Almost all of us are aware of mint leaves in one way or the other. Whether it is a refreshing lemon drink that you love to pair with your three-course meal or a simple herbal tea after a long tiring day at work, mint is the ultimate refresher ingredient. It belongs to the genus Mentha and is well-known for its peculiarly cool sensation. Mint leaves are used and added to countless dishes and drinks in both fresh and dried forms.
Besides the cooling sensation that the mint leaves are used for, these leaves also have several health benefits. They have shown promising results as an excellent skincare product along with providing pain relief. This article delves into numerous health benefits of mint leaves in addition to explaining the various types of mint that exist.
Meet the Mint – A Quick Intro
- The Mint family, or Lamiaceae, is amongst the six largest families of flowering plants.
- Peppermint (Menthapiperita) is the most popular type of mint grown, followed by native spearmint (Menthaspicata), scotch spearmint (Menthagracilis), and cornmint (Menthaarvensis).
- Mint is the source of our very commonly used herbs, such as oregano, marjoram, basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, and summer/winter savories.
- Mint is routinely used in over a dozen traditional medicines, especially pain relief medicines.
- It is also a popular component in making various aromatic products, such as air fresheners.
- Mints are also considered a favorite landscaping plant.
Types of Mint
Almost all the types of mint plants have similar prerequisites for growing. They require partial to full shade with moist and well-draining soil. Also, an important characteristic of mint plants is their out-pf-control invasive tendency. Hence, if you grow them in your garden, you have to take care of them so that they do not go about invading the whole garden. This is preferably taken care of by the use of containers or growing these plants in a pot.
1. Apple Mint (Menthasuaveolens)
This variety of mint is also called wooly mint. It is a very fast-growing plant that might take over your whole gardening space if it is not looked after. Apple mint is commonly used in dessert as a topping or also as a dried herb. It is also a popular addition to a large pitcher of lemon drink or plain water for a refreshing summer drink.
2. Basil Mint (Menthapiperita)
This is a hybrid mint and can be grown very easily. It requires partial shade, so it is best to plant along the edges of the gardens. It requires periodic trimming. The leaves of basil mint have a very strong fragrance – which can be stored and enjoyed even after six months. It is added to pesto sauce and fruit salads to enhance the taste. Basil mint tea is also popular for treating a headache or upset stomach as it has anti-inflammatory properties.
3. Calamint (Calaminthanepeta)
This variety of mint is native to the UK and grows well in sandy soil and full hardiness zones (5-9). The leaves of calamint give off a powerful aroma when crushed. The leaves have deep veins, thick stalks, and fuzzy herbs. Calamint has been used for several medicinal uses for a long time as it has the highest content of menthol. Calamint is used as a popular meat seasoning.
4. Catmint (Nepetamussinii)
This variety of mint has distinguishing grey-green leaves with blue-lavender flowers. It is also used as a fresh herb or dried for storage. It is an important ingredient of the herbal tea that calms you and might provide relief from cough, congestion, and menstrual cramps.
5. Chocolate Mint
This variety of mint has a peculiar square stem. It can easily invade other plants if not watched properly. Chocolate mint has leaves with yellow ting on them. It is added to drinks and desserts and is also used to make chocolaty tea. The look of the leaves of chocolate mint makes it very popular as a garnish.
Other common varieties of mint include:
- Ginger mint
- Grapefruit mint
- Lavender mint
- Licorice mint
- Orange mint
- Pineapple mint
- Red raripila mint
Nutritional Profile of Mint
As mint cannot be consumed in large quantities, an ounce of spearmint, for instance, provides about six calories, a gram of fiber, vitamin A (12% of the Recommended Daily Intake), 9% of the RDI for iron, folate, and manganese. Mint is regarded as an excellent source of vitamin A – which is extremely beneficial for maintaining eye health and night vision.
Health Benefits of Mint
1. May Help Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder of the digestive tract and is characterized by gas, bloated stomach, and stomach pains. Peppermint oil is a popular herbal medicine that is used as a remedy for treating IBS symptoms. Menthol is the main component of peppermint oil that is regarded as beneficial due to its relaxing effects on the digestive muscles.
A meta-analysis of more than 700 people presenting with IBS symptoms in nine research studies revealed that peppermint oil capsules are highly effective in alleviating the symptoms.
2. Beneficial for Indigestion
Indigestion is another very common condition wherein the undigested food sits in the stomach for a long time. This creates a state of discomfort, which has been shown to decrease with the use of peppermint oil. A research study conducted in a clinical setting revealed how peppermint oil, along with caraway oil, helps treat indigestion, similar to the medicines.
3. Could Be Beneficial for Improving Brain Function
In addition to the benefits, different types of mint have on conditions related to indigestion, the use of mint aroma in enhancing brain function is also evident. A study involving 144 young adults who used the aroma of peppermint oil showed vast memory improvements. Moreover, diffusing peppermint essential oil in the surroundings has been shown to increase alertness while decreasing anxiety, frustration, and fatigue.
4. Might Help Decrease Pain during Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding moms commonly report sore or cracked nipples that can lead to very painful, difficult breastfeeding. Research has shown promising results for relieving pain in the breasts related to nursing. Studies have had mothers use different varieties of mint to apply to the sore area after feeding.
Another study analyzing the effects of pain after expressing breast milk concluded that peppermint water helped prevent cracked and sore nipples.
5. Helps Relieve Cold Symptoms
Menthol is the popular component in various varieties of mint that is believed to be beneficial for relieving nasal decongestion and for improving breathing. Moreover, it is believed that menthol in itself is not particularly treating congestion, but it only helps in making people believe that their breathing is improved.
Mint is a cool and delicious addition to numerous foods and cuisines. It can enhance the taste of any dish or drink in seconds. Besides, it is considered very beneficial for relieving the symptoms of cold and flu as it clears the nasal path and makes it easier to breathe.