The vast majority of studies on mint have been carried out on the essential oil extracted from this plant rather than on the consumption of the leaves. This section will deal with fresh, dried or herbal mint leaves. It is important to consider that the studies carried out on mint leaves use different varieties of mint, not all of which are consumed frequently in the West.
Active ingredients and properties
Herbs are usually not consumed in large quantities. Used as seasonings, they cannot then provide all the health benefits attributed to them. Adding herbs regularly and significantly to food contributes, if only in a minimal way, to the antioxidant intake of the diet. On the other hand, consumption of herbs alone cannot meet the body’s antioxidant needs.
The majority of herbal studies have been carried out in animals using plant extracts. The extract is used in order to be able to isolate and concentrate the active ingredients, as well as to understand the mechanisms of action. In humans, it is difficult to assess the health effects of consuming herbs since the amounts consumed are generally low.
|Infusion of mint leaves
Researchers have noticed that when the peppermint leaf is consumed as an infusion, 75% of its phenolic compounds are found in herbal tea 8 . Infusions of mint leaves would therefore retain a good part of their antioxidant capacities.
Antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that reduce the damage caused by free radicals in the body. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the appearance of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging. Some researchers have evaluated the antioxidant capacity of herbs and all agree that fresh herbs have a significant antioxidant capacity, sometimes even higher than that of certain fruits and vegetables 1-3 . This shows that indeed, adding herbs regularly in the diet contributes to the intake of antioxidants. More specifically, the main antioxidant compounds in peppermint would be therosmarinic acid as well as various flavonoids 4 .
Cardiovascular illnesses. Field mint delays oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol in vitro 5. Interestingly, its ability to prevent the oxidation process would be greater than that of nine other plants, such as sweet potato and papaya. Remember that the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the blood is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Surprisingly, the inhibition of the oxidation of LDL cholesterol by the different plants under study was not linked to their flavonoid content and the results obtained did not allow us to demonstrate which compounds were responsible for the observed effect. . We must therefore be vigilant before concluding that mint protects against cardiovascular disease since no clinical study has yet been carried out on the subject.
Most important nutrients
See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols
Iron. Dried spearmint is a source of iron for women and a good source of iron for men . As for fresh spearmint, it is a source of iron for humans., but only meets 4% of a woman’s daily needs. It should be noted that the iron contained in mint, like in other plants, is not absorbed as well by the body as the iron contained in food of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored if it is consumed with certain nutrients such as vitamin C. Iron is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters.
Manganese . Dried spearmint is a source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals. There is no recommended nutritional intake for manganese, but sufficient intake.
|What is a “portion” of mint worth?|
|Weight / volume||Fresh peppermint, 15 ml / 2 g||Fresh spearmint, 15 ml / 6 g||Dried spearmint, 15 ml / 2 g|
|Fat||0.0 g||0.0 g||0.1g|
|Dietary fiber||0.1g||0.4 g||0.5 g|
Source : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.
Like tea, mint tea would decrease the absorption of iron in the body 6 . In the intestine, the phenolic compounds in these drinks would form a complex with iron, preventing its absorption. The mint tea should preferably be consumed at least an hour before or after a meal , to allow optimal absorption of the iron contained in this meal. This is especially important for people with higher iron needs (anemia, pregnancy , breastfeeding , etc.).
There is not enough scientific data demonstrating the safety of various herbal teas during pregnancy and lactation. Health Canada therefore recommends that pregnant women exercise moderation in the consumption of various herbal teas, such as herbal teas or mint infusions. Women should use these products with caution and take a critical look at the information regarding their claimed benefits. Although mint (herbal tea or tea) is commonly used for morning sickness, it should not be consumed in the first trimester of pregnancy, unless medically indicated . 7
Mint contains volatile acids that decrease the resting tension of the lower esophageal sphincter, causing reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. People suffering from gastroesophageal reflux, of esophagitis ulcer or hiatal hernia should avoid consuming mint or mint teas, especially before or after a meal.
