Mint: the cool herb

Mint is a storehouse of medicinal properties. It is an air freshener, mouth freshener, antacid, helps in digestive problems, soothes frayed nerves and may even cure cancer

MintWith its distinct aroma, pleasing flavour, cool sensation and medicinal qualities, mint is among the most versatile plants in the herbal kingdom. The name "mint" originates from the Greek word "menthe".

Mint, commonly known as pudina, is an erect plant with dark green leaves and is usually found near rivers, ponds and humid places. This perennial plant belongs to the family Lamiaceae and has several species. The major species are peppermint [Mentha piperita], spearmint [M. spicata], wild mint [M. arvensis], pennyroyal [M. pulegium] and berg mint [M. citrate]. Peppermint and spearmint are the most commercially exploited species of mint.

It is usually picked during bloom season, that is, in summers. Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are India's main producers of mint. The United States is the world's main producer of mint oil, which is extracted mainly by steam distillation and solvent extraction. Mint oil has more commercial value than mint leaves. Presence of menthol gives mint its characteristic flavour. Peppermint has the highest concentration of menthol and is therefore is commercially more popular.

Mint oil and menthol extracted are thus used as flavouring agents in balm, mouthwashes, mouth fresheners, toothpastes, chewing gums and aromatic oils. Mint oil is also used in skin care products such as body lotions, soaps bathing oils, and skin tonics. The application of mint oil helps to cool the external skin and free it from blemishes.

Fresh mint is preferred over dried mint, as the latter has diluted flavour. It can be bought from supermarkets in dried or fresh form. Many herbal plants look similar to mint, so you have to make sure you are using the right herb.

Benefits of mint

It has been a part of both the cuisine and medicinal world. It is used as a flavouring agent in many preparations. Spearmint is used for culinary purposes since it is not as strongly flavoured as peppermint. It is added to chutneys, sauces, dressings, curries, soups, sambhar, biryanis, marinating of meats and even in desserts, chocolates and cakes. Parathas and khakras can be made more nutritive by adding it to the dough.

Process half a cup of mint, two ripe finely chopped mangoes, three spring onions, 20ml lime juice, a dash of black pepper to smooth paste and a mint dip is ready to be served with crackers. It is used in the preparation of foodstuff, which is difficult to digest because of its carminative property.

  • In hot summer days, a glass of cold water with lime and a dash of mint in it can be very soothing and cooling
  • A teaspoonful of mint juice can help get back your healthy appetite
  • Packed with vitamins and essential minerals, this herb helps us to increase resistance against many diseases and maintain a healthy body
  • Being rich in carotene and vitamin C, it protects our body from harmful free radicals. Although the consumption of mint is small, the vital nutrients obtained are beneficial to our health
  • A cupful of mint tea in the morning gives you a refreshing start to the day. It helps in digestion if taken after heavy meals
  • A quarter teaspoon of mint seeds can be taken for abdominal pain caused by spasms and in cases of hyperacidity. The menthol present in the mint facilitates good digestion and exerts anti-spasmodic action thus is effective in abdominal cramp
  • Add black salt to the mint leaves infusion and alleviate yourself from any worm infestation in the stomach
  • When taken with lime juice, ginger juice and honey, it gives relief to women suffering from morning sickness
  • Powdered dry mint is regarded as a harmless herb for birth control
  • An infusion of leaves of this herb can also be used to stimulate menstruation in cases of dysmenorrhoea.

This wonder herb has benefited us immensely by its medicinal properties through ages. It is used as a home remedy to manage ailments related to digestive tract, oral, respiratory and skin disorders. Health benefits  have been laboratory-tested and proven, particularly for gastro-intestinal problems.

Pennyroyal mint species is used for external application on the skin to repel insects. It is toxic if taken internally as it causes severe liver damage. It is also applied externally in cases of acne, minor burns, ringworm, eczema, scabies and contact dermatitis.

Mint kills odour-producing germs. Chewing few leaves helps get rid of bad breath, whitens the teeth and leaves a cool sensation in mouth. It strengthens gums and prevents tooth decay. A gargle of warm water with a teaspoonful of mint extract and salt gives relief from sore throat. It is effective in headache, rhinitis, and cough.

It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and is also a good expectorant. It liquefies the sputum and reduces congestion in air passages. So, it is beneficial to asthmatic patients. It helps strengthen the immune system and protects against infection. It acts as a mild sedative and is found to alleviate migraine pains, minor aches, muscle sprains and cramps.

Perillyl alcohol present in mint is shown to have anti-cancer properties in animal studies. However, further human studies are needed to prove it as cancer-fighting supplement.

Caution

It is not recommended in case of chronic heartburn, liver damage, gall bladder inflammation, bile duct obstruction and pregnancy. Application of oil on the face and mucus membranes such as the inner nose or the mouth is not advisable. Products of mint are quite safe to use, however, excessive amount could be harmful.

Mint has undergone a lot of research and development in past years and will continue with its increasing demand globally. With its many natural health benefits, it is indeed a wonder herb.

Nutritional value of mint

  • Parameters: Value/100g
  • Energy: 48Kcal
  • Moisture: 84.9g
  • Protein: 4.8g
  • Fat: 0.6g
  • CHO: 0.8g
  • Crude fibre: 2.0g
  • Iron: 15.6mg
  • Calcium: 200mg
  • Folic acid: 114?g
  • Carotene: 1620?g
  • Vitamin C: 27mg
  • Other minerals: 1.9g

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