Mint is an aromatic perennial herb popularly known as “Pudina” in India and scientifically known as “Mentha.” Mints are perennials that spread rapidly and grow quickly. Mint is used in cooking as a flavouring agent. Its oil is used for flavouring mouth washes, toothpastes, etc. The four most commonly cultivated species are: Japanese Mint/Menthol Mint (M. arvensis), Peppermint (M. piperita), Spearmint (M. spicata), Bergamot mint (M. citrata). The largest market for mint and breath fresheners is North America, followed by Europe and Asia-Pacific.
Pudina is one of the oldest culinary herbs known to humans. It has remarkable medicinal properties and is a rich source of polyphenols. It has carminative and antispasmodic properties. Pudina is a beautiful tender looking aromatic herb. This perennial plant can grow up to 30 cm in height and mostly spreads horizontally. The plant is so prevalent in Indian gardens that sometimes its also found growing wild in places with moist soil. It is an integral part of kitchen gardens in India. Pudina flavour is very popular in food items like Pulao, Biryani & Parathas and our Kashmiri delicacy “Yakhni”. Pudina leaves are used in garnishing dishes, making chutneys, lemonades and in refreshing beverages. Pudina can also be consumed in form of pudina water, which is a fresh herb infused beverage and helps to stay hydrated.
Mint or pudina is packed with Phyto-chemicals, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like iron (9% of RDI), manganese (8% of RDI), phosphorous, potassium, vitamin A, C, D, E and small amounts of vitamin B complex (4%of the RDI). Mint has been used since ages for medicinal purposes owing to its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. Mint enhances the skin health and boost immunity, as it has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It’s an effective skin cleanser and has antioxidant properties thus making skin youthful by removing free- radicals from the body. It also helps to maintain the moisture of skin, clearing off dead skin cells, make it toned, radiant and glowing.
Being rich in phyto-nutrients, pudina aids in digestion, relieves stomach cramps, and eases out acidity and flatulence. The methanol found in mint acts as a decongestant, helps to loosen the mucus in lungs, and also shrinks swollen membranes in the nose, which makes it easy to breathe. Mint plants contain an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid, which reduces symptoms of asthma. The overdose of mint can sometimes cause irritation to the air passage.
Mint also helps to relax the muscles, relieving pain and making one feel comfortable. The mint juice can be applied instead of balm to forehead in order to get relief from headaches. Mint is nowadays used in aromatherapy because of its strong, refreshing smell that reduces mental and physical stress. Mint helps to regulate the cortisol level in our body that triggers body mechanism to ease stress. Serotonin in the blood which is a neurotransmitter gets released by inhaling pudina.
Mint can used to improve oral hygiene. Mint oil helps to keep get fresh breath, good for healthy gums and teeth. It inhibits bacterial growth inside the mouth and also cleanses the plaque deposition on teeth. Mint aids in improving memory and cognitive functions. Mint also helps in improved nutrient absorption from food, and increases metabolism that promotes weight loss. Nowadays in winter, common cold is a major problem faced by most of the people. Pudina/mint is the best remedy; it naturally clears nose, throat, bronchi and lung congestion.
Pudina has potential to reduce morning sickness specifically among pregnant women. It can provide iron as well as reduce nausea by chewing a few leaves of mint in the morning. Studies have shown that it is beneficial for IBS and reduces bloating and makes bowel easier to pass out.
Mint oil is mainly produced in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh & Himalayan region, which is extracted by the pudina leaves with the help of water steam distillation method and the yield obtain is about 0.3% to 0.5% . Mint oil is quite beneficial in reducing pain caused due to sore and cracked nipples during breastfeeding.
It’s always said that everything in nature has its advantages and flaws, so is with this magical herb, too. Mint leaves are generally safe for consumption, however people with gastroesophageal reflux disease should minimise the consumption as it may cause stomach irritation and may trigger GERD symptoms. Menthol oil is contraindicated in children to use topically as it may cause breathing difficulties.
—The writers are Associate Professors at Division of FST, SKUAST-K, Shalimar. [email protected]