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Title: Mentha  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Arab cuisine, Peppermint, Spearmint, Lamiaceae, Afghan cuisine
Collection: Herbs, Indian Spices, Medicinal Plants, Mentha, Stoloniferous Plants
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Mentha longifolia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Tribe: Mentheae
Genus: Mentha
Type species
Mentha spicata
  • Pulegium Mill.
  • Preslia Opiz
  • Audibertia Benth.
  • Menthella Pérard
  • Minthe St.-Lag.

Mentha (also known as mint, from Greek míntha,[2] Linear B mi-ta)[3] is a genus of plants in the family Lamiaceae (mint family).[4] The species are not clearly distinct and estimates of the number of species varies from 13 to 18.[5] Hybridization between some of the species occurs naturally. Many other hybrids, as well as numerous cultivars, are known in cultivation.

The genus has a subcosmopolitan distribution across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America.[6]

Mints are aromatic, almost exclusively perennial, rarely annual, herbs. They have wide-spreading underground and overground stolons[7] and erect, square,[8] branched stems. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, from oblong to lanceolate, often downy, and with a serrated margin. Leaf colors range from dark green and gray-green to purple, blue, and sometimes pale yellow.[6] The flowers are white to purple and produced in false whorls called verticillasters. The corolla is two-lipped with four subequal lobes, the upper lobe usually the largest. The fruit is a nutlet, containing one to four seeds.

While the species that make up the Mentha genus are widely distributed and can be found in many environments, most grow best in wet environments and moist soils. Mints will grow 10–120 cm tall and can spread over an indeterminate area. Due to their tendency to spread unchecked, some mints are considered invasive.[9]


  • Species 1
  • Taxonomy 2
  • Selected hybrids 3
  • Cultivation 4
  • Uses 5
    • Food safety 5.1
    • Culinary 5.2
    • Traditional medicine and cosmetics 5.3
      • Allergic reaction 5.3.1
    • Insecticides 5.4
    • Room scent and aromatherapy 5.5
  • Diseases 6
  • Etymology of "mint" 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The list below includes all of the taxa recognized as species in recent works on Mentha. No author has recognized all of them. As with all biological classifications of plants, this list can go out of date at a moment's notice. Common names are also given for species that have them. Synonyms, along with cultivars and varieties, are given in articles on the species.


Mentha is a member of the tribe Mentheae in the subfamily Nepetoideae. The tribe contains about 65 genera, and relationships within it remain obscure.[4] Authors have disagreed on the circumscription of Mentha. Some authors have excluded M. cervina from the genus. M. cunninghamii has also been excluded by some authors, even in some recent treatments of the genus.[11] In 2004, a molecular phylogenetic study indicated both of these species should be included in Mentha.[5]

Selected hybrids

The mentha x piperita hybrid, known as "chocolate mint."

The mint genus has a large grouping of recognized hybrids. Synonyms, along with cultivars and varieties where available, are included within the specific species.

  • Mentha × dalmatica (M. arvensis × M. longifolia)
  • Mentha × dumetorum (M. aquatica × M. longifolia)
  • Mentha × gracilis (M. arvensis × M. spicata) – ginger mint
  • Mentha × maximilianea (M. aquatica × M. suaveolens)
  • Mentha × piperita (M. aquatica × M. spicata) – peppermint, chocolate mint
  • Mentha × rotundifolia (M. longifolia × M. suaveolens) – false apple mint
  • Mentha × smithiana (M. aquatica × M. arvensis × M. spicata) – red raripila mint
  • Mentha × verticillata (M. aquatica × M. arvensis)
  • Mentha × villosa (M. spicata × M. suaveolens also called M. nemorosa) – large apple mint, foxtail mint, hairy mint, woolly mint, Cuban mint, mojito mint, and yerba buena in Cuba
  • Mentha × villosonervata (M. longifolia × M. spicata) – sharp-toothed mint


Mentha x gracilis and M. rotundifolia: The steel ring is to control the spread of the plant.

