Mint Leaves – Most of us are familiar with the distinctively spicy, refreshing taste and invigorating, a minty fragrance of a stick of peppermint or spearmint. It’s a classic ingredient in breath fresheners, candies, gums, and herbal teas. Few, however, are aware that mint also has an impressively wide range of scientifically confirmed health benefits.
The popular, aromatic herb Mint, scientifically known as Mentha, is a perennial plant which is actually a genus comprising 15-20 known species, and hundreds of varieties. Peppermint and spearmint are just two of the most well-known of these species; some other varieties of mint you may have heard of are catnip, bergamot and lemon balm.
Amazing Benefits Of Mint Leaves!
Humans have been cultivating and using the leaves of mint for many centuries; peppermint leaves have actually been found in the Egyptian pyramids!
(With its trademark fragrance and taste, the versatile little herb is widely used in ice-creams and candy, tea, toothpaste, breath fresheners and inhalers, cosmetics and beauty products, insecticides, and even in cigarettes, where it masks the foul taste of tobacco and soothes the irritation it causes the smoker’s throat.
Mint leaves, whether fresh or dried, have long been a mainstay of cooking as well. Fresh leaves, in particular, add flavor to many different recipes, whilst drinks and foods containing mint cool you off in the summer. Mint has long been valued for its medicinal properties, too, and those are what we shall focus on in this article.
This remarkable plant has a wide variety of potential health benefits, including:
- treatment of gastrointestinal disorders
- promotion of proper digestion
- weight loss
- relief from depression
- memory loss
- a headache and nausea
- treatment of common cold and asthma
- prevention of skin problems, and more.
And the good news is that, with recipes available for dishes ranging from mint smoothies and shakes to jellies and fruit salads, to sauces and mint salsas, there are endless ways you can reap the health benefits of magical, marvelous mint.
As well as being low in calories, fresh mint, including spearmint and peppermint, actually has one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food. Because of this, it can help alleviate a variety of common ailments.
For example, anti-oxidants have been scientifically proven to possess anti-aging properties and are also thought to have a role to play in preventing cancer. But its high antioxidant content is just one of the many characteristics that make mint such a wonder for your wellbeing.
This herb also contains vitamins A, B2 and C; plentiful fiber; and numerous minerals like iron (which you need to make red blood cells), potassium, zinc, calcium, copper, and magnesium.
Menthol, the compound in mint leaves that gives them their distinct aroma, also has soothing, pain relieving and local anesthetic properties.
1. Gastrointestinal Disorders
Much of the existing research on the therapeutic properties of mint suggests that the herb may be particularly effective in treating gastrointestinal disorders, including:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Functional dyspepsia
- Gastric ulcers
- Gastric Emptying Disorders
- Colonic spasm
- Infantile Colic
Bottom Line: Mint leaves have the potential to treat a number of gastrointestinal disorders, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, functional dyspepsia, gastric ulcers, gastric emptying disorders, colonic spasm, and infantile colic.
2. Mint Leaves Aid Digestion
In addition to ameliorating the effects of gastrointestinal disorders, marvelous mint also promotes orderly digestion and soothes stomach muscles beset by indigestion and inflammation.
Did you know the aroma of mint by itself helps to activate the salivary glands along with the glands that excrete digestive enzymes, thus promoting smooth and proper digestion of food? This is precisely why Mint has for long been used in appetizers and as an ingredient in palate cleansers.
What’s more, peppermint apparently increases bile secretion and makes bile flow more efficiently – and may also promote healthier cholesterol levels. Mint, in addition, is a good relaxant, and the muscles in your digestive tract are one of the things it relaxes. Each of these factors helps to speed up and ease the digestive process.
Meanwhile, for sufferers of indigestion, a calming cup of peppermint tea after meals may be just what your sick stomach needs to feel better. Mint contains menthol and methyl salicylate which both ease stomach spasms and help your gut to settle down.
Peppermint further functions as a carminative, which means it helps to relieve discomfort and pain from gas and bloating. Peppermint tea is a traditional home remedy for flatulence!
Bottom Line: Consuming mint leaves prevents indigestion and keeps your gastrointestinal tract in good shape. It also prevents the wind!
3. Relieve Nausea
The menthol oil derived from freshly crushed mint leaves can also help soothe nausea and motion sickness (that makes it a very useful thing to take on board flights!). Again, the mere aroma is often enough to ease your symptoms.
One study from 2013 showed peppermint oil achieved good results in alleviating chemotherapy-induced nausea, and what’s more at a much cheaper price compared to standard pharmaceutical-based treatments.
Were you aware that lots of people keep mint-containing products or menthol oil on their person at all times precisely to ward off feelings of nausea should they arise?
