SparkPeople Blogs  •  health  •  drinks

4 Healing Health Benefits of Mint

By , Lisa D., SparkPeople Contributor

Mint has long been enjoyed in culinary dishes and for its medicinal benefits. Not only is the aromatic plant easy to grow in many varieties, it is also know to produce beneficial effects on the body.

What is Mint?

Mint is considered a herb. Known as menthe, mint is a group of approximately 15 to 20 plants. Peppermint and spearmint are the most commonly known mints within the group. Mint oil is used in everything from candy and gum to beauty products. Two tablespoons of mint contain small amounts of potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Mint Benefits

Mint has been linked to a number of benefits for human use, including the ability to reduce inflammation and congestion. It has also been used to calm indigestion and upset stomach, in addition to being effective as a treatment for symptoms from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. Mint is also used topically to calm and cool the skin and reduce reactions to bites or rashes.

Despite its many health benefits, keep in mind that there are some health risks associated with the consumption of mint. Peppermint oil in large doses is toxic as pure menthol is poisonous. Mint oil should not be applied to faces of infants or small children as it can produce spasms or impact breathing. Avoid mint if you are at risk of gallstones.

How Can Mint Help You?

Mint plants have a long history of use and recent studies offer support for the use of mint as a functional food to promote overall well-being and reduce symptoms of discomfort.

If you suffer from allergies know that you are not alone. About 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from nasal allergies. Peppermint plants contain rosmarinic acid, an antioxidant that has been researched for its ability to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms. According to the study, “Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effect of rosmarinic acid (RA); inhibition of seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (SAR) and its mechanism,” extracts inhibit histamine release that often trigger severe nasal symptoms. This benefit is a boon for those with mild to severe allergic symptoms. Extract of peppermint has shown to be of use for those with allergic rhinitis. Rosmarinic acid possesses an anti-inflammatory effect and shows real promise as a seasonal allergy treatment.

Peppermint also has calming and cooling properties on the digestive system. It has a long history of use in helping reduce the discomfort of an upset stomach or that of indigestion. Mint is believed to improve bile flow which can speed and ease digestion. Those with IBS have to live with the condition and avoid known triggers. The study, "The effect of enteric-coated, delayed-release peppermint oil on irritable bowel syndrome," supports the use of peppermint oil to relieve symptoms of indigestion and colonic muscle spasms, positive news for IBS sufferers that work around their condition and fear a flare-up of symptoms.

How to Use Mint

Mint beverage preparations are readily available on the market. Make use of the oil by pouring hot, but not boiling, water over fresh mint leaves. Cover the preparation while steeping to retain the active volatile oils within the tea. Consider an infused water recipe as a hydrating and healing beverage. The addition of fresh mint to water infused with grapefruit, ginger, orange or lemon makes for a delicious drink and has the combined benefits of the mint plus the fruit. Prepare it a day in advance and let it sit for a more pronounced flavor. Mint is also available as a supplement at health food stores and online.

For those that wish to expand their culinary skills, mint can be added to many dishes, including soups or even vegetable salads. Fresh mint can also be finely chopped and added to a fresh fruit salsa made with seasonal apples, pears, lime juice, honey and jalapeno for a burst of flavor.

Mint is easy to grow indoors and out and can help ease common complaints. What is not to love about this handy herb?

See more: health drinks tea herbs mint