Is mint good for you?

Mint may have several potential health benefits.

Managing gastrointestinal problems

Share on PinterestMint may help regulate muscle relaxation.

Mint is a calming herb that people have used for thousands of years to help soothe an upset stomach or indigestion.

A 2019 review found that placebo-controlled studies support the use of peppermint oil as a remedy for a range of gastrointestinal conditions, including indigestion, IBS, stomach pain in children, and feelings of sickness after surgery.

The authors of the review found that mint works against harmful microbes, regulates muscle relaxation, and helps control inflammation.

A different review from the same year assessed 12 randomized controlled trials and found that peppermint oil was a safe and effective intervention for pain symptoms in adults with IBS.

However, a 2019 randomized, double-blind trial of 190 people with IBS found that peppermint oil did not significantly reduce symptoms.

More research is necessary to confirm the benefits of mint products in managing IBS.

Allergies

Mint plants contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid.

A 2019 study on rats found that rosmarinic acid reduced symptoms of asthma when compared to a control group that did not receive a supplement.

The mint plant family provides a range of plant compounds that have anti-allergenic effects, according to a 2019 review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.

However, the content of mint extract in oils and ointments may be far stronger than dietary mint. There is very little research into the effect of dietary mint on the symptoms of allergies.

Soothing common cold symptoms

Mint contains menthol. This an aromatic decongestant that might help to break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel.

Applying menthol ointments or vapor rubs may be a safe and effective treatment for children who have a common cold.

However, the American Lung Association (ALA) advise that scientific studies do not support the use of menthol for managing cold symptoms.

Despite this, some people may find that cold symptoms reduce after applying a menthol vapor rub.

The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) advise that peppermint oil may cause skin irritation and redness. They recommend that parents or carers do not apply the ointment directly to the chest or face of a child due to serious possible side effects after direct inhalation.

Moroccan Mint
Botanical Name: Mentha spicata var. crispa

Moroccan Mint is a medium sized perennial, with a spreading nature, reaching a height of 45-60cm. The soft, bright green leaves are small, close set and toothed along the margins. The parent plant for this hybrid is Spearmint, so the aroma is also clearly spearmint. The flowers are lavender to lilac and appear in mid to late summer. The botanical name for Moroccan Mint is Mentha spicata var. crispa, which is also the scientific name for other varieties, with the addition of specific cultivar names, eg: Moroccan Mint.

The aroma and taste is sweet and minty, which seems obvious, but appropriate for one of the most useful culinary mints. Moroccan Mint is combined with green tea and sugar to make the drink Moroccan Tea. This beverage is popular in the Arabian nations and often takes on a ceremonial purpose, especially when the tea is made for guests by the man of the house. Moroccan Tea may also be called Tuareg or Maghrebi and Moroccan Mint is grown especially for this purpose.

Mint General

There are many Mint varieties known to herb gardeners and lovers of good cuisine, all varying slightly in flavour, aroma and appearance. They are categorized in the genus ‘Mentha’, which has up to 18 species, within the Lamiaceae family of plants. The Lamiaceae family is known as the mint family. However, the largest group of plants in the mint family is actually the delightful Salvias with their brilliantly coloured blooms. Many other commonly known herbs are also found in this family, including basil, sage, thyme and even lavender. One characteristic of this plant family is that they all yield essential oils, giving each plant its unique characteristics and even potential for medicinal use. Even the Scutellaria genus, with the unusually named Baikal Skullcap is found within this family.

The mints consist of mostly spreading and low growing perennial plants. The height range is from 10 cm to 1 meter, so not all are at ground level. Mint plants send out runners, or stolons, to help them spread by developing roots and shoots at the nodes. This allows plants to cover up to 1 meter in stem growth, in good conditions. They are all fast growing plants and due to the spreading nature, one plant is often sufficient for most gardeners. Some mints can be invasive and it is recommended that containers or in ground barriers be used. Mints can suffer from some pests like snails and aphids and may be affected by mint rust.Rust Free Mint may also be a useful addition to the garden in addition to the many other varieties.

Most mint plants have square stems, with leaves held in opposite pairs. They are often downy with a serrated margin, with a variable leaf shape and colours ranging from green to purple. The flowers are usually white to purple and present in false whorls or verticillaster or false whorl. The corolla is usually two lipped and has 4 lobes, with the upper lobe usually the largest.