Bottom Line: The menthol in mint helps dispel the unwelcome sensation of nausea. Peppermint oil helps relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea.
4. Mint Leaves Provide You With Pain Relief From Headaches
In addition to relieving nausea, mint leaves double up as a natural alternative to aspirin in the event of headaches.
For example, it is known that when mint oil, or balms whose base is comprised of mint, are rubbed topically on the nose and forehead, they give rapid relief from headaches and migraines.
Magical Mint is an inherently soothing substance, and so naturally it helps to ameliorate the symptoms of inflammation and fever that frequently accompany these conditions. In fact, applying peppermint extract externally has been found to increase the pain threshold in humans.
Bottom Line: Mint, whether applied topically or ingested as a tea, provides you with much needed (and all-natural) relief from pain caused by headaches and migraines.
5. Help Soothe Irritated Skin
Because of its soothing properties, applying mint topically can also be an effective treatment for skin irritations and itchiness, such as those caused by rashes, reactions, and the like.
Next time you have an unwelcome run-in with some poison ivy, try applying a wet rag soaked in peppermint tea, some cold mint tea bags, or a mixture of water and peppermint essential oil.
The antipruritic properties of mint oil also come in handy in treating bites from insects including mosquitoes, honeybees, hornets, wasps, and gnats.
Mint oil is a natural antiseptic, which makes it useful for healing skin infections caused by cuts and insect bites. The cooling properties of mild mint will provide you with relief from the sensations of itchiness and irritation, at the same time as its anti-inflammatory attributes bring the swelling down.
Suffer from shingles? A study conducted back in 2002 found that applying peppermint oil topically to shingles resulted in a rapid improvement in patients’ shingles-associated neuropathic pain symptoms; what is more, the effects lasted throughout the entire 2 months of follow-up treatment.
Finally, the Mint juice is also an effective skin cleanser. In addition to helping to eradicate pimples, it can also assist those with acne. In the same vein, mint juice can also be applied to heal and soothe burns.
Bottom Line: Mint leaves help soothe skin irritated and inflamed by rashes, reactions, burns and insect bites. Mint is a good antiseptic. Studies have found it is effective in reducing pain caused by shingles. Mint leaves can also help reduce pimples and acne.
6. Make An Excellent All-Natural Insect Repellant
One study on natural insect repellants discovered that applying Australian bush mint essential oil to the arms gave great results, preventing mosquitoes both from landing on the skin and from biting it.
If you don’t have a bottle of the essential oil, you can rub the leaves directly on the skin (though it probably won’t be as effective). In fact, mint oil is already found frequently in insect repellent devices such as citronella candles, as the smell alone is sufficient to ward off the majority of insects.
Bottom Line: Mint leaves can be used to make an all-natural, eco-friendly insect repellent.
7. Promote Healthy Hair
A 2014 study showed that topically applying peppermint essential oil to the scalp positively affected the growth of new hair follicles.
That’s great news for those of you concerned about thinning hair or pattern baldness! Consider trying out an organic hair serum with mint and rosemary.
Bottom Line: Applying mint leaves topically promotes healthy hair growth and prevents hair thinning and baldness.
8. Promote Weight Loss
Yet another surprising health benefit of Mighty Mint, is that it can help you in your attempts to shed those burdensome kilos!
Not only is it low in calories but, as we have seen, mint is a natural stimulant, and it dutifully stimulates those digestive enzymes that absorb nutrients from food into the bloodstream, and catabolize fat into energy that can be used by your body.
The more mint leaves you to eat, in other words, the more of your fat gets consumed and converted into fuel, instead of being stored as KGs in your body!
Bottom Line: Eating mint leaves will get you looking trim, taut and terrific!
9. Improve Your Eyesight
Spearmint and peppermint leave both contain generous quantities of vitamin C and vitamin A, which are known to contribute to improved vision.
These elements also protect our delicate orbs from damage caused by roaming free radicals, which in turn prevents the occurrence of eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.
Mint is rich in vitamin A, especially: a half-cup of peppermint leaves provides 23 percent of the daily vitamin A requirement for men, and 18 percent for women; meanwhile, the same amount of spearmint leaves contains 62 percent of the male and 79 percent of the female requirement.
Bottom Line: mint leaves promote the better vision, whilst preventing cataracts and macular degeneration.
10. Have Anti-Cancer Properties
Here is another startling health benefit of this remarkable little herb: it prevents cancer!
As we have seen, mint contains anti-oxidants, and science has repeatedly shown a connection between a diet rich fresh fruits and vegetables – which are packed full of antioxidants like vitamin C – and reduced likelihood of contracting various cancers.
In particular, mint may have a special role to play in preventing prostate cancer. Preclinical research shows that peppermint contains a compound called menthol which apparently slows and inhibits the growth of prostate cancer.
Peppermint also contains a phytonutrient called monoterpene, which has been shown to stop the growth of pancreatic, liver and breast cancers in animal studies (human research awaits!).
In addition, peppermint has a compound known as parallel alcohol, which may halt the development and spread of cancer.
Bottom Line: Mint leaves contain antioxidants and other compounds which may inhibit the growth of cancers. One study suggests the menthol in peppermint may retard the spread of prostate cancer.
11. Effective Anti-Allergen
Each year, legions of people worldwide are afflicted by allergies such as hay fever (scientific name rhinitis) during certain months.
In a 2001 preclinical study on rats, mint leaf extracts were found to have inhibited release of the chemical histamine, which is known to exacerbate symptoms of allergic rhinitis and other seasonal allergies.
Mint also contains an anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid which has been shown to be effective in relieving symptoms of seasonal allergy symptoms.
Bottom Line: Mint leaves have been shown to be effective in addressing seasonal allergies like hay fever.
12. Good For Your Respiratory System
Mint contains menthol, an excellent natural decongestant. Again it’s actually the aroma of the herb that’s responsible for breaking up phlegm and mucus in the lungs, bronchi, nose, and throat, clearing up congestion and giving you relief from respiratory disorders associated with common cold and asthma.
It is also a good relaxant and has a cooling effect which can help soothe sore throats, noses, and other respiratory airways, and relieve the irritation associated with chronic coughing.
Actually, it is for this reason that many balms contain mint – and why they tend to have greater effectiveness (and are more eco-friendly!) than aerosol-based inhalers.
Bottom Line: Mint is a natural decongestant, relaxant, and coolant, and thus helps soothe the symptoms of respiratory disorders like common cold and asthma. One study also found it may be effective in treating tuberculosis.
13. Improve Your Memory
Here’s yet another example of how the mere smell of mint can improve your health! A study from 2006 reports that aromatherapy using peppermint leaves enhances the memory and increases alertness.
You can try this yourself at home: simply add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to your next bath. Or: boil up some shredded mint leaves in water and let the scent waft throughout your home. Even if it doesn’t improve your memory, it will still leave the house smelling clean and refreshed!
Another recent study exploring the link between mint and cognitive function discovered that those who regularly ate mint-flavored chewing gum had significantly improved memory and alertness compared to those who did not.
For the students among you, you’ve now actually got a good reason for bringing that stick of chewing gum with you into the classroom every lesson!
Bottom Line: The stimulating properties of mint leaves extend to stimulating your brain, leading to enhanced memory, alertness and cognitive function.
14. Fight Depression and Fatigue
As we have seen, mint is an excellent natural stimulant; the smell by itself can be sufficient to recharge the batteries and dust the cobwebs out of your brain.
If you’ve been feeling depressed, anxious, or tired lately, then consuming some mint or its derivative oils might be just what the doctor ordered!
It can either be ingested, applied topically, or the vapor inhaled – all of those techniques can give you a quick and welcome energy boost!
Or you can put a drop or two of menthol oil upon your pillow before going to bed, and let the Mint work its magic upon your brain and body as you sleep.
Bottom Line: In the same vein as No. 13, mint leaves can help perk you up when you’re feeling tired and depressed.
15. Improve The Functioning Of Your Nervous System
Adding copper to your diet helps you make phospholipids – a certain fat needed for healthy nerve function – and improves overall brain cell communication.
And guess what? Spearmint leaves are also a good source of copper. A half-cup serving offers 12 percent of the daily copper needs for men and women.
Bottom Line: The copper in spearmint leaves helps improve the overall functioning of your nervous system.
16. Support Your Immune System
As we have seen, mint contains vitamin A, one of the perks of which, so far as your body is concerned, is that it stimulates the creation and improves the functioning of white blood cells, the foundation of your immune system.
One recent study found that consuming peppermint helped to inhibit the activity of acyclovir-resistant Herpes Simplex virus type 1.
Bottom Line: Mint leaves are also good for your immune system.
17. Strengthen Your Bones
Spearmint is also a rich source of manganese, which helps your body synthesize certain proteins required for the healing of wounds, and also helps your bones maintain their proper strength.
A half-cup serving of spearmint leaves provides 28 percent and 22 percent of the daily manganese requirements for women and men, respectively.
Bottom Line: The manganese in spearmint leaves helps keep your bones strong.
