The uses of this refreshing herb are varied and endless. Along with being a common ingredient in everything from toothpaste to shampoo, mint leaves flavor numerous recipes, including chocolate, cookies, ice cream, and even fruit salad. And then there are the myriad health benefits of mint. Learn more about the marvelous mint plant and how you can use it to heal an array of wellness woes.
What Is the Mint Plant?
An herb from the genus Lamiaceae, mint leaves, or mentha, refers to approximately 20 different species of plants. While peppermint and spearmint are the best known varieties, this aromatic herb also exists in lavender mint, orange mint, chocolate mint, and pennyroyal varieties. You can eat fresh mint leaves, add dried mint to your favorite baked goods, brew peppermint tea, or even take mint supplements. Whatever the form, mint is known to offer many health advantages.
Health Benefits of Mint
Breath freshener may be the most well-known mint benefit, but the effects of mint extend beyond oral health and into immune system territory. Let’s take a look at mint’s diversified health boons.
Mint Helps Heal a Headache
Whether you suffer from persistent migraines or just the occasional tension headaches, mint can be just the thing to cure your pain and any accompanying nausea. With its refreshing and fresh aroma, mint can help settle an upset stomach and eliminate queasiness. However, you might not realize that menthol and mint are also popular pain relievers.
The next time you feel a headache coming on, consider reaching for a basic mint balm instead of the Advil bottle. Rubbing a little peppermint oil on your forehead (and even your nose) can be just what you need to start feeling better. The cooling effect and aromatherapy application can help calm headache pain. And science is on your side. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, studies show peppermint oil can relieve tension headaches and mitigate the temperature rise that often accompanies a migraine.
Mint Can Help Strengthen Immunity
Did you know that mint leaves are celebrated immunity boosters? A powerful antioxidant, mint contains vitamin A and other nutrients that are known to protect cells from free radicals. On their own, these dangerous molecules can result in myriad problems, including organ damage and an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. According to one journal study, the compounds that are found in peppermint leaves inhibit some of the enzymes known to promote tumors. How’s that for a sweet benefit?
Mint Can Help Kick the Common Cold
Mint naturally contains an abundance of what synthetic, over-the-counter cold remedies add to their formulations and market as a primary cold kicker: menthol. Studies show that menthol appears to help congested people breathe easier and may help to de-lodge phlegm and mucus in the nose, throat, bronchi, and lungs.
Celebrated for its cooling sensation, mint tea should always be part of your home remedies tool kit. The benefits of peppermint tea include not only acting as a decongestant, but also easing a sore throat and alleviating nausea.
Mint May Provide Seasonal Allergy Relief
Rosmarinic acid is a compound in mint plants that acts as an anti-inflammatory and relaxant, and even has been shown to be effective in relieving allergy and asthma symptoms. It also possesses free-radical-scavenging antioxidants, which makes it an all-around health superstar. Research shows that extracts of mint can help inhibit the chemicals that exacerbate allergy symptoms.
Mint Supports Weight Loss
If you’re looking to lose weight, you aren’t alone. According to one report, an estimated 45 million Americans go on diets each year. While adding a little fresh mint to your diet likely won’t be enough to shrink your waistline, it can help promote weight loss when combined with other efforts like healthy eating and exercise.
In fact, studies show that mint stimulates digestive enzymes in the digestive tract to turn fat into energy. So, by adding a little mint to your watermelon salad, or tossing a handful in your morning smoothie, you may just be able to increase the amount of fat being used rather than stored.
Looking for a great mint recipe that does double duty as a detoxifying beverage? Check out our Mint Lemonade Liver Cleanser, which is just the thing to keep you cool on a hot summer day.
Mint Boosts Brain Function
Fish isn’t the only brain food. Believe it or not, these bright-green leaves are also known to promote improved brain function. According to a report published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, simply inhaling mint in the form of essential oils may be enough to boost cognitive processes.
The study, which involved young adults, showed that the smell of peppermint oil correlated with superior memory. Additional research revealed that the scent of mint oil increased alertness while driving and reduced feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and anxiety. Who knew mint could be enough to pacify road rage?
Mint Eases Breastfeeding Discomfort
Of course, breastfeeding isn’t the only way to provide infants with a healthy diet, but it’s certainly a good one. Unfortunately, many women who would like to breastfeed experience serious nipple pain and discomfort that makes it hard to continue. Mint may offer a surprising solution to this uncomfortable dilemma.
According to a study in the International Breastfeeding Journal, peppermint water was reported to help prevent nipple pain and nipple cracks and allow women to breastfeed more easily.
Mint Aids Digestion
For thousands of years, people have used fresh mint to alleviate digestive troubles, from indigestion to nausea, stomach upset, heartburn, and bloating. Some studies even demonstrate that mint may be helpful in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
If you experience stomach discomfort and other symptoms on the regular, consider upping the amount of mint in your diet. Our Mint Chocolate Chip Digestion Dessert Smoothie, for example, is a tasty way to treat indigestion and tame IBS symptoms and other stomach woes. Blend one up today and say hello to healthier digestion.
How to Benefit from Mint
Now that we know the health benefits of mint, how best to use mint in your wellness arsenal? Here are some ideas:
- Make mint tea: Buy fresh mint leaves and add 15-20 leaves to 2 cups of hot or cold water. Drink up!
- Make a mouthwash: Whip up a homemade mouthwash with coconut oil, baking soda, and a few drops of peppermint to reap the antibacterial properties of all three ingredients.
- Breathe it in: Got leftover peppermint oil from your mouthwash? Diffuse it in an aromatherapy diffuser to breathe in mint’s healing properties, clear your sinuses, energize your brain, and soothe an encroaching headache.
- Take peppermint oil capsules: For a more concentrated form of peppermint, try peppermint oil capsules to relieve digestive symptoms like nausea, bloating, and gas.
A word of caution: Peppermint oil is potent! Always dilute the oil and test on a patch of skin, as side effects can include a rash, skin irritation, and allergic reactions. Likewise, seek medical advice before ingesting peppermint oil, and if taking peppermint oil capsules, vet the manufacturer and quality of the product carefully.