That Mint a Lot to Me.

Bad breath and peppermint – you could say they were mint for each other.

Mint is often one of our most over-looked and underappreciated herbs. We’re just so use to seeing it everywhere – in breath fresheners, toothpaste, gum, tea, lollies, salads, choc-mint ice cream, sauces, cleaning products; the list goes on. And yet this super cool herb has some pretty interesting stuff going that you might not have realised before now.

The herb mint is a natural source of menthol, a substance that has a cooling effect on your mouth and tongue. That’s why mint and mint-flavoured things seem so chill. But mint and menthol aren’t actually cold – menthol tricks your brain into thinking that whatever area that’s been exposed to menthol is cold, when it’s actually the exact same temperature as before. Menthol reacts with certain receptors on our skin, making them more sensitive so they trigger a cold feeling. And mint has a pretty heavy dose of menthol in it – that’s why eating minty foods makes it seem like you can breathe clearer than ever before and you have a cool breath coming out of your mouth.

That cooling menthol flavour mint brings to the table is pretty awesome – it works in sweet and savoury dishes, and gives that ice-cold mouth feel with every bite. Hence why you see it in so many different foods. And while there are some pretty cool uses for mint, my personal fave thing about this chilled out leaf is it’s ability to aid digestion.

Mint helps to relieve indigestion giving your digestive enzymes a helping hand. The aroma of mint actually gets your salivary glands all excited, and they wind up excreting extra digestive enzymes and saliva.  The menthol in mint also relaxes the stomach muscles, which reduces cramps and spasms (and any heartburn sufferer would be happy with that). This is also what relieves nausea and feeling sick in the stomach. So if you are prone to tummy troubles, chewing on fresh peppermint will have you in mint-condition in no time. And when you’re without your trusty bunch of mint (like me, every single day), peppermint tea does the job just as well.

That is enough for me to make mint my new best friend (actually, I pretty much only drink peppermint tea, so maybe we’ve been besties for ages?), but it has some other pretty powerful uses:

  • Mint contains an awesome cocktail of  nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous, vitamin C, D, E and small amounts of vitamin B complex, which with their powers combined, provides a hearty boost to your immune system.
  • Chewing fresh mint leaves is great for a healthy mouth (that also smells great). It kills the bad bacteria in your mouth and can help keep your teeth pearly white.
  • That cooling effect of menthol is also great when used in pain relief creams. It helps to calm aching muscles and makes those spasms.
  • All that cooling menthol action is also great for your skin in reducing blemishes and acne. Use the peppermint essential oils on trouble areas at night when you’re binge watching your new fave TV show, and take the phrase “netflix and chill” to a whole new place.

For external use, grab some peppermint essential oils and put a couple of drops in your moisturizer or face cream. You can also apply the oil directly to your skin, or even put a few drops on your pillow for the most chilled out nights sleep ever.

Although, what we really want to do is EAT more mint, right? Well here are some ways to get the chilled out feeling from the inside out:

Jessica Largey’s Fava-Mint Pesto. Photo: Matt Taylor-Gross
Hint of Vanilla’s Strawberry and Mint Scone
Brooklyn Supper’s Basil and Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Unfortunately, mint doesn’t last in the fridge as long as other herbs, so here are a couple of tips how to buy it and keep it fresh for longer:

  • Look for a bunch with leaves that are fresh, perky and full of colour. All the good oil in mint is stored in the leaves, so avoidany bunches with dark, limp or tarnished leaves.
  • Cut the bottom of the stems off and put the bouquet-style bunch of mint in a jar with some water. Loosely cover with a plastic bag and store in the fridge.
  • Alternatively, you can wrap the whole bunch in a damp paper towel or cloth, put it in a plastic bag and keep it in the vegetable crisper. Both ways will keep the mint fresh for up to a week or longer.

So next time you’re sipping Mojitos, don’t feel bad – they’re totally good for you now.

How does mint keep you cool, calm and collected? Let us know in the comments!

Cover Image via Food52

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