18. Promote Good Oral Health
This is a long-known health benefit of magical mint. Because mint is a natural anti-microbial agent and breath freshener, it aids oral health and hygiene by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria inside the mouth (which makes your breath smell better!), whilst cleaning your tongue and whitening the teeth.
In fact, this is the reason why people in the Middle Ages would rub mint leaves onto their gums and teeth! In the modern age, and for similar reasons, mint is a commonly found element in toothpaste, flossers, mouthwashes, and the like.
Concentrated peppermint oil extract has been found to be superior to the mouthwash chemical chlorhexidine, in killing the germs that cause bad breath, along with the streptococcus driven biofilm that is associated with dental cavities.
Bottom Line: Mint promotes good oral health, by killing off the bacteria that cause bad breath and dental cavities.
19. Prevent Cell Damage Caused by Radiation
Preclinical studies indicate that peppermint protects you against radiation-induced DNA damage and cell death. Good news for those of you who work in or around radiology and imaging, or the nuclear industry!
Bottom Line: consuming mint leaves prevents cell and DNA damage associated with exposure to radiation.
20. Help To Halt Hiccups
Drinking a glass of mint water is an old-fashioned (but effective!) home remedy for curing hiccups. Simply infuse a few sprigs of mint in a glass of water and drink up.
Alternatively, you can try chewing on the leaves themselves. The reason Mint helps suppress those hiccups is that of the menthol in it, which is thought to be effective in easing the muscle spasms in your digestive tract.
Bottom Line: Eating or drinking mint helps cure the hiccups.
21. Prevent Breastfeeding Associated Nipple Pain and Damage
Here’s one for the ladies. Despite the sublime phenomenon of a mother breastfeeding her newborn child, an unpleasant byproduct experienced by many women in pain and damage (cracks) to their nipples.
A study published in 2007 found that drinking peppermint water may be effective in preventing nipple cracks and pain in first-time mothers who are breastfeeding.
Bottom Line: Mint leaves may save breastfeeding mothers from the painful, cracked nipples often associated with breastfeeding.
22. Prevent Anemia
As we’ve seen already, spearmint supplies your body with quite a few essential nutrients: two more to add to the list are iron and folate. Both of these are required for the formation of healthy red blood cells so that a surfeit of either result in anemia.
A half-cup serving of spearmint leaves contains 30 percent and 68 percent of the recommended daily intake of iron for women and men, respectively, along with 12 percent of our daily folate needs.
This is another good reason for pregnant women to get some mint into their diet, as anemia is extremely common among expectant mothers, with negative effects for both parent and child.
Bottom Line: the iron and folate in spearmint contribute to the formation of healthy red blood cells.
23. May Reverse Female Sterility
Some research indicates that Mint may be used to successfully treat sterility in females. Spearmint has been found to have significant antiandrogenic effects in subjects suffering polycystic ovarian syndrome, whilst also ameliorating the related condition of mild hirsutism, marked by excessive hair growth in females, and which is also associated with female sterility.
But suffice to say, a great deal of further research must be done on the effects of mint on female sterility. In fact, some argue that due to the insecticidal and germicidal qualities of the herb, prolonged use may, in fact, facilitate female sterility, killing off a woman’s ova and lessening the chances of conception.
Bottom Line: Mint leaves may prevent conditions associated with female sterility, though more research is needed.
Make Mint A Part of Your Meals …
There are obviously loads of ways you can reap the health benefits of this tantalizing little herb, in fact, you’ve probably tried a few already – whether it’s a comforting cup of herbal tea, or a hearty chicken salad spiced up with some chopped mint leaves.
You can add mint leaves to home-brewed iced tea and lemonade, or work it into your next fruit salad. Whatever you do, remember that mint is a tender herb, with the leaves best used raw or added right at the end of cooking so as to preserve their delicate flavor and texture.
When buying mint, also look for bright, unbruised leaves. Store it in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to a week at a time.
Here are some delicious recipes that incorporate mint, which allow you to get all the aforementioned health benefits while at the same time enjoying a variety of lip-smacking drinks, snacks, and meals…
Limeade with Mint
This invigorating (though non-alcoholic!) concoction makes a perfect beverage for a hot summer’s day. The inclusion of mint adds a delicate though refreshing flavor to a decidedly tangy drink.
All you need to do is combine lime juice with water and lime zest, then garnish with several sprigs of fresh mint, and presto! you’re done. Make sure to include the lime zest for extra tanginess.
Here’s how to get the best results:
- Make a simple syrup of sugar, water, and grated lime zest.
- Bringing to the boil in a small saucepan until all the sugar is dissolved.
- Strain out the lime zest using a sieve.
- Serve chilled.
Source: Jen Reviews