All mints thrive near pools of water, lakes, rivers, and cool moist spots in partial shade.[12] In general, mints tolerate a wide range of conditions, and can also be grown in full sun. Mint grows all year round.[13]

They are fast-growing, extending their reach along surfaces through a network of runners. Due to their speedy growth, one plant of each desired mint, along with a little care, will provide more than enough mint for home use. Some mint species are more invasive than others. Even with the less invasive mints, care should be taken when mixing any mint with any other plants, lest the mint take over. To control mints in an open environment, they should be planted in deep, bottomless containers sunk in the ground, or planted above ground in tubs and barrels.[12]

Some mints can be propagated by seed, but growth from seed can be an unreliable method for raising mint for two reasons: mint seeds are highly variable - one might not end up with what one presupposed was planted,[12] and some mint varieties are sterile. It is more effective to take and plant cuttings from the runners of healthy mints.

The most common and popular mints for cultivation are peppermint (Mentha × piperita), spearmint (Mentha spicata), and (more recently) apple mint (Mentha suaveolens).

Mints are supposed to make good companion plants, repelling pesty insects and attracting beneficial ones. They are susceptible to whitefly and aphids.

Harvesting of mint leaves can be done at any time. Fresh leaves should be used immediately or stored up to a few days in plastic bags in a refrigerator. Optionally, leaves can be frozen in ice cube trays. Dried mint leaves should be stored in an airtight container placed in a cool, dark, dry area.[14]


Food safety

  • §182.10 Spices and other natural seasonings and flavorings, including mint, are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) for food uses in the United States.[15][16]
    • Peppermint Mentha piperita L.
    • Spearmint Mentha spicata L.
  • §182.20 Essential oils, oleoresins (solvent-free), and natural extractives (including distillates).
    • Menthol Mentha spp.
    • Peppermint Mentha piperita L.
    • Spearmint Mentha spicata L.


A jar of mint jelly: Mint jelly is a traditional condiment served with lamb dishes.
Limonana (mint lemonade) served in Damascus, Syria

The leaf, fresh or dried, is the culinary source of mint. Fresh mint is usually preferred over dried mint when storage of the mint is not a problem. The leaves have a warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste, and are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams. In Middle Eastern cuisine, mint is used on lamb dishes, while in British cuisine and American cuisine, mint sauce and mint jelly are used, respectively.

Mint is a necessary ingredient in Touareg tea, a popular tea in northern African and Arab countries. Alcoholic drinks sometimes feature mint for flavor or garnish, such as the mint julep and the mojito. Crème de menthe is a mint-flavored liqueur used in drinks such as the grasshopper.

Mint essential oil and menthol are extensively used as flavorings in breath fresheners, drinks, antiseptic mouth rinses, toothpaste, chewing gum, desserts, and candies, such as mint (candy) and mint chocolate. The substances that give the mints their characteristic aromas and flavors are menthol (the main aroma of peppermint and Japanese peppermint) and pulegone (in pennyroyal and Corsican mint). The compound primarily responsible for the aroma and flavor of spearmint is L-carvone.

Mints are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including buff ermine moths.

Traditional medicine and cosmetics

Mint was originally used as a medicinal herb to treat stomach ache and chest pains.[17] There are several uses in traditional medicine[18] and preliminary research for possible use in treating irritable bowel syndrome.[17]

Menthol from mint essential oil (40–90%) is an ingredient of many cosmetics and some perfumes. Menthol and mint essential oil are also used in aromatherapy which may have clinical use to alleviate post-surgery nausea.[17][19]

Allergic reaction

Although it is used in many consumer products, mint may cause allergic reactions in some people, inducing symptoms such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, headaches, heartburn, tingling or numbing around the mouth, anaphylaxis or contact dermatitis.[17][20]


Mint oil is also used as an environmentally friendly insecticide for its ability to kill some common pests such as wasps, hornets, ants, and cockroaches.[21]

Room scent and aromatherapy

Known in Greek mythology as the herb of hospitality,[22] one of mint's first known uses in Europe was as a room deodorizer.[23] The herb was strewn across floors to cover the smell of the hard-packed soil. Stepping on the mint helped to spread its scent through the room. Today, it is more commonly used for aromatherapy through the use of essential oils.