Mint plants come from across the globe and will grow in most climates, including a wide range of regions across Australia. Some are annual varieties, but in cool climate zones perennial mints may best be treated as annuals and replaced each year. Generally they have high water requirements and prefer rich soils. Mint is grown commercially in Tasmania due to the ideal conditions of long summer days in high altitudes, where temperatures average 25C during the day to 15C at night. Ideal conditions usually require full sun, but part shade may be necessary as temperatures increase in warm summer regions.

Most mints have a history of traditional medicinal or herbal use for fevers, headaches and minor ailments. These plants are often used as a digestive aid in the form or herbal tea. The essential oil is also antiseptic and may be toxic in very high doses. They should be avoided by pregnant women and must not be given, or placed next to the face of babies and young children, due to the potential for breathing difficulties associated with menthol.

Mint hybridizes very easily, so there are many varieties available to suit any garden. In fact, if you have mixed plants some may hybridize in your own garden. The most popular choices are Spearmint, Peppermint and Applemint. However, many varieties in our collection, such as Ginger Mint, Eau de Cologne, Chocolate Mint and many others are also becoming well known.

Growing Conditions

Moroccan Mint is a hardy herb to have in the garden and it does well in dappled shade. It will grow in full sun, but has a preference for more shaded positions. It has medium water needs and suits a range of soil types. It is reasonably frost tolerant.

Culinary Uses

Moroccan Mint is a staple in many kitchens and fulfills many of the common mint uses due to its excellent flavour. It has a clean mint flavour and scent lending itself to many applications, particularly mint sauce. It is particularly good with cucumber, peas carrots, potato salad and yoghurt. As noted above, the beverage Moroccan Tea is prepared in combination with Moroccan Mint, green tea and sugar.

Medicinal Uses

Moroccan Mint has similar properties to Spearmint and its hybrids, so it may be used in the same manner for herbal remedies. However, other uses include use as breath freshener, a throat gargle, to ease headaches by rubbing leaves on the temple, insect repellent if rubbed on skin, and as a treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and as a general digestive aid.

Other Uses

Moroccan Mint is a useful companion plant for pepper or capsicum plants and tomatoes, disguising their scent with the strong mint aroma. They may also enhance the flavour of the vegetables.

Mint Plant Varieties: Types Of Mint For The Garden

Mint is a fast-growing, aromatic herb plant in the Mentha genus. There are literally hundreds of mint plant varieties and far too many to name here. However, a number of these mint types are commonly grown in the garden. Keep reading for information on how to grow some of these different varieties of mint.

Growing Different Mint Plant Varieties

Most types of mint require the same, or similar, growing conditions. They like full sun to partial shade and most prefer moist but well-draining soil.

Another aspect that most mint types have in common is their invasive tendency. Therefore, regardless of the types of mint grown, care should be taken in keeping these plants under control — preferably with the use of containers.

In addition to their invasiveness, consideration must also be given to spacing when growing various mint plant varieties in the garden. Different mint types should be planted as far apart as possible — like opposite ends of the garden. Why? True mint varieties are known to cross pollinate with other types of mint when planted within close proximity. This can result in characteristics from different mint types to appear in one plant, leading to the loss of the plant’s integrity with unfavorable scents or flavors.

Choosing Mint Plant Varieties

Each mint variety has its own flavor or scent, though some may be similar. Most, however, vary greatly between mint types. Be sure the type you choose not only is well suited to your growing region, but also its intended use in the garden.

Not all mint varieties are used for culinary purposes. Some are better utilized for their aromatic properties or aesthetic appearances while others, like field mint, are normally treated as medicinal plants.

Types of Mint for the Garden

Listed below are some of the more commonly grown varieties of mint for the garden:

  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Pineapple mint
  • Apple mint (Woolly mint)
  • Pennyroyal
  • Ginger mint
  • Horsemint
  • Red Raripila mint
  • Catmint
  • Chocolate mint
  • Orange mint
  • Lavender mint
  • Grapefruit mint
  • Calamint
  • Licorice mint
  • Basil mint
  • Chewing Gum mint
  • Watermint
  • Corn or Field mint

Moroccan Mint Tea is most often a combination of green tea, sugar and fresh mint. This fresh mint is usually a form of spearmint like our Mint the Best. Thought to be a centuries old tradition, some historians believe it is a slightly more “modern” ritual. Indeed it is the making and serving of the tea that is traditional and not necessarily what it is made from. In times past, it has been made from various fresh herbs used singly (like wormwood or mint), with tea (traditionally a dried gunpowder tea from China) or in combination with other fresh herbs (like Lemon Verbena). Dried tea and dried mint are often sold as Moroccan Mint tea and the dried mint is usually a form of peppermint like our Moroccan Mint listed here.