Fresh mint contains significant amounts of vitamin K. This vitamin, necessary among other things for blood clotting, can be manufactured by the body in addition to being found in certain foods. People taking blood thinners , such as those marketed under the names Coumadin ® , Warfilone ® and Sintrom ® , should eat a diet in which the vitamin K content is relatively stable from day to day. Herbs, including mint, contain vitamin K and should therefore be used as a seasoning only. People on anticoagulant therapy are advised to consult a dietitian-nutritionist or a doctor in order to know the food sources of vitamin K and to ensure a daily intake as stable as possible.
Mint over time
|The term ” mint ” appeared in the language in 1275. It comes from the Latin mentha , which borrowed it from the Greek minthê . Legend has it that it was, originally, the name of a nymph that the god Hades chased from his assiduities. But Hades’ wife did not understand it that way and made plans to kill the young Mint, which Hades saved by transforming her into a plant.
The word “mint” is sometimes misleading since it can designate plants belonging to a completely different genus, even family, botanical. This is the case with Vietnamese mint , which sometimes designates a species of mint, sometimes a polygonaceae. As for rooster mint , it is a balsamite, while cat mint is actually catnip. Real mints belong to the genus Mentha .
|Unwise, hybrid mint
Many hybrid mint do not produce seeds. Traditionally, this has given rise to some suspicion about them, a seedless plant being like a childless bride. “Don’t listen to mint,” says a proverb, “because it blooms without making seeds.” Instead, listen to sage which, with its many seeds, is much better advice. “
Little is known about the origins of mint, except that it comes from a vast region encompassing North Africa, the Mediterranean basin and West Asia, that it was known to the Egyptians. , Hebrews, Greeks and Romans, and that the cultivated from the IX th century in the gardens of the convents and monasteries of Europe. We are also not sure of the exact number of species belonging to the genus Mentha , since they cross easily with each other and have given birth to many natural hybrids. The peppermint is one of these hybrids; it was born spontaneously from the cross between aquatic mint and spearmintand was cultivated for the first time in England in the XVIII th century and in the rest of Europe and North Africa.
Mints have spread to all temperate countries in the world and in many places are considered weeds. Peppermint and spearmint are grown on a large scale, but other species are produced marginally. Depending on the variety, their flavor is vaguely reminiscent of pineapple, apple, orange, banana, grapefruit, chocolate or … cologne.
An essential oil is extracted from mint which is used in the composition of confectionery and liquors, or which is used for the production of menthol, widely used in the pharmaceutical industry.
It is the spearmint that is most commonly used in cooking and it is therefore especially it that we find in the trade. Its leaves should be very fresh, green, without spots or yellowing.
|Too many varieties for monks?
In the IX th century, knew so many varieties of mints, a monk wrote that he preferred having to count the sparks from the furnace of Vulcan rather than trying to count them.
- Add a few fresh mint leaves to fruit salads , juices or shakes. Use it in ice cream, sherbet or frozen yogurt.
- It is also excellent in vegetable salads, for example in a green bean salad cooked for a few minutes and cut into sections, to which we will add thin slices of red onion, feta cheese, some dry roasted nuts in the pan, and a good amount of chopped mint leaves. Drizzle with the vinaigrette of your choice.
- Tabbouleh. This salad is prepared with bulgur, diced tomatoes, minced onion, lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped mint and parsley. In the absence of fresh mint, we will take dried mint.
- Season the cooked potatoes, carrots, peas or braised onions. Mint will also enhance green pea soup .
- Indian raita . Finely chop fresh mint leaves, onion and a small red or green chili pepper, and mix with plain yogurt. Salt, pepper, cool and serve with a meat or vegetable curry.
- Sprinkle dried hummus with hummus or spreads.
- Jelly or mint sauce is a classic accompaniment to lamb and mutton.
- Chorba . This Algerian soup has many variations. Brown chopped onions and garlic in butter or olive oil, add, if desired, lamb cubes (neck or shoulder), and brown well. Add water, peeled and seeded tomatoes, a few spoonfuls of tomato puree and previously soaked or canned chickpeas and cook until the latter are tender. Then add bulgur, chopped cilantro and mint leaves, and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Lettuce soup. An ideal recipe for using withered lettuce. Brown onions in oil or butter, add minced lettuce and mint, cook for ten minutes then add a little flour to thicken, milk and broth. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about fifteen minutes and place in a blender. Serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche, sour cream or yogurt.
