Health Benefits of Mint Leaves

Mint is a leafy plant that's perhaps 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. 

In addition to freshening breath, mint is also used to add flavor to foods and drinks. Mint is known for adding a fresh flavor to mint chocolate chip ice cream, mojito cocktails, and lamb dishes.

There are many varieties of the mint plant, and most fall under the genus Mentha. Because mint plants spread quickly, gardeners tend to grow them in containers. When planted directly into the ground, they can become invasive and take over a garden.

Mint grows natively on all continents except Antarctica. Peppermint and spearmint are likely the most commonly used mint varieties, but many others exist, such as wild mint and water mint.

Some plants referred to as "mint" also fall under the genus Monarda. Both Mentha and Monarda genuses are within the same family, called Lamiaceae. Monarda mints include horsemint, catmint, and stonemint.

All varieties of mint leaves may be used fresh, in dried herb form, brewed as a tea, or concentrated in an essential oil. 

Health Benefits

Mint has been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments for many years. Unfortunately, there aren't many human studies documenting the impact mint has on the body apart from digestion support and irritable bowel syndrome relief. With time, research could confirm that mint is useful in treating a wider variety of illnesses.

Brain Health

Consuming mint might promote brain health. One study found mint extracts have potential to treat Alzheimer's symptoms, although more research is needed. Another study found that smelling peppermint could enhance memory and increase alertness, although it's unknown if ingesting it has similar effects.

Digestive Health

When it comes to medicinal uses, mint is perhaps most popularly known as a remedy for digestive problems. Taking peppermint oil reduces abdominal pain and helps treat irritable bowel syndrome without producing side effects. 

Animal and in vitro studies suggest that mint leaves could have wider medicinal applications than those currently known. These types of studies have found that mint is able to kill bacteria, reduce stress, and fight cancerous tumor cells. Human trials will be required to determine if mint also has these effects on the human body.

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Nutrition

The nutritional content of mint varies slightly across varieties. 

Nutrients per Serving

One Tablespoon of fresh peppermint contains: 

Fresh peppermint also contains small amounts of vitamins A and C.

One Tablespoon of fresh spearmint contains: 

Fresh spearmint also contains small amounts of vitamins A and C, as well as the minerals iron and calcium.

Things to Watch Out For

Mint is safe for most people and consuming it doesn't typically cause side effects. Allergies to mint are uncommon. In people who are allergic to mint, an interaction with the herb can trigger asthma symptoms. For this reason, people who are allergic to mint should avoid it completely.

How to Prepare Mint Leaves

Mint leaves are useful for more than fresh breath. Add variety to your food and beverages by incorporating mint into these recipes:

  • Chocolate cake
  • Lemonade
  • Zucchini or squash soup
  • Lettuce salad
  • Bean salad
  • Lamb dishes
  • Chicken dishes
  • Vegetables side dishes, such as peas
  • Pork chops
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 17, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Britannica: "Mint"

Phytotherapy Research: "A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.)"

Antioxidants: "Potential Role of Phenolic Extracts of Mentha in Managing Oxidative Stress and Alzheimer’s Disease

International Journal of Neuroscience: "Modulation of Cognitive Performance and Mood by Aromas of Peppermint and Ylang-Ylang"

American Family Physician: "Peppermint Oil"

Digestive Diseases and Sciences: "The Effect of Enteric-Coated, Delayed-Release Peppermint Oil on Irritable Bowel Syndrome"

Foods: "Activity of Mentha piperita L. Ethanol Extract against Acetic Acid Bacteria Asaia spp."

International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "The Anti-Stress Effect of Mentha arvensis in Immobilized Rats"

Frontiers in Pharmacology: "Anticancer Effects of Wild Mountain Mentha longifolia Extract in Adrenocortical Tumor Cell Models"

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon

Allergy & Rhinology: "Allergic Reaction to Mint Leads to Asthma"

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