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Mint Plant Benefits: Why Is This Fresh, Cool Herb Good for the Health?

Mint Plant Benefits: Why Is This Fresh, Cool Herb Good for the Health?

While most associate mint with chewing gum and fresh breath, mint is also a leafy plant that adds flavor to food and drinks. Gum, toothpaste, breath freshener, mouthwash, mojito cocktails, lamb dishes, and even ice cream all have mint in varying degrees. And we all feel a cool sensation in our mouths when consuming those items. But aside from introducing that feeling, are there other mint plant benefits we should know about?

Mint Plant Varieties

There are many varieties of the leafy mint plant, and most fall under the genus Mentha.

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

Because mint plants thrive and spread quickly, gardeners tend to grow them in containers. When planted directly into the ground, they can become invasive and take over a garden.

Some plants referred to as “mint” also fall under the genus Monarda. Both Mentha and Monarda genuses are within the same family, which is Lamiaceae. Monarda mints include horsemint, catmint, and stonemint. These and all varieties of mint leaves can be used fresh, in their dried herb form, brewed as a tea, or concentrated in an essential oil.

Mint and Insects

In the United States, mint plants actually attract pests in the form of mites, cutworms, and flea beetles. Each of those have the potential to reduce yield by 80% or more.

Mint has long enjoyed the foothold status of a popular and traditional kitchen herb, but it can also offer numerous benefits ranging from the medical arena to other areas having a strong association with health — spanning from the food industry to repellents and insecticides. About 35% of Midwestern mint acres are treated with insecticides primarily for controlling the mint flea beetle and the mint bud mite.

Although the mint industry invested much time and effort on research to commercialize this technology, it ultimately failed to produce a cost effective and available product. Mint growers in the northwest have always been dependent on the use of insecticides for the control of insect pests.

Mint Plant Benefits

The history of local Egyptian mint dates back to at least 1,000 BC, when the ancient Egyptians used it as an herbal medicine. The essential oil from M. longifolla demonstrated strong antibacterial activity against plant and human bacterial pathogens.

Practitioners of traditional medicine use mint to treat a variety of ailments. There have not been, however, many human studies documenting the impact mint has on the body apart from digestion support and irritable bowel syndrome relief.

How To Tell If You Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS):

Still, over time, research could confirm that mint is useful in treating a wider variety of illnesses.

Other Possible Mint Plant Benefits

  • Brain health – One study found that mint extracts can potentially treat Alzheimer’s symptoms, although more research is needed. Another study found that smelling peppermint could enhance memory and increase alertness. It’s unknown if ingesting the herb has similar effects.
  • Digestive health – Mint is most popularly known for its digestive relief properties. Research shows that peppermint oil can reduce abdominal pain and heps to treat irritable bowel syndrome.

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.

Until human trials are conducted though, it cannot be determined if mint will have the same effects on the human body.

Researchers conducted a study hoping to dispel the impression that mint is only a simple culinary herb. The same researchers believed that mint has the potential of being a potent curative herb. Possibly, mint plant benefits include being a natural antioxidant for controlling food deterioration, or as an insect repellent. At the end of that study, the need for an ambitious and in-depth dedicated research initiative that can further explore and ultimately reveal the real “great” medical benefits of mint was being promoted.

Key Takeaways

Countless products from chewing gum and ice cream to breath fresheners contain mint. The plant itself has proven to have a few health benefits for enhancing memory and digestive relief. Further studies can help to determine if mint plant benefits go beyond what researchers have found thus far.

Learn more about Nutrition Facts here.

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Sources

Essential Oils of Mint between Benefits and Hazards, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0972060X.2013.813279, Accessed December 9, 2021

Prospective Role in Treatment of Major Illnesses and Potential Benefits as a Safe Insecticide and Natural Food Preservative of Mint (Mentha spp.): A Review, https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sameer-Shaikh/publication/280981411_Prospective_Role_In_Treatment_Of_Major_Illnesses_And_Potential_Benefits_As_A_Safe_Insecticide_And_Natural_Food_Preservative_of_Mint_Mentha_spp_A_Review/links/5919c872a6fdccb149f36c9b/Prospective-Role-In-Treatment-Of-Major-Illnesses-And-Potential-Benefits-As-A-Safe-Insecticide-And-Natural-Food-Preservative-of-Mint-Mentha-spp-A-Review.pdf, Accessed December 9, 2021

The Benefits of Insecticide Use: Mint, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.655.4620&rep=rep1&type=pdf, Accessed December 9, 2021

Effect of an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus, Glomus mosseae, and a rock-phosphate-solubilizing fungus, Penicillium thomii, on Mentha piperita growth in a soilless medium, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jobm.200410409, Accessed December 9, 2021

Mint https://www.britannica.com/plant/Mentha  Accessed December 20, 2021

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Written by Jason Inocencio Updated Apr 19
Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen