When you think of freshness, you instantly think of mint. But perhaps you don’t automatically think of it as a memory aid, or anti depressant, or cleanser. It turns out this humble herb has many more health benefits. Let’s explore the power of mint!
- Digestive Aid: Mint is a great palate cleanser, it promotes digestion and soothes indigestion. When you feel sick to your stomach, for example after a heavy meal, drinking a cup of mint tea can give you relief. The aroma activates the salivary glands in our mouth as well as glands which secrete digestive enzymes, thereby facilitating digestion. These attributes are why mint is extensively used in the culinary arts. Much of the western world includes mint in appetizers, to be eaten before the main course so the food will digest comfortably. In the Middle East, mint is traditionally used with food to enhance flavor as well as provide a natural dual cleanse during and after eating.
- strong>For Weight Loss: Mint is a stimulant. It stimulates the digestive enzymes that absorb nutrients from food, and turn fat into usable energy. Therefore, by adding mint to your diet you are increasing the amount of fat that is being converted and put to use, rather than being stored and contributing to weight gain!
- Memory Aid: A recent study published in the Journal of Behavioral and Neuroscience Research explored mint’s effects on the brain. It found that people who frequently use chewing gum, where the most active ingredient is mint, have higher levels of memory retention and mental alertness than those who do not. The stimulant qualities of mint, once again, give you another reason to pop a stick of gum in your mouth, or chew on some leaves when your brain needs a boost!
- Mood and Energy Booster: Mint is a natural stimulant, and the smell alone can be enough to charge your batteries and get your brain functioning on a high level again. If you are feeling sluggish, anxious, depressed, or simply exhausted, mint and its derivative essential oils can help. You can eat it, apply it to your skin, or inhale it for a much-needed boost. A popular and easy way to get good results is to put a few drops of mint essential oil or menthol oil on your pillow at night and let it work on your body and mind while you sleep. Not only will you wake up refreshed, you’ll be in a better mood too.
- Soothes Respiratory Disorders and Coughs: Mint’s strong aroma is very effective in clearing up congestion of the nose, throat, bronchi and lungs, which gives relief from respiratory disorders that often result from asthma or the common cold. As mint cools and soothes the throat and nose, it relieves the irritation which causes chronic coughing. This is the main reason why so many balms contain mint. Regular use of mint is beneficial for asthma patients, as it is a good relaxant and relieves congestion. That being said, listen to your body: using too much mint in this way can also irritate the nose and throat.
- For Breast Feeding: For many women, breastfeeding is a beautiful part of raising a child, but it can seriously damage your breasts and nipples. Studies have shown that mint oil can reduce the nipple cracks and nipple pain that so often accompany breastfeeding. Many even claim that it heals the damaged tissue around the nipple, and reduces cellulite and wrinkles.
- strong>Relieves Nausea & Headache: If you are someone who travels long distances via plane or boat and struggles with motion sickness, you should always have some mint on you. Mint leaves, especially freshly crushed leaves, help alleviate nausea and headaches. Rubbing mint balms or mint oil on your forehead and nose gives quick headache relief. The herb is a naturally soothing substance, so it can alleviate the inflammation and temperature rise that is often associated with headaches and migraines.
- For the Skin: While mint oil is a good antiseptic and anti-pruritic (anti-itching), mint juice is an excellent skin cleanser. It soothes skin, helps to cure infections and itchiness, reduces pimples, and it can even relieve some of the symptoms of acne. Its anti-pruritic properties can be used for treating insect bites like those of mosquitoes, honeybees, hornets, wasps, and gnats. The cooling sensation will relieve you of the need to scratch, and the anti-inflammatory properties will bring down swelling. Mint oil is often a basic component of bug repellent products like citronella candles, because the strong aroma is unappealing to most insects. Mint can also be applied to heal and soothe burns.
- For Oral Health: Improving oral health is a well-known benefit of mint. It has germicidal qualities and quickly freshens breath, and adds to oral health by inhibiting harmful bacterial growth and by cleaning the tongue and teeth. This is why mint used to be rubbed directly onto teeth and gums to refresh the mouth and eliminate bacteria. In modern times, for the same reason, mint is one of the most common elements in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and other dental hygiene products. Of course, the easiest way to get these results is to simply chew on the leaves.
- Anti-Allergies and Hay Fever: Seasonal allergies and hay fever (also known as rhinitis) affect millions of people around the world at certain times of the year. Extracts from mint leaves have been shown to inhibit the release of certain chemicals, which have been known to aggravate severe nasal symptoms that are associated with hay fever and seasonal allergies.
- Radioprotective: Cancer treatment often includes radiation therapy, which unfortunately damages healthy cells and tissues at the same time as cancerous cells. Research published in the Journal of Cancer Research Therapy found that mint’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-mutagenic properties not only protected against the damaging effects of radiation, but also enhance the DNA repair process.
- Cooling and Warming: Mint will cool you off in the summer, and it is often included in summer cocktails for a refreshing burst of flavor. Incidentally, and quite contrary to its traditional cooling and soothing effects, mint induces sweating if consumed during fever, thereby breaking the fever and speeding the rate of recovery.
Feeling refreshed yet? The best thing about this herb is how versatile it is. In drinks, appetisers and desserts it is equally delicious and equally healthy. Why not give these recipes a try?
Make ice cubes with mint. Add these to summer drinks for a fresh burst of minty flavor.
Zucchini Cucumber and Feta salad with Mint (serves 4)
- 500g zucchini (courgette)
- 500g cucumber
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 2tbsp lemon juice
- 100g feta cheese
- Small handful mint leaves
- Using a mandolin, cut the zucchini and cucumber into thin ribbons.
- In a bowl, toss the ribbons with the olive oil and lemon.
- Crumble in the feta cheese.
- Roughly chop the mint leaves and sprinkle over the salad.
- Enjoy as a light and fresh starter or side dish.