Mint: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the health benefits, history, and culinary uses of mint, an aromatic herb from the Lamiaceae family, and discover various mint types and recipes.

What Is Mint?

Mint (also known as mentha) is an aromatic herb produced by various species of the Lamiaceae family. Native to the eastern Mediterranean, mint gets its name from a mythic nymph named Minthe (Mintho).

Is Mint Good For You?

Mint is absolutely good for you! It has many beneficial properties.

7 Health Benefits Of Mint

  1. Mint is a good source of vitamin A , a fat-soluble vitamin that is critical for eye health and night vision
  2. Mint might promote brain health and brain function.
    1. Some studies have found that mint essential oil may have neuroprotective components and may help with neurological disorders like anxiety and depression.
    2. Another study found that smelling peppermint could enhance memory and increase alertness, although it's unknown if ingesting it has similar effects.
    3. One study involved 144 volunteers who smelled ylang-ylang, peppermint, or none. The peppermint group showed to have improved memory while the ylang-ylang group had decreased memory.
  3. Mint is a source of flavonoid rosmarinic acid (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory), which helps fight free radicals.
    1. A study found that rosmarinic acid could improve asthma symptoms in animals.
  4. Peppermint oil contains a compound called menthol, which is thought to help alleviate IBS symptoms through its relaxing effects on the muscles of the digestive tract.
  5. Peppermint may help relieve indigestion.
    1. Some studies show that food passes through the stomach quicker when people take peppermint oil with meals, which could help relieve indigestion
  6. Menthol may help improve cold symptoms
    1. Many over-the-counter cold and flu treatments contain menthol, which some believe helps as a nasal decongestant
    2. There is a study with 10 and 11 year olds who used a nasal spray with menthol or control (eucalyptus). Neither of the sprays actually changed the amount of congestion, but the kids who used mint had a perceived improvement
    3. Using menthol products like ointments or vapor rubs during a cold can help
  7. Peppermint may help with breath
    1. There was a study that found that peppermint, tea tree, and thyme oil can help reduce bacteria in the mouth, which could help with breath

History, Background, and General Facts About Mint

  • Mint grows natively on all continents except Antarctica
  • All mints thrive near pools of water, lakes, rivers, and cool moist spots in partial shade.
  • Mint can be grown in full sun and can grow year round
  • Some mint species are invasive and can take over an area of other plants
  • To control mints in an open environment, they should be planted in deep, bottomless containers sunk in the ground, or planted above ground in tubs and barrels
  • The mint plant is common and a favorite of many gardeners because it's easy to grow
  • Mint is best known for its association with fresh breath due to the cool sensation it creates in the mouth. Toothpaste, mouthwash, breath mints, and chewing gum are all commonly flavored with mint.
  • All varieties of mint leaves may be used fresh, in dried herb form, brewed as a tea, or concentrated in an essential oil.
  • The leaves have a warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste, and are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Mint?

  • Fresh mint is used in lamb dishes In Middle Eastern cuisine and added to yogurt sauces
  • In British cuisine mint sauce is used with lamb
  • American cuisine uses mint jelly with lamb and mint is often added to fruit salad and used to make mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • Mint is sometimes used to make pesto in Italian cooking
  • Mint ( pudina ) is a staple in Indian cuisine , used in curries and other dishes.
  • Mint is an ingredient in Touareg tea (green tea with spearmint and sugar), a popular tea in northern African and Arab countries.
  • Alcoholic drinks sometimes use mint such as the mint julep and the mojito .
  • Crème de menthe is a mint-flavored liqueur used in drinks such as the grasshopper (creme de menthe, white creme de cacao, and cream)

What Is The Best Way To Store Mint?

Mint leaves are delicate and can wilt or lose their flavor quickly if not stored properly. Here's the best way to store mint:

  1. Trim and Remove Damaged Leaves: Before storing mint, inspect the leaves and discard any damaged or wilted ones. This will help maintain the freshness of the remaining leaves.

  2. Damp Paper Towel Method:

    • Gently wash the mint leaves under cool water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
    • Take a slightly damp paper towel and spread it out on a flat surface.
    • Place the mint leaves in a single layer on the damp paper towel.
    • Roll up the paper towel with the mint leaves loosely, creating a bundle.
    • Place the rolled-up bundle in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container.
    • Store the bag or container in the refrigerator, preferably in the crisper drawer.
    • The mint leaves stored this way can stay fresh for up to one week.
  3. Water Jar Method:

    • Trim the ends of the mint stems and place the bunch in a jar or glass filled with a few inches of water.
    • Cover the leaves loosely with a plastic bag and secure it with a rubber band or string.
    • Keep the jar in the refrigerator, changing the water every two days to maintain freshness.
    • This method can help keep mint leaves fresh for up to two weeks.

What Are The Different Types Of Mint?

There are hundreds of varieties of mint but the most common and popular mints for commercial cultivation are peppermint , native spearmint , Scotch spearmint , watermint, cornmint and apple mint

    • ​​ Spearmint grows to about 3 feet high, with open spikes of pink or lilac flowers and stalkless leaves; it has the characteristic mint fragrance
    • Peppermint , a hybrid between spearmint and watermint, has a heavy scent, stalked leaves, and reddish lilac flowers in dense spikes.
    • Water mint commonly grows in ditches and has rounded flower spikes and stalked hairy leaves.
    • Wild mint native to North America and Eurasia, reaches about 3.3 feet high.

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Mint

Like many herbs, mint can adversely affect some people especially if you have issues with other herbs in the Lamiaceae family. People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) should not use mint in an attempt to soothe digestive issues. It could actually trigger additional issues.

What Is The Best Substitute For Mint If I Don't Have Any?

If you don't have fresh mint available or need a substitute for it in a recipe, there are a few alternatives you can consider depending on the flavor profile you're aiming for. Here are some options:

  1. Mint Extract: If you have mint extract or oil, you can use it as a substitute for fresh mint. Mint extract is concentrated, so use a small amount to add mint flavor to your recipe. Start with a few drops and adjust to taste.

  2. Basil: While not an exact match, fresh basil can provide a similar herbaceous and slightly sweet flavor to some dishes. It may not replicate the cooling sensation of mint, but it can still contribute a pleasant aroma and taste.

  3. Fennel Fronds: Fennel fronds, the leafy green tops of fennel bulbs, can offer a hint of freshness and a slight anise-like flavor that can work as a substitute for mint in some recipes. It may not have the same cooling effect as mint, but it can add a unique touch to certain dishes.

Nutritional Facts
2 tbsp
Amount per serving
1 g
0.1 g
0.4 g
Saturated Fat
0 g
3.4 mg
0.8 g

Best Mint Recipes