Health Tidbits: The Uses Of Refreshing Mint In And Out Of The Kitchen

blur close up coffee cup cupThe minty cool steam of a fresh cup of hot peppermint tea is both refreshing and cozy. Sitting with a blanket on a cool night with a cup of tea to warm your belly is an experience that is comforting either for yourself or sharing the time with others. The comfort of tea can come during all seasons, even in the summer.

Mint is a versatile herb that is used in the summer for both hot and cold meals, drinks and medicinal purposes (it is also used in desserts like peppermint patties and mint chocolate chip ice cream, which I tend to just associate with tasting like toothpaste- who agrees?) Anyway, I have used it on many occasions for my own comfort when I have had upset stomachs, so I know it is not an illusion that mint is a powerful herb for the body. Now, I wanted to look up more about mint because I do know the information about aiding digestion and soothing the stomach, but it takes more self education to find out more about mint. I never really learned too much about herbs in my college classes but I wish I did, since most people use them so much either medicinally or at home in the kitchen. So let me dive into a cup of tea while I explain more of the uses and benefits of mint.

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Good For The Tummy: It is no surprise to many that peppermint tea has helped them with their nausea and digestive issues. The compounds in mint such as menthol may have the ability to relax the smooth muscle in the colon and aid in reducing spasms.

In terms of aiding in digestion, the aroma of mint will actually activate salivary glands which is where digestion begins, as well as the digestive enzyme glands. Not only is the tea helpful but peppermint oil in particular has been looked at in randomized trials and shown to be helpful for those with IBS and other digestive issues. Improvements in abdominal pain were also shown, although from what I have read in multiple places, peppermint oil can cause some heartburn, so it is likely best to dilute any tinctures or test to see if  coated capsules are a better option.

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Helps Reduce Pain In Breast Feeding:  Being a mother and providing your own nourishment to your child is a rewarding thing for many women, but it can also be painful and uncomfortable over time with breastfeeding for months.

The breast area can also have irritation, redness and cracking from the constant feeding, but there are some surprising things that can help that I just learned about. Apparently peppermint water that gets applied to the areas in between feedings has helped to reduce or prevent cracking, as well as reduce the pain and discomfort. I wouldn’t have thought peppermint can help with that but since it soothes other parts of the body and even menthol is in pain relief gels and creams, it makes sense that diluted peppermint applied to the skin can be relieving.

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Anti-Microbial and Good For The Teeth: Everyone using toothpaste knows how refreshing it can be to clean your mouth out. One of the main reasons is because of the peppermint or spearmint oil they add in for the ‘flavoring’. Back before they had invented toothpaste, mint leaves were used for chewing on or brushing them onto teeth to reduce the bacteria. Mint is known to be anti-microbial and helps inhibit the growth of fungus and bacteria. For oral hygiene, mint is the way to go to help freshen your breath while reducing the bacterial overgrowth on the tongue and gums.

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A Natural Stimulant For Lifting Your Mood:  With mint being a natural stimulant it makes sense that the smell of peppermint can lift your mood, even if only temporary. Those with anxiety or even depression can use methods to try and alleviate some of the symptoms by using things like essential oil diffusers and aromatherapy for relaxation. When I have had peppermint tea, it usually lifts me up and makes me feel like I have a bit more energy, so it seems to help with fatigue as well.

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Respiratory Issues:  Many times I have tried hot water in a bowl to make steam for congestion and added essential peppermint oil. It is strong and helps to clear you out, because menthol is naturally a decongestant that breaks up mucus. Something else peppermint can help with is asthma surprisingly. The compound rosmarinic acid is in peppermint and it has antioxidant properties to neutralize free radicals, and can also block pro-inflammatory chemicals from producing in the body. Definitely try out peppermint or menthol oil the next time you have a cold or respiratory issue before turning to modern medicine first.

 These uses come in handy, along with many others including helping with headaches, weight loss (since mint is also a stimulant), being an anti-cancer agent, and even preventing memory loss/helping cognitive function. 

Ways to Add Mint to Your Meals:

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  • I have found that a refreshing way to use mint is to muddle some of the leaves with lime and strawberries and add to water with ice. It doesn’t even have to be sweetened with any sugar.
  • If you don’t have basil, just use mint to make pesto like I did with my zoodles recipe.

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  • I haven’t tried it out, but you can chop up mint leaves and add it to chocolate chip cookie dough recipes. Sounds intriguing enough to try it out one day.
  • Mint is a great herb to add in combination to other herbs in salads, like tabbouleh or even a watermelon salad with feta and mint.

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  • Cold soups in the summer are popular such as gazpacho, which can be made in a variety of ways. I’m sure even a cold zucchini and mint soup could work out with a meat like lamb on the side. This recipe sounds good.
  • Replace parsley for mint in a chimichurri sauce, make a palate cleansing lime and mint sorbet, or be old school and just chew on the leaves. Be as creative or simple as you want.

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