What are the benefits of mint?

At first blush, you might not associate mint and bile.

But studies show that mint promotes the production of bile, a fluid secreted by the liver, which is essential for digestion.

Which is one reason granny may have given you mints to relieve your upset stomach, indigestion, flatulence or colic.

Just like you see in bubblegum, there are two main varieties of mint you will likely encounter for medicinal purposes. One is spearmint, the other peppermint. Once thought to be the same plant, it was later learned that peppermint is a variety of spearmint and the more potent of the two.

The healing power of peppermint oil comes largely from an aromatic oil it contains called menthol while spearmint's main active healing ingredient is a chemical known as carvone.

Oil of peppermint contains as much as 78 percent menthol and it is menthol which encourages bile to flow into the duodenum. Menthol has another benefit. It is a strong antispasmodic, which can calm muscle action, especially that in the digestive tract.

Studies with both animals and people have shown the effectiveness of menthol. Russian and German scientific studies highlight how peppermint doesn't just help stimulate bile production, but it may also prevent ulcers of the stomach. This is because the strong oil can kill many microorganisms that cause digestive woes. And other studies show that menthol is also helpful in treating irritable bowel syndrome.

Maoshing Ni, PhD, LAc
Geriatric Medicine
Peppermint, spearmint and other mint-family plants are considered one of the most versatile herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Peppermint has many well-documented properties: It increases healthy gastric secretions, relaxes the intestines, soothes spasms, settles the stomach and alleviates gas. In a culture marked by poor diet and digestion -- and the heartburn that comes with it -- peppermint can be your best friend. Additionally, peppermint is rich in antioxidants that support good vision, and also cleanses your liver, helping to eliminate harmful toxins from your body. Steep peppermint as a tea and drink it a half an hour after mealtimes for untroubled digestion.

Growing Tips: Mint is an easy-to-grow herb that is invasive, so be sure to grow it in its own pot.

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