The making of the tea is a lengthy process meant to, not only produce a nice cup of hot tea, which by the way is served in glasses, but it also serves as a way to socialize. There are variations of how Moroccan tea is made but it usually starts by rinsing the green tea with a little boiling water. This water is sometimes discarded and sometimes added back in. The tea remains in the pot and sugar is added at a ratio of about 1part tea to 3 parts sugar. Big bunches of fresh mint are added almost as much as the pot can hold. Twisting the mint or tearing it slightly helps to bruise the oils from the tea. Boiling water is added to the top of the pot and the pot is placed over heat to come to a boil. This is then removed from the heat and poured into heat proof glasses.

Like all mints, Moroccan Mint, should be confined to a pot. Mints grow better in pots with lots of surface area rather than lots of depth. Mints need to be divided and repotted with fresh soil each spring.

Moroccan Mint is one of the six plants chosen to be in our International Herb Garden Six Pack. Moroccan Mint also makes a great addition to our Tea Herb Garden Six Packs.

This plant is often available in plug trays. These trays hold 128 of all the same plant. They are a great low cost way to fill a lot of space. Each cell is 3/4 of inch by an inch. Check here to see if Moroccan Mint Plug Trays are available.

How to Identify Mint Plants

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Take a sniff! If a plant’s green leaves have a sharp, minty smell, the odds are that it’s a member of the large mint family. Although spearmint and peppermint are the most popular choices for American gardens, other varieties have fascinating flavors, ranging from chocolate to lavender. Some are purely ornamental.

One trait that’s common to all mint species: They aren’t shy or retiring. Left to its own devices, mint will take over a garden bed–and sometimes the entire backyard. Save yourself from the invasion by transplanting mint into containers. But first you have to identify the mint plants.

Spearmint and Peppermint

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Spearmint (Mentha spicata)and peppermint (Mentha × piperita) are the mint varieties most likely to appear in your backyard. Both have fuzzy leaves with jaggedly toothed edges that smell strongly minty when crushed. Both these mints also bear pale lilac flowers. To distinguish between them, you’ll have to take a nibble. A strong menthol aftertaste means peppermint, while a sweet, light flavor means spearmint. Use young spearmint leaves in cooking, peppermint leaves for tea and other drinks.
The climate in which the mint is growing can also help you identify it. If you live in a cool climate, your mint is likely peppermint. These plants are hardy down to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 3. Spearmint does better with heat and can even thrive in USDA hardiness zone 11.

Apple Mint

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If the mint growing in your backyard has soft, rounded leaves, it might be apple mint (Mentha suaveolens). This plant is also called woolly mint because its stems and leaves are covered with fine, soft hairs. Flower spears are white or pale pink. Less minty than peppermint or spearmint, apple mint tastes fruity. The leaves have a mild, sweet flavor that makes apple mint perfect with salads or fresh fruit.

Lavender Mint

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Lavender mint (Mentha x piperita ‘Lavender’) can grow to 3 feet tall and wide, with large, eye-catching flowers. The lilac blossoms are showy enough to make the plant a garden ornamental, and butterflies love them too. The gray-green leaves surprise you with purple undersides. They smell intensely of lavender, and are often used in potpourris and cooking. If you are using the leaves to flavor food, pick them before the mint plant flowers for best results. Plant lavender mint in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9.

Chocolate Mint

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Here’s a chocolate that won’t pack on the pounds. Chocolate mint plants (Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate’) have handsome dark-green leaves that carry a powerful fragrance reminiscent of chocolate liqueur. This fast-growing mint shoots up to 2 feet tall and spreads rapidly enough to be a useful ground cover. Chocolate mint leaves are long and lance-shaped, providing a lovely contrast to the lavender flowers that appear in summer. This mint thrives in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9.

