Mint is the name for over a dozen plant species, including peppermint and spearmint, that belong to the genus Mentha.
These plants are particularly known for the cooling sensation they impart. They can be added to foods in both fresh and dried forms.
Mint is a popular ingredient in several foods and beverages, ranging from teas and alcoholic drinks to sauces, salads and desserts.
While eating the plant offers some health benefits, research shows that several of mint’s health benefits come from applying it to the skin, inhaling its aroma or taking it as a capsule.
This article takes a closer look at eight science-based health benefits of mint.
While not typically consumed in large quantities, mint does contain a fair amount of nutrients.
In fact, just under 1/3 cup or half an ounce (14 grams) of spearmint contains (1):
- Calories: 6
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Vitamin A: 12% of the RDI
- Iron: 9% of the RDI
- Manganese: 8% of the RDI
- Folate: 4% of the RDI
Because of its dynamic flavor, mint is often added to recipes in small amounts, so consuming even 1/3 cup may be difficult. However, it’s possible you may come close to this amount in some salad recipes that include mint among the other ingredients.
Mint is a particularly good source of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that is critical for eye health and night vision.
It is also a potent source of antioxidants, especially when compared to other herbs and spices. Antioxidants help protect your body from oxidative stress, a type of damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive tract disorder. It is characterized by digestive symptoms like stomach pain, gas, bloating and changes in bowel habits.
Although treatment for IBS often includes dietary changes and taking medications, research shows that taking peppermint oil as an herbal remedy might also be helpful.
Peppermint oil contains a compound called menthol, which is thought to help alleviate IBS symptoms through its relaxing effects on the muscles of the digestive tract.
A review of nine studies including over 700 patients with IBS found that taking peppermint oil capsules improved IBS symptoms significantly more than placebo capsules.
One study found that 75% of patients who took peppermint oil for four weeks showed improvements in IBS symptoms, compared to 38% of the patients in the placebo group.
Notably, nearly all research showing IBS symptom relief used oil capsules rather than raw mint leaves.
Mint may also be effective at relieving other digestive problems such as upset stomach and indigestion.
Indigestion may occur when food sits in the stomach for too long before passing into the rest of the digestive tract.
Multiple studies have shown that food passes through the stomach quicker when people take peppermint oil with meals, which could relieve symptoms from this type of indigestion.
A clinical study in people with indigestion showed that a combination of peppermint oil and caraway oil taken in capsules had effects similar to medications used to treat indigestion. This helped improve stomach pain and other digestive symptoms.
Similar to IBS, studies highlighting mint’s ability to relieve indigestion used peppermint oil rather than fresh or dried leaves.
In addition to ingesting mint, there are claims that inhaling the aroma of essential oils from the plant could provide health benefits, including improved brain function.
One study including 144 young adults demonstrated that smelling the aroma of peppermint oil for five minutes prior to testing produced significant improvements in memory.
Another study found that smelling these oils while driving increased alertness and decreased levels of frustration, anxiety and fatigue.
However, not all studies agree that peppermint oil could benefit brain function. One study found that although the aroma of the oil was invigorating and led to less fatigue, it had no effect on brain function.
More research is needed to help understand how it may work and investigate whether peppermint does, in fact, improve brain function.