Mint Tea – Health Benefits
Mint Tea is a popular herbal tea, frequently used to make iced tea as well as hot tea. Mint tea has a cooling quality and makes a particularly refreshing iced tea, both when used alone or when blended with other herbs or with green or black tea.
Varieties of Mint:
There are many varieties of mint, including both natural species, and hybrids and cultivars. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) and peppermint (Mentha x piperita) are the most common types of mint used in tea. Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) is also common, and resembles spearmint in flavor although it has fuzzy leaves. Usually when the term “mint tea” is used and no variety of mint is specified, it means spearmint tea. The mint family also contains a number of other species used in tea, including lemon balm, oswego tea, and many culinary herbs. Cultivars such as pineapple mint and orange mint can also be used in tea, although they are less widely available commercially.
Health Benefits of Mint Tea:
Many mints have numerous traditional medicinal uses. The research on the health benefits of mint tea is young and few human studies have been done–it is not fully known the degree to which various benefits shown in lab studies actually transfer to people drinking mint tea. However, there is preliminary evidence suggesting that mint may have a variety of benefits:
- Caffeine free – Like most herbal teas, all plants in the mint family are 100% caffeine free.
- Antioxidants – Spearmint, peppermint, and other mints have been found to be rich in antioxidants, a broad class of chemicals thought to promote overall health by preventing damage to the body and protecting against cancer and tumors.
- Iron absorption – There is evidence that mint tea can improve the body’s ability to absorb iron. In middle eastern countries, it is common to brew black tea together with spearmint. Black tea is known to inhibit iron absorption; mixing mint with black tea can mitigate these effects.
- Antibacterial and antifungal activity – In vitro studies have found spearmint, peppermint, and other mints to inhibit the growth of, and kill, harmful bacteria, including MSRA (a dangerous antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria). Spearmint also has been shown to prevent the growth of a number of types of harmful fungi.
- Stomach & gastrointestinal benefits – Peppermint has been traditionally used to settle the stomach and treat certain gastrointestinal problems. There is some evidence that it is effective at treating irritable bowel syndrome.
It is not fully clear the degree to which these health benefits are available to those drinking mint tea. Some of the human trials that have been conducted used capsules of concentrated essential oils, which likely lead to greater concentrations than what would typically be found in mint tea.
Safety of Mints and Side Effects:
Most mints (including spearmint and peppermint) are safe for use as a food seasoning or herbal tea, but the mint family is large and diverse and contains some plants which are less safe. A few species, including pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), can be poisonous in large doses.
Buying or Growing Mint for Tea:
Dried spearmint and peppermint for use in tea are widely available from a number of online tea retailers, but the best mint tea is made from fresh leaves. Although fresh mint can be purchased at some supermarkets, it is expensive and it is usually easier to grow the plant yourself. Almost endless varieties of mint plants are available at nurseries. Plants in the mint family also can be grown very easily from cuttings. Mints are very easy to grow (and can easily take over your yard or garden) in moist temperate climates. They are not quite as vigorous in hotter or drier climates, but can be grown outside their preferred range with some extra care.