Well known for its refreshing aroma and the cooling feel of its essential oil menthol, mint is a versatile herb. Most herbal gardens have one or more varieties of the perennial herb growing on the ground or in containers all through the year. Mint oil and menthol extracted from the herb are preferred flavoring agents in toothpastes, mouthwashes, chewing gums, and mouth fresheners. Peppermint, a variety of mint with a dark red stem, deep green leaves, and a purple whorl of flowers, is used to extract menthol. Mint and its essential oils are used not only in oral care products; they are also used in soaps, shampoos, and in oils for massage and aromatherapy. The health benefits of mint have been known to man since centuries, and recent research has established the validity of the medicinal uses of mint in traditional healing systems. In the modern pharmaceutical industry, extracts of mint are used in medication prescribed for relieving nasal congestion, stomach upsets, colic, headache, and gingivitis. Herbal teas made with mint leaves are served in many parts of the world. The use of this aromatic herb in various cuisines around the world is also well documented. Mint is so versatile that it is used to flavor sauces, jellies, cheeses, salads, soups and various types of cooked meats, seafood, and vegetables.
Nutritional Information and Properties
Mint leaves are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and E and beta carotene. Chewing mint leaves ensures that your breath is fresh and that you get all the mint nutritional benefits, including micro nutrients like potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese, along with helpful dietary fiber. The essential oil from mint leaves is loaded with anti-oxidants, which help to boost the immune system of the body. Free of cholesterol, mint is also a vital aid in digestion, soothing intestinal muscular cramps. The leaves are also rich in several vitamin B complex compounds like riboflavin, folates, etc., which aid in the absorption of iron and other minerals from the food. The flavor, color, and cool taste of the leaves makes them a natural choice of herb for adding a burst of fresh fragrance to a bowl of salad, soup, or crunchy fruit, making them more attractive to dieters.
Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses
Mint nutritional benefits apart, the anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties of the herb make it a vital ally in the treatment of many painful conditions. Here are some of the uses of this herb.
- Mint is helpful in treating gastrointestinal disorders like colic and irritable bowel syndrome. The soothing menthol relieves muscle cramps on the inner walls of the intestine. It also inhibits diarrhea, stimulates bile secretion, and improves digestion.
- Menthol, extracted from mint leaves, has soothing, analgesic properties. This makes it suitable for use in throat lozenges and cough syrups as it soothes a scratchy sore throat.
- Rubs containing cool menthol are used to relieve nasal and chest congestion in those suffering from severe colds.
- Skin creams and lotions to treat sun burn also use menthol for its burst of cool sensations once it is applied on the skin.
- Mint is also considered to be an effective medicine against gingivitis
- The calming, cooling effect of menthol is a boon for those who suffer from migraines.
- The refreshing fragrance of mint can alleviate the symptoms of nausea. Drinking mint tea during pregnancy helps women who have nausea, heartburn, and stomach cramps.
- Drops of mint oil in a glass of warm water is given to those who have a headache caused by indigestion.
- Inhaling steam from a hot bowl of water in which a few drops of mint oil or a bunch of mint leaves has been dropped can refresh the mind and ease mental fatigue.
- In Tunisia and Morocco, freshly brewed mint tea is served to guests to help them beat the heat.
Since mint tea relaxes stomach muscles, those with reflux problems should avoid it as mint could aggravate their acid reflux problem. Among the known side effects of mint is the tendency to slow down heart rate and induce drowsiness is some people. It must be remembered that essential oils like mint oil or menthol are more concentrated than fresh or dried herbs, and so they must be used in minute quantities, basically just one or two drops. It is best to mix one or two drops of the essential oil in a tablespoonful of any edible oil like olive oil before applying it on the skin.