- Khmeli suneli. The composition of this blend of Georgia spices varies from region to region. The following mixture is a classic: pepper, saffron, savory, basil, marjoram, parsley and dried dill, to which are added fresh mint and coriander leaves. It is used in many dishes – stuffed cabbage leaves, grilled meats or bean dishes – and for making a sauce with nuts and sour fruits that is served with fish or fried eggplant.
- Cheese and mint omelet. Separate the egg yolks from the whites, beat the latter and add them to the former. Pour the preparation into a buttered or oiled pan, add grated cheese and chopped mint, salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes then fold the omelet and finish cooking.
- Thai spicy chicken salad. Finely chop the chicken breast and sauté in oil. Put in a salad bowl, add fish sauce and lime juice and mix well. Add chopped cilantro and mint leaves, green onion, a paste of crushed garlic and hot peppers and a spoonful of grilled rice flour (if not, we will grill a little dry rice in a pan and we’ll go to the coffee grinder). Serve over lettuce or thin strips of Chinese cabbage.
- Vietnamese spring rolls. Stuff rehydrated rice cakes with a lettuce leaf, a large cooked shrimp, carrot strips, soy sprouts, spring onions and fresh mint leaves. Roll the cake, taking care to fold the sides to enclose the filling. Serve with a sauce made from soy sauce, lemon juice, chopped garlic, salt and pepper.
- Mint honey. Add 1 tsp. mint in 250 ml honey. Macerate for three weeks in a warm place. Then put on the fire to melt, pass and return the honey to its jar.
- The green mint tea is surprisingly refreshing in the summer. We can drink it hot or cold. Put 1 tsp. heaping tablespoon of green tea in a small teapot, add a little boiling water, then a bunch of fresh mint and fill with boiling water. In the Maghreb, we add a good amount of sugar to the preparation, but we can replace it with honey or omit the sweeteners entirely.
- Mint goes perfectly with chocolate . It can therefore be added to any dessert where it is used. It is enough to infuse it for ten minutes in the hot liquid – water, milk, cream – of the recipe. Decorate the dessert with chopped leaves.
Fresh: from a few days to a week in the refrigerator. The most effective way to store the leaves is to wrap them in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. They can also be frozen by spreading them on a baking sheet before enclosing them in a plastic bag. Or, chop them and put them in an ice cube tray with water.
Dried: in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from light. You can easily dry your excess fresh mint by ridding the stems of their leaves and putting them on a nylon mosquito net. Only reduce them to a powder before using them so that they preserve their aroma longer.
Macerated: chop the leaves and put them in oil or vinegar. Macerate for one or two weeks, then strain.
Since seeds do not always give good results, mint is usually propagated vegetatively (division of roots or plants, planting of rhizomes). Garden centers offer seedlings of various varieties.
Choose a humid place, but which drips well, in a partially shaded part of the garden.
Under the right conditions, mint spreads quickly and can become invasive. It can be contained by planting it in large pots or by surrounding it with a metal strip sunk 5 cm to 10 cm into the ground and protruding 12 cm to 15 cm.
It is recommended to change it every three or four years. Divide the roots in spring or fall.
A few leaves can be harvested throughout the season. The main harvest will be when the plants begin to flower. Freeze or dry the surplus.
Ecology and environment
|Mint against the weevil
Studies indicate that mint, one of the constituents of field mint, could replace the chemical fumigants used in the fight against the rice weevil, an insect that causes significant damage in rice warehouses, wheat and flour. Mint leaves no toxic residue, does not affect the quality of the grain, is not flammable or corrosive and can easily be evacuated by ventilation.
The fight against the mosquito that causes malaria is a real challenge. The use of chemical insecticides is tricky, on the one hand because they cause significant pollution in regions where malaria is epidemic, on the other hand because the insects end up becoming resistant and it is necessary constantly changing products.
However, Indian researchers have discovered that the essence of mint can repel and kill insects. It is enough to spread it on the ponds in which adults breed so that within a day, 85% of the larvae are destroyed. Although the amounts needed to treat infested areas are high, mint has the advantage of being very easy to grow.
In addition, the extraction of gasoline, which requires rudimentary and inexpensive means, can be done on the spot by the villagers themselves. According to the researchers, the essence of mint could also protect against the West Nile virus, filariasis and dengue fever, all of the diseases transmitted by mosquito bites.