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 infused mint leaves. It is important to consider that the studies carried out on mint leaves use different varieties of mint, which are not all frequently consumed in the West.
Active Ingredients and Properties
Herbs are usually not consumed in large quantities. When used as a seasoning, they may not provide all the health benefits attributed to them. Adding herbs regularly and significantly to foods can make a small contribution to the antioxidant content of the diet. However, consuming herbs alone cannot meet the body’s antioxidant needs.
The majority of studies on herbs have been conducted 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 quantities consumed are generally low.
Most Important Nutrients
Source Fer. 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 men, but only meets 4% of a woman’s daily needs. It should be noted that the iron contained in mint, as in other plants, is not as well absorbed by the body as the iron contained in foods of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is enhanced 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.
Source Manganese. Dried spearmint is a source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor of 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 dietary allowance for manganese, but an adequate intake.
Like tea, mint tea is believed to decrease the absorption of iron into the body6. 6 In the intestine, the phenolic compounds in these beverages are believed to form a complex with iron, preventing its absorption. Mint tea should preferably be consumed at least one hour before or after a meal to allow for optimal absorption of the iron contained in that meal. This is particularly important for people with higher iron requirements (anemia, pregnancy, breastfeeding, etc.).
There is insufficient scientific data demonstrating the safety of various herbal teas during pregnancy and lactation. Health Canada therefore recommends that pregnant women drink various herbal teas, such as herbal teas or mint infusions, in moderation. Women should consume these products with caution and critically review the information regarding their claimed benefits. Although mint (as an herbal tea or infusion) is commonly used for morning vomiting, it should not be consumed in the first trimester of pregnancy unless medically indicated7.
Mint contains volatile acids that lower the resting pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter, causing the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. People suffering from gastroesophageal reflux, peptic esophagitis or hiatus hernia should therefore avoid consuming mint or mint tea, especially before or after a meal.
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Fresh mint contains significant amounts of vitamin K. This vitamin, which is necessary for blood clotting, among other things, can be produced by the body in addition to being found in certain foods. People taking anticoagulant medications, such as those marketed under the names Coumadin®, Warfilone® and Sintrom®, must adopt a diet in which the vitamin K content is relatively stable from one day to the next.
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 physician to learn about dietary sources of vitamin K and to ensure the most stable daily intake possible.