Known for its distinct aroma and medicinal value, mint is one of the most popular herbs. Its scientific name is ‘Mentha’, and in common language, it is called ‘Pudina’. Due to its sweet and cooling effects, it is used as a mouth freshener. It is used in making chutneys, salads, dips, soups and desserts. Apart from its well-known benefits as a breath freshener, mint also offers several health benefits.
Although it first originated in Europe and the Mediterranean region, mint gained worldwide popularity due to its culinary as well as curative benefits. With over thousands of species and varieties of mint, such as horsemint, peppermint, spearmint, apple mint etc., it is a plant with excellent health properties. Peppermint and spearmint are the most commonly used varieties of mint. Peppermint has a bit of a stronger flavor, and spearmint is a little more cool and subtle. Spearmint is a less pungent member of the mint family, and consists of anti septic, carminative, cephalic and emmenagogue properties. The active ingredient that gives flavor, a cooling effect and a distinctive smell to peppermint is menthol; whereas R-carvone is mainly responsible for the smell and cooling property in spearmint.
Health Benefits of Mint (peppermint and spearmint)
Promotes healthy digestion-
Mint is loaded with antioxidants that aid in the digestion of food. Antioxidants fight the free radicals that initiate unwanted cell reactions in the digestive tract and disrupt the digestion. Mint also galvanizes the enzymes so as to facilitate the process of digestion.
Apart from promoting healthy digestion, mint is also known for its medicinal effect in various mild stomach conditions, including vomiting, stomach upset, bloating, flatulence etc. Several natural medicines for stomach ailments contain mint. For recurring problems with indigestion, just enjoy some peppermint/spearmint tea, or add a few fresh leaves of mint to your food daily. In case of acute stomach pain, crush mint leaves and mix it in a half glass of water. Dissolve one spoon of sugar in it. Drink the mint solution and you will immediately feel better.
Relieves the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome-
Categorized under psychosomatic disorder, irritable bowel syndrome is a difficult condition without any proper aetiology. Characterized by indigestion, colonic muscle spasms, dyspepsia etc., irritable bowel syndrome is triggered by stress or food. Various studies have shown that peppermint relaxes the smooth muscles in the intestine, thus reducing the chance of spasm and indigestion that accompany it. Due to its ability to block calcium channels at cell receptor levels, mint is known as a natural antispasmodic remedy. These healing properties of peppermint are due to its main component- menthol.
Reduces pain from headache-
Just like mint helps in relieving stomach pain, it also helps in reducing pain from headache. The strong and cooling effect of mint act as a quick remedy for easing pain associated with tension headaches. Therefore, in Ayurvedic medicine (Traditional Indian Medicine), many mint products and balms are used for relieving head pain.
Treats the symptoms of cold, cough and sinus infections-
Peppermint is extremely beneficial for several respiratory ailments, including cold, cough, throat and sinus infections and congestion in chest. Rosmarinic acid, the main component in peppermint has multiple actions on respiratory tract, which help in relieving symptoms of cold and congestion. Rosmarinic acid blocks the production of pro-inflammatory substances called leukotriene, which is responsible for causing inflammation of respiratory tract. It also stimulates the production of prostacyclin, a substance that helps in keeping the airways open for breathing, thus facilitating breathing in asthmatic patients as well as allergy sufferers.
Rich source of nutrients-
Both spearmint and peppermint are excellent sources of minerals, such as calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and manganese. They also contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, and folate. All these vitamins and minerals are the basic blocks of the body that are essential in healthy functioning of each and every health system. They are dense in nutrients and low in calories.
Provides protection against cancer-
Various studies have shown that regular consumption of mint may help in reducing the risk of cancer. These cancer-protecting properties of mint are due to beta carotenoids and other carotenoids found in mint. Carotenoids have been shown to increase cell differentiation and protect cells against carcinogenic chemicals that could damage DNA.
The anti-carcinogenic properties are also due to Vitamin A, which is abundantly found in peppermint. Vitamin A also prevents cell proliferation and tumor formation.
Soothes skin irritation-
Menthol is known for its soothing cooling effect on the skin or mucus membrane. Therefore, it can be used for soothing skin irritations. The cooling effect is due to the essential volatile oils like menthol, menthol acetate, and menthone. These compounds have effect on cold-sensitive receptors in the skin, the property that is responsible for the natural cooling sensation when applied on the skin. Applying mint oil directly on the skin also relieves itching symptoms.
Due to its anti-microbial and antiseptic properties, mint is used in various cosmetic products, including face washes, cleansers, scrubs and lipsticks. Some people use mint leaves directly on the skin to relieve pimples. Crush mint leaves and mix them with curd to make a paste. Apply this paste directly on the face for glowing, pimple free skin.
Rich source of antioxidants-
Anti-oxidants are plant derived chemical compounds that possess several health-promoting properties. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that are responsible for causing slow degeneration of cells. The antioxidant strength is measured in the form of ORAC. The ORAC for peppermint herb is 13978 µmol TE/100 g.
Ways to add mint in your diet-
Mint can be consumed in many different ways. One of the most popular ways that most people seem to favor is by drinking mint tea. Crushed mint leaves can be added to your food daily. Try adding chopped mint leaves to sauces with vegetables. You can also take mint in the form of mint supplements.
Avoid taking mint supplements if you are pregnant or lactating. Excessive mint consumption has been shown to reduce the production of milk in nursing mothers.
Looking to add some mint to your diet? Try our Think Clearly Tea, it has a combination of organic peppermint and spearmint, along with guayusa- an herb used in South America for mental clarity. You can also check out our Organic Mint Tea here.