Health Benefits of Peppermint

health-benefits-of-peppermint

While peppermint leaves are available throughout the year, they are especially good in warm weather when they can give a burst of cool flavor to a summery salad or beverage.

Peppermint has greenish-purple lance-shaped leaves while the rounder leaves of spearmint are more of a grayish green color. The taste of both peppermint and spearmint bear a flavor that can be described as a cross between pepper and chlorophyll, with peppermint being a bit stronger and spearmint being a little more cool and subtle.

Nutrients in
Peppermint
2.00 tbs (7.60 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value


 vitamin A6.4%


 manganese4.5%


 vitamin C4%


Calories (5)0%


This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Peppermint provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Peppermint can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Peppermint, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

  • Health Benefits
  • Description
  • History
  • How to Select and Store
  • How to Enjoy
  • Individual Concerns
  • Nutritional Profile
  • References

Health Benefits

Soothe Your Tummy with Peppermint

In the world of health research, randomized controlled trials have repeatedly shown the ability of peppermint oil to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including indigestion, dyspepsia, and colonic muscle spasms. These healing properties of peppermint are apparently related to its smooth muscle relaxing ability. Once the smooth muscles surrounding the intestine are relaxed, there is less chance of spasm and the indigestion that can accompany it. The menthol contained in peppermint may be a key reason for this bowel-comforting effect.

A Potential Anti-Cancer Agent

Interest in peppermint has extended well beyond the digestive tract, however. Perillyl alcohol is a phytonutrient called a monoterpene, and it is plentiful in peppermint oil. In animal studies, this phytonutrient has been shown to stop the growth of pancreatic, mammary, and liver tumors. It has also been shown to protect against cancer formation in the colon, skin, and lungs. These animal-based studies have yet to be matched by equally sound human studies, however.

An Anti-Microbial Oil

Esssential oil of peppermint also stops the growth of many different bacteria. These bacteria include Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It has also be found to inhibit the growth of certain types of fungus as well.

Breathe Easier with Peppermint

Peppermint contains the substance rosmarinic acid, which has several actions that are beneficial in asthma. In addition to its antioxidant abilities to neutralize free radicals, rosmarinic acid has been shown to block the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, such as leukotrienes. It also encourages cells to make substances called prostacyclins that keep the airways open for easy breathing. Extracts of peppermint have also been shown to help relieve the nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis (colds related to allergy).

A Rich Source of Traditional Nutrients

Our food ranking system also showed peppermint to deliver a wide range of traditional nutrients. Peppermint is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C and vitamin A, the latter notably through its concentration of carotenoids, including beta-carotene. Both vitamin C and beta-carotene seem to play a role in decreasing colorectal cancer risk. Vitamin C, the main water-soluble antioxidant in the body is needed to decrease levels of free radicals that can cause damage to cells. Some studies have shown a link between increased vitamin C intake and a decreased risk for colon cancer, possibly by as much as 40%, while other studies have shown that vitamin C intake can help to decrease the incidence of colon tumors. Beta-carotene and other carotenoids have been shown in some studies to decrease the risks of developing both colon cancer and rectal cancer. Carotenoids have also been shown to increase cell differentiation and protect cells against carcinogenic chemicals that could damage DNA. Vitamin A, which is structurally similar to beta-carotene, may help to decrease risk by preventing excessive colon cell proliferation and tumor formation.

In addition to all of the above healing properties, peppermint emerged from our food ranking system as a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, and calcium, vitamin B2 (based on its few calories and high nutrient density). This high nutrient density and low calorie status qualified peppermint as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B2, potassium and copper.

Description

Mint is the glorious plant that gives the candy of the same name its cool burst of flavor. While there are about 25 different species of mints, peppermint is actually a natural hybrid cross between Mentha aquatica (water mint) and Mentha spicata (spearmint). Peppermint has greenish-purple lance-shaped leaves while the rounder leaves of spearmint are more of a grayish green color.

The taste of both peppermint and spearmint bear a flavor that can be described as a cross between pepper and chlorophyll, with peppermint being a bit stronger and spearmint being a little more cool and subtle. In addition to peppermint and spearmint, other plants in the Mentha genus include apple mint, orange mint, water mint, curly mint and Corsican mint.

History

Mint is an ancient herb used since antiquity for its culinary, medicinal and aromatic properties. The origins of mint are honored in a Greek myth that tells the tale that the plant was originally a nymph (Minthe), who was transformed into a plant by Persephone, who was jealous of the affections that her husband Pluto was showing to Minthe. While Pluto could not reverse the spell that his wife cast, he did impart Minthe with a sweet smell, so when she was walked upon in the garden, her aroma would be delightful to the senses.

Mint’s characteristic smell has made it one of the more popular perfuming herbs throughout history. Around the globe, from Europe to India to the Middle East, mint has been used a strewing herb to clear the air in both temples and homes. Mint has also come to symbolize hospitality in many cultures. In ancient Greece, mint leaves were rubbed on dining tables to welcome guests, while in the Middle East, the host still traditionally offers mint tea to guests upon their arrival.

Mint has played an important role in the American tradition. While the Native Americans were using mint even before the arrival of the European settlers, the early colonists brought this prized herb with them from the Old World since they had long honored it for its therapeutic properties, as well as for the delicious hot tea beverage made from its leaves.

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, choose fresh mint over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. The leaves of fresh mint should look vibrant and be a rich green color. They should be free from dark spots or yellowing.

Even through dried herbs and spices like mint are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried herbs, when purchasing dried mint try to select organically grown mint since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.

To store fresh mint leaves, carefully wrap them in a damp paper towel and place inside of a loosely closed plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator, where it should keep fresh for several days. Dried mint should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place, where it will keep fresh for about nine to twelve months.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas
  • A cup of fresh mint tea can help to soothe your stomach and your nerves.
  • Toss cubes of cooked eggplant with chopped mint leaves, plain yogurt, garlic and cayenne.
  • For a quick and easy salad, combine fennel, onions, oranges and mint leaves.
  • Give fruit salad a unique perk by adding some fresh mint leaves to it.
  • Add chopped mint leaves to gazpacho or other soups that feature tomatoes as the freshness of the mint complements the sweet acidity of tomatoes very well.

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Individual Concerns

Peppermint is not a commonly allergenic food and is not known to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Peppermint is a very good source of vitamin A and a good source of manganese and vitamin C.

For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Peppermint.

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Peppermint is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn’t contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food’s in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients – not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good – please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you’ll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food’s nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling.” Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Peppermint
2.00 tbs
7.60 grams
5.32 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin A 322.85 IU 6.5 21.8 very good
manganese 0.09 mg 4.5 15.2 good
vitamin C 2.42 mg 4.0 13.6 good
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%
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