Ornamental Corsican Mint

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Some mints are not intended to be used for cooking. Instead, you can use ornamental mints to fill in empty sections of a garden with texture and bright foliage. One of these is Corsican mint (Mentha requienii), a lovely, short ground cover that doesn’t mind being walked on. It will delight you with its delicate leaves, subtle minty aroma and bright color. It grows happily in USDA hardiness zones 6 through 9.

Flower:

Clusters of about 20 flowers around the leaf axils along much of the plant, blooming from the bottom of the plant up. Individual flowers are about 1/8 inch long and tubular. The upper lip is notched into 2 parts, the lower lip has 3 lobes of equal size. 4 long stamens protrude from the tube. Flower color ranges from pink to pale lavender to white, with darker spots on the inside of the tube. The calyx is hairy with short, triangular lobes and is about a third as long as the flower.

Leaves and stem:

Leaves are up to 2½ inches long and 1 inch wide, narrowly egg-shaped to elliptic, pointed at the tip, serrated around the edges, finely hairy on the underside, and have short stalks. Attachment is opposite, with pairs at right angles to those above and below it. Leaves are strongly aromatic when crushed. Stems are square, ascending to erect, green or sometimes red, and hairy, sometimes just along the angles.

Fruit:

Fruit is a set of 4 oval nutlets, each containing a single seed.

Notes:

Wild Mint has some similarities to Lycopus species, which also have opposite leaves, whorls of small flowers at the leaf nodes, and found in wet places. Lycopus flowers are white with only 2 stamens, however, and the leaves are not aromatic when crushed. There are apparently 2 varieties, with var. canadensis found in North America and var. arvensis native to Europe. According to the University of Michigan Herbarium, there is some evidence the North American species is derived from ancient hybridization of European Mentha species; they have accepted the name Mentha canadensis and dropped arvensis altogether Perhaps a name change will come to Minnesota, as well.

blunt mountain mint

Pycnanthemum muticum (mountain mint) serves as a tremendous draw for pollinators and brings a coarse vertical structure as well as a spearmint-link aroma to the winter garden.

Mountain mint is a favorite of Lurie Garden Director and Head Horticulturist Laura Ekasetya and can be found in the garden’s light plate, usually surrounded by numerous honeybees, native bees, wasps, and butterflies. This member of the Lamiaceae (mint family) and is native to eastern North America from Maine to Michigan to Illinois and south to Florida and Texas.

Growing up to 3 ft. tall and 3 feet wide, mountain mint has a strong clump-forming growth habit, is a good naturalizing plant, and is drought tolerant. Some people may shy away from P. muticum given the reputation of mints as aggressive spreaders in the garden; however, unlike true mints (Mentha species), mountain mint is not invasive although it will slowly spread by rhizomes. Unwanted spreading of this species can be controlled by cutting of the underground rhizomes by a spade. Mountain mint displays pinkish-to-white flowers from July-September along with dark green leaves that have a strong mint-like scent. Flowers are accompanied by powdery white-to-silver bracts that give plants the appearance of being dusted by snow.

In Lurie Garden, P. muticum is planted in large masses or blocks that maximize the aesthetic and ecological impact of the plant for visitors and pollinators, respectively. Plants grow best in fertile, moist-to-medium moisture soils that are well-drained. Blunt mountain mint flowers best when planted in full-sun, but can grow in bright shade.

While serving as a tremendous draw for pollinators of all type during its July-September bloom period, P. muticum serves to bring a coarse vertical structure to the winter garden. Flower remnants of the species offer up a delicate, structural appearance upon close inspection. Around the base of winter stems, blunt mountain mint produces small, deep green wintergreen stems. And as if all those characteristics were not enough, P. muticum possesses a spectacular spearmint-link aroma–a pleasant surprise in the winter garden!

Botanical Name Pycnanthemum muticum
Common Name blunt mountain mint
Family Lamiaceae
USDA Zone 4 thru 8
Light Requirement Full Sun to Part Shade
Season(s) of interest Summer, Fall, Winter
Height and Spread 1-3ft x 1-3ft (30-90cm x 30-90cm)
Flower Color White
Attracts Wildlife Attracts Large Quantities of Pollinators – especially bees and flies, Hosts Moths/Butterflies
Additional Information Native to the Chicago Region
Location in Lurie Garden Northwest Light Plate

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