Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a variety of aromatic herb that comes from the plant family Lamiaceae and the genus Mentha. The soft and tender stems of this plant are used for the purpose of seasoning, giving a strong and sweet fragrance to any dish. The fresh leaves of this plant, on the other hand, are used to give flavor to salads, soups, meat, fish and a number of other dishes and beverages. The use of this ancient herb is regarded as a symbol of hospitability and a sign of welcome in many cultures. Right from Greece and America to India, Middle East and China, the herb is renowned for its culinary, medicinal and aromatic properties. Available throughout the year, peppermint is especially preferred in the warmer seasons, as it provides a delightful burst of cool flavor to a summery soup or beverage. To know more about the diverse health benefits of this unique, ancient, therapeutic herb, read the pointers given in this article.
Health Benefits Of Eating Peppermint
- Mint leaves prove to be great for the treatment of headache, nausea, fever and indigestion.
- The herb contains an essential oil called menthol, which is very beneficial in relieving symptoms of muscle spasms, ache and IBS. It helps to relax the muscles in the body.
- The essential oil (menthol) present in peppermint leaves is also known for its antibacterial properties.
- Peppermint leaves are also very beneficial in conditions like asthma, allergic rhinitis etc, as the rosmarinic acid present in them keeps the airways open, aids easy breathing and relieves the symptoms of congestion and blocked airways.
- The phytonutrient ‘perillyl alcohol’ (a monoterpene) contained in the leaves aids the prevention of liver, lung, pancreatic and skin cancers, by preventing excessive proliferation of cells.
- Peppermint is a rich source of vitamin C, which is a natural water soluble antioxidant. Thus, it contributes a lot in maintaining a healthy immune system, keeps the elastic properties of the skin and blood vessels intact, prevents bruising of skin and also increases the absorption of iron from the intestines.
- The vitamin C, together with the beta carotenes, present in peppermint helps scavenge free radicals, maintains the integrity of cell membranes and thus, helps lower the risk of cancer, heart diseases and other degenerative diseases.
- The herb contains a considerable amount of beta carotene (a precursor of vitamin A). The main function of this vitamin is to promote healthy eye sight and prevent acne, thereby aid in the maintenance of a healthy and radiant skin.
- Another vitamin that is present in high amounts in peppermint is folic acid. This vitamin is very essential for the promotion and maintenance of a healthy cardio-vascular system. This is achieved by preventing the accumulation of an intermediate metabolite of protein metabolism, called homocysteine, in the human body. This metabolite promotes conditions like atherosclerosis, by reducing the integrity of blood vessel walls and interfering with collagen metabolism.
- Other sources of vitamin present in the peppermint, which aid the process of energy production from food, are thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and vitamin B6.
- Some major minerals present in peppermint, which play an important part in maintaining proper metabolic activities in the body, are iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese and magnesium.
- Peppermint is a good source of dietary fiber, whose main functions are to promote satiety, add roughage to the intestinal contents, help in maintaining a healthy colon and prevent conditions like constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticular disorders.
- Although rare, certain cases of allergic reactions to peppermint have been reported. These reactions include difficulty in breathing, closure of throat and swelling of face, tongue and lips.
- Strong dose or high concentration of peppermint products may also cause mouth ulcerations or irritations.
- For simple and quick peppermint salads, you can mix and combine oranges, onions, fennel and mint leaves. This is very soothing, especially in the summer season.
- You can toss pieces of cooked eggplant in a mixture of chapped mint leaves, cayenne, garlic and yoghurt.
- To get a tint of freshness in your special gazpacho dish or any other soup containing tomatoes, you can add chopped peppermint leaves.