While peppermint leaves are available throughout the year, they are especially good in warm weather when they can give a burst of cool flavor to a summery salad or beverage.
Peppermint has greenish-purple lance-shaped leaves while the rounder leaves of spearmint are more of a grayish green color. The taste of both peppermint and spearmint bear a flavor that can be described as a cross between pepper and chlorophyll, with peppermint being a bit stronger and spearmint being a little more cool and subtle.
In the world of health research, randomized controlled trials have repeatedly shown the ability of peppermint oil to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including indigestion, dyspepsia, and colonic muscle spasms. These healing properties of peppermint are apparently related to its smooth muscle relaxing ability. Once the smooth muscles surrounding the intestine are relaxed, there is less chance of spasm and the indigestion that can accompany it. The menthol contained in peppermint may be a key reason for this bowel-comforting effect.
Interest in peppermint has extended well beyond the digestive tract, however. Perillyl alcohol is a phytonutrient called a monoterpene, and it is plentiful in peppermint oil. In animal studies, this phytonutrient has been shown to stop the growth of pancreatic, mammary, and liver tumors. It has also been shown to protect against cancer formation in the colon, skin, and lungs. These animal-based studies have yet to be matched by equally sound human studies, however.
Esssential oil of peppermint also stops the growth of many different bacteria. These bacteria include Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It has also be found to inhibit the growth of certain types of fungus as well.
Peppermint contains the substance rosmarinic acid, which has several actions that are beneficial in asthma. In addition to its antioxidant abilities to neutralize free radicals, rosmarinic acid has been shown to block the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, such as leukotrienes. It also encourages cells to make substances called prostacyclins that keep the airways open for easy breathing. Extracts of peppermint have also been shown to help relieve the nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis (colds related to allergy).
Our food ranking system also showed peppermint to deliver a wide range of traditional nutrients. Peppermint is a good source of manganese, copper, and vitamin C. Vitamin C seems to play a role in decreasing colorectal cancer risk. It is the main water-soluble antioxidant in the body is needed to decrease levels of free radicals that can cause damage to cells. Some studies have shown a link between increased vitamin C intake and a decreased risk for colon cancer, possibly by as much as 40%, while other studies have shown that vitamin C intake can help to decrease the incidence of colon tumors.
Mint is the glorious plant that gives the candy of the same name its cool burst of flavor. While there are about 25 different species of mints, peppermint is actually a natural hybrid cross between Mentha aquatica (water mint) and Mentha spicata (spearmint). Peppermint has greenish-purple lance-shaped leaves while the rounder leaves of spearmint are more of a grayish green color.
The taste of both peppermint and spearmint bear a flavor that can be described as a cross between pepper and chlorophyll, with peppermint being a bit stronger and spearmint being a little more cool and subtle. In addition to peppermint and spearmint, other plants in the Mentha genus include apple mint, orange mint, water mint, curly mint and Corsican mint.
Mint is an ancient herb used since antiquity for its culinary, medicinal and aromatic properties. The origins of mint are honored in a Greek myth that tells the tale that the plant was originally a nymph (Minthe), who was transformed into a plant by Persephone, who was jealous of the affections that her husband Pluto was showing to Minthe. While Pluto could not reverse the spell that his wife cast, he did impart Minthe with a sweet smell, so when she was walked upon in the garden, her aroma would be delightful to the senses.
Mint's characteristic smell has made it one of the more popular perfuming herbs throughout history. Around the globe, from Europe to India to the Middle East, mint has been used a strewing herb to clear the air in both temples and homes. Mint has also come to symbolize hospitality in many cultures. In ancient Greece, mint leaves were rubbed on dining tables to welcome guests, while in the Middle East, the host still traditionally offers mint tea to guests upon their arrival.
Mint has played an important role in the American tradition. While the Native Americans were using mint even before the arrival of the European settlers, the early colonists brought this prized herb with them from the Old World since they had long honored it for its therapeutic properties, as well as for the delicious hot tea beverage made from its leaves.
Whenever possible, choose fresh mint over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. The leaves of fresh mint should look vibrant and be a rich green color. They should be free from dark spots or yellowing.
Even through dried herbs and spices like mint are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried herbs, when purchasing dried mint try to select organically grown mint since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.
To store fresh mint leaves, carefully wrap them in a damp paper towel and place inside of a loosely closed plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator, where it should keep fresh for several days. Dried mint should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place, where it will keep fresh for about nine to twelve months.
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Peppermint, leaves, fresh
GI: very low
|vitamin C||2.42 mg||3||10.9||good|
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%