Mint or mentha belongs to the Lamiaceae family, which contains around 15 to 20 plant species, including peppermint and spearmint. It is a popular herb that people can use fresh or dried in many dishes and infusions. Manufacturers of toothpaste, gum, candy, and beauty products often use mint oil.
Using fresh mint and other herbs and spices in cooking can help a person add flavor while reducing their sodium and sugar intake.
Throughout history, people have used different species of mint plants in medicine. Different types of mint plants offer a range of antioxidant qualities and potential health benefits, especially for people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
In this article, we provide a nutritional breakdown of mint and explain its possible health benefits. We also give tips on including more mint in the diet.
This feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods.
Mint may have several potential health benefits.
Managing gastrointestinal problems
Mint is a calming herb that people have used for thousands of years to help soothe an upset stomach or indigestion.
A 2019 review found that placebo-controlled studies support the use of peppermint oil as a remedy for a range of gastrointestinal conditions, including indigestion, IBS, stomach pain in children, and feelings of sickness after surgery.
The authors of the review found that mint works against harmful microbes, regulates muscle relaxation, and helps control inflammation.
A different review from the same year assessed 12 randomized controlled trials and found that peppermint oil was a safe and effective intervention for pain symptoms in adults with IBS.
However, a 2019 randomized, double-blind trial of 190 people with IBS found that peppermint oil did not significantly reduce symptoms.
More research is necessary to confirm the benefits of mint products in managing IBS.
Mint plants contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid.
A 2019 study on rats found that rosmarinic acid reduced symptoms of asthma when compared to a control group that did not receive a supplement.
The mint plant family provides a range of plant compounds that have anti-allergenic effects, according to a review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
However, the content of mint extract in oils and ointments may be far stronger than dietary mint. There is very little research into the effect of dietary mint on the symptoms of allergies.
Soothing common cold symptoms
Mint contains menthol. This an aromatic decongestant that might help to break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel.
Applying menthol ointments or vapor rubs may be a safe and effective treatment for children who have a common cold.
However, the American Lung Association (ALA) advise that scientific studies do not support the use of menthol for managing cold symptoms.
Despite this, some people may find that cold symptoms reduce after applying a menthol vapor rub.
The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) advise that peppermint oil may cause skin irritation and redness. They recommend that parents or carers do not apply the ointment directly to the chest or face of a child due to serious possible side effects after direct inhalation.
Mint leaves are a tender herb with gentle stems. It is best to add them raw or at the end of the cooking process. This helps them maintain their delicate flavor and texture.
When buying mint, look for bright, unblemished leaves. Store them in a reusable plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Mint is relatively easy to grow, and people can cultivate it at home, making it a sustainable way to add flavor to meals.
When preparing mint, use a sharp knife and cut gently. Using a dull knife or over-chopping will bruise the herb and lead to a loss of flavor on the cutting board surface.
Middle Eastern cuisines, such as lamb, soups, and vegetable salads often contain mint for flavor.
Other ideas include:
Making a mint limeade by mixing lime juice with sugar or stevia and muddled mint leaves. Top it off with filtered water and ice cubes.
Incorporating mint into a fresh fruit salsa with chopped apples, pear, lemon or lime juice, jalapeno, and honey. Serve with cinnamon pita chips or on top of baked chicken.
- Jazzing up your water by adding mint leaves and cucumber for a refreshing treat.
- Adding a few chopped mint leaves to your next chocolate chip cookie dough.
- Pouring hot water over mint leaves and steeping for 5-6 minutes for homemade mint tea. Try using chocolate mint leaves for a twist.
- Chopping mint and tossing with fresh pineapple for a quick snack.
Alternatively, you can try these healthful and delicious recipes from registered dietitians:
- Superfood shamrock smoothie
- Choco-mint bites
Like many herbs, mint can adversely affect some people.
People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) should not use mint in an attempt to soothe digestive issues. According to a 2019 review, mint commonly acts as a trigger for GERD symptoms.
Taking peppermint oil in large doses can be toxic. It is essential to stick to the recommended doses of peppermint oil.
Pure menthol is poisonous and not for internal consumption. People should only ever apply it to the skin or a nearby surface, such as a pillow, to disperse fumes.
Do not apply mint oil to the face of an infant or small child, as it may cause spasms that inhibit breathing.
Speak with your healthcare provider to determine whether any of your medications could interact with mint or mint oil.
A 2-tablespoon serving, or 3.2 grams (g) of fresh peppermint provides:
- 2.24 calories
- 0.12 g of protein
- 0.48 g of carbohydrates
- 0.03 g of fat
- 0.26 g of fiber
Mint also contains trace amounts of:
- vitamin C
- vitamin A
While mint contains several nutrients, the amount that a person would typically use in a meal is not sufficient to provide a significant amount of a person’s daily requirement.
Mint in the diet is most beneficial as a replacement for salty, sugary, or calorific flavorings. Mint ointments or supplements provide most of their benefits.