5-6 minutes for homemade mint tea. Try using chocolate mint leaves for a twist.
- Chopping mint and tossed with fresh pineapple for a quick snack.
Alternatively, you can try these healthful and delicious recipes from registered dietitians:
What are the Benefits of Mint?
While mint contains several nutrients, the amount that a person would typically use in a meal is not always that sufficient. In particular, to provide a significant amount of a person’s daily requirement.
That said, in the diet, it’s most beneficial as a replacement for salty, sugary, or calorific flavorings. With its ointment extracts or supplements providing most of its benefits. So, what are the benefits of using mint? Below are some of the key benefits you should consider;
1. Helps manage gastrointestinal problems
Mint is a calming herb that people have used for thousands of years to help soothe an upset stomach or indigestion.
A 2019 review found that placebo-controlled studies support the use of peppermint oil as a remedy for a range of gastrointestinal conditions. Including indigestion, IBS, stomach pain in children, and feelings of sickness after surgery.
The authors of the review found that mint works against harmful microbes regulate muscle relaxation, and helps control inflammation.
A different review from the same year assessed 12 randomized controlled trials and found that peppermint oil was a safe and effective intervention for pain symptoms in adults with IBS.
2. It offers supplementary support for allergies
Its associate plants contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid. A 2019 study on rats found that rosmarinic acid reduced symptoms of asthma. In comparison to a control group that did not receive a supplement.
The mint plant family provides a range of plant compounds that have anti-allergenic effects, according to a 2019 review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
However, the content of mint extract in oils and ointments may be far stronger than dietary mint. There is very little research into the effect of dietary mint on the symptoms of allergies.
3. Has a soothing effect on common cold symptoms
Basically, this plant contains menthol. An aromatic decongestant that might help to break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel.
Applying menthol ointments or vapor rubs may be a safe and effective treatment for children who have a common cold. However, the American Lung Association (ALA) advises that scientific studies do not support the use of menthol for managing cold symptoms.
Despite this, some people may find that cold symptoms reduce after applying a menthol vapor rub. The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) advises that peppermint oil may cause skin irritation and redness.
They recommend that parents or carers do not apply the ointment directly to the chest or face of a child due to serious possible side effects after direct inhalation.
4. It’s known to improve the brain functions
In addition to ingesting mint, there are claims that inhaling the aroma of essential oils from the plant could provide other health benefits. Including an improved performance of the brain.
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.
Another study found that smelling these oils while driving increased alertness and decreased levels of frustration, anxiety, and fatigue.
However, not all studies agree that peppermint oil could benefit brain function. One study found that although the aroma of the oil was invigorating and led to less fatigue, it had no effect on brain function.
More research is needed to help understand how it may work and investigate whether peppermint does, in fact, improve brain function.
5. It may decrease breastfeeding pain
Breastfeeding mothers commonly experience sore and cracked nipples, which can make breastfeeding painful and difficult. Studies have shown that applying mint to the skin can help relieve pain associated with breastfeeding.
In these studies, breastfeeding mothers applied various forms of mint to the area around the nipple after each feeding. Typically, they used essential oil on its own or mixed with gel or water.
One study showed that applying peppermint water after breastfeeding was more effective than applying expressed breast milk in preventing nipple and areola cracks, which resulted in less nipple pain.
Another study similarly showed that only 3.8% of mothers who applied a peppermint gel experienced nipple cracks, compared to 6.9% of those who used lanolin and 22.6% of those who used a placebo.
Furthermore, an additional study showed that both the pain and severity of nipple cracks decreased in mothers who applied menthol essential oil after each feeding.
Does mint-flavored chewing gum really clean the teeth?
Eventually, mint-flavored chewing gum or breath mints are some of the first things people reach for when trying to prevent or get rid of bad breath.
Experts agree that most of these products can mask foul-smelling breath for a few hours. However, they only cover up bad breath. And thus, don’t reduce the bacteria or other compounds causing bad breath in the first place.
On the other hand, drinking peppermint tea and chewing on fresh leaves may be able to both mask bad breath and kill bacteria. More so, test-tube studies have even highlighted the antibacterial effects of peppermint oil.
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In short, the plant provides a refreshing taste that can make the mouth feel clean. It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which can improve teeth and gum health.
The act of chewing also helps with cleaning the mouth and teeth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), chewing gum creates more saliva. And it can help cleanse the mouth. Obviously, because it neutralizes and washes away the acid in the mouth due to the breakdown of food.
The general advice from the ADA is to chew sugar-free gum to reduce the risk of caries.
Are there any associated risks?
According to a 2019 review, it commonly acts as a trigger for GERD symptoms. Therefore, taking peppermint oil in large doses can be toxic. It is essential to stick to the recommended doses of peppermint oil.
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In addition, pure menthol is poisonous and not for internal consumption. People should only ever apply it to the skin or a nearby surface, such as a pillow, to disperse fumes. Equally important, do not apply mint oil to the face of an infant or small child.
Simply, because it may cause spasms that inhibit breathing. And under all circumstances, you can speak with your healthcare provider at any time. To determine whether any of your medications could interact with mint or mint oil.
May it be peppermint oil or the plant itself, they all make a delicious and healthy addition to many foods and beverages.
Although mint is easy to add to many dishes, research demonstrating its health benefits has mainly focused on its use in various forms. From capsules, applied to the skin, or even directly inhaled.
As such, its health benefits range from improving brain function and digestive symptoms to relieving breastfeeding pain. As well as working on cold symptoms and even bad breath. In that case, you really can’t go wrong adding some mint to your diet.
Read More About Peppermint Oil Uses and Benefits
When using mint for health purposes, it is important to evaluate what you are looking to achieve. And even how the plant was used in the research for that particular purpose. The list below should help summarize some of the research discussed above.
- Eating fresh or dried leaves: Used to treat bad breath.
- Inhaling essential oils: May improve brain function and cold symptoms.
- Applying it to the skin: Used to reduce nipple pain from breastfeeding.
- Taking capsules with food: May help treat IBS and indigestion.
You can easily add mint to green salads, desserts, smoothies, and even water. Peppermint tea is another popular way to incorporate it into your diet.
However, many of the studies showing the health benefits of mint didn’t involve eating the leaves with food. Instead, the mint was taken as a capsule, applied to the skin, or inhaled via aromatherapy.
What do you have to say about this plant? Have you used it before? Please let us know in the comments section. And if you’ll need more help, you can Contact Us for more additional details.