Mint has been used for thousands of years in cooking, religious work and even household cleaning. As a symbol of hospitality, mint has traditionally been used to clear the air in temples and homes, rubbed on tables to welcome visitors in Greece and served as tea to welcome guests in the Middle East. There are over 600 varieties, including the common peppermint and spearmint. Less common are lemon, apple, pineapple, orange, water, horse (I don’t think I want to taste that one) and even chocolate mint. Pennyroyal mint is toxic to both humans and pets and should never be ingested.
Antioxidant with Pep
We have all heard about the importance of antioxidants in preventing and reversing the effects of free radical damage. Mint has one of the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food. Rosmarinic acid, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in mint, has been studied for its power to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms.
In addition to the antioxidant power mentioned above, which also supports immune function, mint helps fight congestion. Menthol, a natural aromatic decongestant, helps break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel. Antibacterial qualities also help kill invading bacteria on the throat. Cold sufferers can pour hot water over a few fresh leaves to create a delicious tea. Adding honey to the tea will provide a soothing coating for additional throat healing. Dried tea is also readily available in stores to keep on hand year round, but be sure to choose an organic option: studies have found that pesticides and herbicides become super concentrated in dehydrated foods like teas and spices. Studies have also shown that menthol may provide relief from asthma. Care should be taken, however, as too much may irritate bronchial linings further.
Happy Mint-y Tummies
Mint has been used for thousands of years to relieve upset stomachs and indigestion. Scientists and health professionals are not sure why, but generally believe that properties of the leaf increase bile secretion. This encourages healthy bile flow which speeds up and eases digestion. In fact, one study showed that by increasing absorption of nutrients, mint helps calories turn into energy in the body and get used, rather than stored. In some parts of the world, mint tea is traditionally enjoyed after meals.
It is also a common home remedy for flatulence, relieving both gas and bloating. In fact, a 2015 study found that at least 75% of participants experienced a 50% reduction in total Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms following the use of peppermint oil. Because ingesting pure peppermint oil by mouth might cause heartburn in some, enteric-coated capsules were used to prevent the release of the oil in the stomach. More studies need to be done to explore this option further, but the results offer good reason to be hopeful in this safe treatment.
Ditch the Tylenol
Mint may be an effective, side effect-free option for pain relief. Many people are already aware that rubbing diluted mint oil on the temples or forehead is an effective and natural way to stop or prevent headaches and migraines. Further, a 2009 study found that Brazilian mint taken as a tea was just as effective in decreasing headache pain as a synthetic aspirin-style drug called indomethacin. For topical use, cooled mint tea or tea bags that have been steeped and cooled can help soothe skin irritations such as rashes, allergic reactions on the skin, poison oak or ivy, and insect bites.
Natural Oral Support
We’re all familiar with the minty freshness associated with a nice, clean mouth. It turns out that there’s more to it than fresh breath. Mint has natural antimicrobial antiseptic properties, so it helps kill the microbes that cause bad breath and cavities. People in the Middle Ages would rub whole mint leaves across their teeth for oral health.
Grow mint outdoors in a sunny, well-drained spot. Mint spreads through runners – laterally-growing roots that “run” along the ground, so either plan to let it take over, or put it in wide pots or containers. It isn’t a vine, so it won’t crawl up, but it will spread out in a wide formation if allowed. Those runners will put down roots of their own and send up more delicious, mint-y growth for you to enjoy, so choose a container that is more wide than deep to give it room to spread and avoid bound roots. As with other herbs, new growth will emerge from the leaf nodes just below a cut stem, so harvest strategically, leaving one or two sets of leaves below the cut. Your plant will thank you with healthy, lush growth.
Mint likes to stay moist, but not damp, so plant in well-drained soil and water more frequently than other herbs like cilantro and chives. Flowering signals the end of the life cycle. Pinching off flowers will extend the life of your plant. It loves bright light, so grow outside in direct sunshine. Indoors, keep it happy with ten hours of high quality light. Don’t let it get too close to the window or grow light bulb, as it can easily scorch. Opt for cool-to-the-touch LED grow lights, like VividGro‘s GroBar, to avoid heat and scorching altogether.
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any health concern. Consult your medical professional regarding all health concerns and treatment options.