By Julie Christensen
Are there any health benefits to mint tea?
Upset stomach, nagging headache, lingering cold? Before you reach for those over-the-counter medications, why not try an age-old remedy — sipping herbal tea. Mint tea, in particular, has been found to have several healing properties and has now become the subject of quite a few research studies.
Grandma was right — peppermint tea can relieve indigestion. Cooling menthol in the tea relaxes intestinal muscles and produces bile so food is digested more quickly. Mint also reduces flatulence, bloating and stomach cramps, and has been shown to effectively relieve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) by up to 75 percent. One caveat: those with reflux disease (GERD) should not use mint tea to treat symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Mint relaxes the sphincter muscles in the esophagus and can actually increase heartburn symptoms.
Mint has a numbing, calming effect, making it an ideal drink to relieve anxiety, depression or headaches. Try combining it with chamomile for a double-shot of calm. Mint has even been found to lower blood sugar, an important consideration for anyone with type 2 diabetes. Consult your doctor, though, if you take medication to control blood sugar. Combining medications with mint tea may lower blood sugar too much, causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Try drinking mint tea to treat a common cold. This remarkable herb has antimicrobial and antifungal properties, which just might speed recovery. It also thins mucous, making it an effective expectorant. It soothes a sore throat and quiets coughing as well. Sweeten mint tea with honey, which has many similar benefits.
You’ll find mint tea in most grocery stores, although loose leaf tea is usually fresher and of better quality than boxed varieties, according to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Boxed teas go through more processing, which releases their volatile oils—and their potency. Look for loose tea brands in natural food stores or herbal shops. Certified herbalists often offer their own blends. Opt for organic or wildcrafted teas, whenever possible.
Making Your Own Mint Tea
If you love mint tea, consider making your own for several reasons. First, mint is among the simplest herbs to grow and within one year of planting, you’ll have more mint than you can likely use. Additionally, many herbal teas and loose herbs sold commercially are imported from overseas. They often sit in hot warehouses which can destroy nutrient quality and flavor. The herbs may also be irradiated to prevent insect infestations or treated with other pesticides.
To make mint tea, cut your mint plants in mid-summer. Harvest the mint in the morning on a warm, dry day and cut the plant back to about half its original size. Young, small leaves make better tea than older leaves, which can become bitter. Gather the mint sprigs together and tie them with twine. Place the bundles in brown paper bags and hang them in a warm, dry place with good air circulation.
When the leaves are dry and crackly, strip them from their stems. Process the leaves in a food processor if you like, or leave them whole. At this point, you can mix dried mint leaves with other herbs, such as lavender, chamomile, lemon balm or nettle. Mixed-herb teas have a more complex flavor and may also be more nutritious than single-herb teas. Store your mint tea in an airtight container, such as a glass jar and keep it in a dry, cool pantry.
To make tea from loose mint leaves, simply add 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves to 1 cup boiling water. Place the leaves in a tea ball, tea infuser or bit of cheesecloth before adding them to the water. Steep the tea no longer than 6 to 8 minutes or it will become bitter.
Don’t want to wait for dried leaves? You can also use fresh leaves in your tea. Simply take 4-5 stalks of mint, crush them in your hand (to release the oils), place them in a teapot, pour boiling water over them and steep for five minutes.
Choosing Mints for Teas
There are over 600 different varieties of mint. The most common types, spearmint and peppermint, impart a fresh, cool flavor to teas. Experiment with different varieties to find a tea you like. Apple mint leaves, for example, have a sweet taste resembling apples. You’ll also find orange, grapefruit, lemon or chocolate-flavored mint leaves. Buy mint from a reputable nursery to ensure the correct variety. A few mint varieties, such as pennyroyal, aren’t edible and may even be toxic.
To learn more about the benefits of mint tea, visit the links below:
Peppermint from the University of Maryland Medical Center
Medicinal Uses for Herbal Teas from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Antioxidants in a pinch writes about the high antioxidant value of mint.
When she’s not writing about gardening, food and canning, Julie Christensen enjoys spending time in her gardens, which includes perennials, vegetables and fruit trees. She’s written hundreds of gardening articles for the Gardening Channel, Garden Guides and San Francisco Gate, as well as several e-books.