Health Benefits of Mint Leaves

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on February 14, 2023
4 min read

Mint leaves create a cool sensation in the mouth. Toothpaste, mouthwash, breath mints, and chewing gum are all commonly flavored with mint. 

In addition to freshening breath, mint adds flavor to foods and drinks – everything from ice cream and tarts to lemonade and cocktails to meat dishes (especially lamb).

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. 

Traditional medicine uses mint to treat a variety of ailments. 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.

Mint is perhaps most popularly known as a remedy for digestive problems. Some limited research suggests that peppermint oil in capsules may ease belly pain from irritable bowel syndrome

Animal and in vitro studies suggest that mint leaves could have wider medicinal uses 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.

The nutritional content of mint varies slightly across varieties. 

Nutrients per serving

One tablespoon of fresh peppermint contains: 

  • Calories: 1
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: Less than 1 gram
  • Sugar: 0 grams

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

One tablespoon of fresh spearmint contains: 

  • Calories: 3
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: Less than 1 gram
  • Sugar: 0 grams

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

Because mint is an herbal remedy, you should consult with your doctor before taking it or any other supplement. Still, 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. Other may issues include:

GERD concerns

While mint or mint water may help with some symptoms of digestive ailments, studies show it can worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease. People with GERD should avoid mint and mint water, as they can trigger their symptoms.


When consumed in large amounts, mint may cause adverse effects. Peppermint oil on the skin can cause irritation and rashes. It should not be applied to the face. More research is needed on the long-term effects of regularly consuming mint, so it’s best to consume it in moderation.  

Mint leaves are useful for more than fresh breath. Add variety to your food and beverages by using mint in 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

You can also make “mint water.” Mint water is a simple and refreshing beverage that’s a healthy alternative to soda or sugary drinks. It contains no sugar, no caffeine, and very few calories. 

You can make mint water at home by steeping mint leaves in boiling water and then chilling to your preferred temperature – no muddling required!

Mint water made with one-quarter cup of fresh mint contains: 

  • Calories: 4 to 12
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 8 milligrams