Mint is well known for freshening our breath, but did you know it can also help to ease many ills? This herb has hundreds of varieties that have been used for medicinal purposes from the time of our early ancestors, and is particularly popular is Ayurvedic medicine. Mint can assist with digestion, clearing the respiratory tract, oral health and clearing up skin problems. Not to mention, it's really easy to grow your own!
Mint is not only a refreshing palate cleanser but also has a wonderful ability to soothe the stomach in cases of indigestion or stomach upset. By drinking mint tea or eating products flavored with real mint, you can also subdue nausea. If you have a bit of mint before a meal, it will trigger your salivary glands and stomach to start producing digestive juices and enzymes, thus facilitating digestive ease. Peppermint oil has also been shown to be effective for treating irritable bowel syndrome and abdominal pain [I].
A word to the wise... don't be fooled by mint flavored candies! Many restaurants will offer these little treats after a meal but instead of aiding digestion the high sugar content causes acid production and can actually increase acid reflux (GERD) problems. So while those peppermint patties at the diner may seem tempting, try to stick with the purer form of mint.
Mint is also helpful for clearing up respiratory congestion. Its powerful aroma causes breathing passages to open and allow more air to come through. Whenever I come down with a cold, one of my favorite things to do is simply heat up a pot of water, put a few drops of pure mint and eucalyptus essential oils in and take deep breaths of the rising steam. It does wonders to clear the sinuses! Plus, it's much better than some respiratory-relief products that contain synthesized menthol.
In the proper dosage, mint can also be helpful for people with asthma. Coughing is another respiratory issue that can be helped by mint, as its cooling effect can calm the reflex responsible for the cough.
Mint juice is antiseptic, which makes it great for clearing up mild skin infections and pimples. The antiseptic properties also make it good for use in mouthwash. Along with killing germs in the mouth, the scent of mint helps to cover lingering odors in order to freshen the breath. Keep in mind that most "mint flavored" commercial mouthwashes have little or no real mint in them. Buy fresh mint for the real deal and just chew on the leaves themselves!
Mint for a Mental Boost
Mint is a natural stimulant. It's cooling sensation and taste can recharge your batteries and give a sluggish brain a much-need boost. In the winter months, the leaves are fabulous in tea with a touch of honey, and during hot summer days, adding a bit of mint and cucumber to your water is incredibly refreshing and enlivening!
Culinary Uses for Mint
Apart from beverages, mint can also be used to set off the flavor in a number of dishes. It can be paired with roasted potatoes for a tasty side dish, or used in appetizers. For a creative crowd-pleaser, stuff dates with goat cheese and top each with a roasted pecan and a mint leaf. The flavor combo is unbelievable!
I'm sure you've realized that with all of these yummy, healthful uses for mint, there's no reason to limit yourself to breath-freshening lozenges. Try mint essential oil or mint tea the next time you suffer from indigestion and use real menthol lozenges for coughs and congestion.
What's your favorite use for mint? Do you grow yours at home?
[I] Grigoleit HG, Grigoleit P. "Peppermint oil in irritable bowel syndrome". Phytomedicine. 2005 Aug;12(8):601-6. Web. July. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16121521>.