Etymology of "mint"

An example of mint leaves

Mint descends from the Latin word mentha, which is rooted in the Greek word minthe, personified in Greek mythology as Minthe, a nymph who was transformed into a mint plant. The word itself probably derives from a now extinct pre-Greek language (see Pre-Greek substrate).[24]

Mint leaves, without a qualifier like 'peppermint' or 'apple mint', generally refers to spearmint leaves.

In Spain and Central and South America, mint is known as menta. In Lusophone countries, especially in Portugal, mint species are popularly known as hortelã. In many Indo-Aryan languages, it is called pudīna.

The taxonomic family Lamiaceae is known as the mint family. It includes many other aromatic herbs, including most of the more common cooking herbs, such as basil, rosemary, sage, oregano, and catnip.

As an English colloquial term, any small mint-flavored confectionery item can be called a mint.[25]

In common usage, other plants with fragrant leaves may be called "mint", although they are not in the mint family.


  1. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ μίνθα. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  3. ^ Palaeolexicon, Word study tool of ancient languages
  4. ^ a b Harley, Raymond M.; Atkins, Sandy; Budantsev, Andrey L.; Cantino, Philip D. et al. (2004). "Labiatae". In Kubitzki, Klaus; Kadereit, Joachim W. The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants VII. Berlin; Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag. pp. 167–275.  
  5. ^ a b Bunsawat, Jiranan; Elliott, Natalina E.; Hertweck, Kate L.; Sproles, Elizabeth; Alice, Lawrence A. (2004). "Phylogenetics of Mentha (Lamiaceae): Evidence from Chloroplast DNA Sequences". Systematic Botany 29 (4): 959–64.  
  6. ^ a b  
  7. ^ Aflatuni, Abbas; J. Uusitalo; S. Ek; A. Hohtola (January–February 2005). "Variation in the Amount of Yield and in the Extract Composition Between Conventionally Produced and Micropropagated Peppermint and Spearmint". Journal of Essential Oil Research 17 (1): 66–70.  
  8. ^  
  9. ^  
  10. ^ USDA GRIN: Mentha cordifolia Opiz ex Fresen.
  11. ^ Tucker, Arthur O.; Naczi, Robert F. C. (2007). "Mentha: An Overview of its Classification and Relationships". In Lawrence, Brian M. Mint: The Genus Mentha. Boca Raton, FL, USA: CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group.  
  12. ^ a b c  
  13. ^
  14. ^  
  15. ^ GRAS FDA
  16. ^ [1] 21 CFR Part 182 Substances Generally Recognized as Safe
  17. ^ a b c d "Peppermint oil". National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Institutes of Health. 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  18. ^ Jamila, F.; Mostafa, E. (2014). "Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used by people in Oriental Morocco to manage various ailments". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 154: 76.  
  19. ^ Hunt, R.; Dienemann, J.; Norton, H. J.; Hartley, W.; Hudgens, A.; Stern, T.; Divine, G. (2013). "Aromatherapy as Treatment for Postoperative Nausea". Anesthesia & Analgesia 117 (3): 597.  
  20. ^ Bayat, R.; Borici-Mazi, R. (2014). "A case of anaphylaxis to peppermint". Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology 10: 6.  
  21. ^ Bounds, Gwendolyn "Death by Mint Oil: Natural Pesticides", The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2009, accessed December 6, 2010.
  22. ^ "Mint". Retrieved 2013-07-14. 
  23. ^ Sharon J. Huntington. "A not-so-boring history of flooring". Retrieved 2013-07-14. 
  24. ^  
  25. ^  

External links

  • MenthaGermplasm Resources Information Network:
  • MenthaFlora Europaea:
  • MenthaFlora of China:
  • United States Department of Agriculture (Online Reference)
  • entry on Mint
  • Plants For a Future: Mentha genus search page
  • Mint: The Genus MenthaPreview of
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