As a representative member of the aromatic plants, mint herb (Bo He) comes with more than 500 species, almost all with a cool and refreshing scent. Among them the best known ones are black peppermint (English peppermint or mitcham mint) and spearmint (Mentha spicata L.). Other species include apple mint (Mentha suaveolens), lemon mint (Melissa officinalis), and chocolate mint (Mentha piperita cv.), and so on. Most of them are named after their unique aroma. Likewise, there are total 12 wild mint herbs growing in China. Their flowers can be white, pink, or light purple, clustering into a special understated elegance of labiate.
It’s worth mentioning that this is one of medicinal and culinary herbs. The edible parts are stems and leaves, which are often used in many juicing and cooking recipes. What’s more, it also serves as flavoring agents, spice, material for wine, essential oil, and tea, etc. But obviously it is not our focus here. Instead we are going to talk about more on its health benefits as one of common traditional Chinese herbs.
What is mint herb?
Medicinally, it refers to the dried above-ground part of Mentha haplocalyx Briq., which is a perennial weed, mostly growing in mountain, wetland, and riverside. The stem is erect, 30 to 60cm high, with underground rhizome growing sidelong. The whole plant sends out gentle flowery flavor. Leaves are opposite. Flowers are tiny, in the shape of the lips, and bearing small dark brown fruits after the blooming.
It is collected for medicinal purpose in summer and autumn when stem and leaf are thriving or flower in the third period. Usually they are reaped in batches in a sunny day, and then dried in the sun or in the shade.
What is it used for?
Also known as mentha, mint herb is believed by TCM as acrid, cool, and aromatic in nature and covers meridians of lung and liver.
Main functions are to diffuse wind-heat, refresh mind and improve eyesight, promote eruption, soothe a sore throat, and regulate qi flowing. Main uses and indications are colds and flu caused by wind-heat, early wind-warm syndrome, headache, red eyes, pharyngitis, canker, nettle rash, measles, and fullness and discomfort in chest and hypochondrium.
Usual dosage is 3 to 6 grams. And please note that they should put in 5 minutes before the decoction is ready as its volatile property.
Related Chinese herbal formulas
(1). Wo Xue Tang, from Yi Fang Lei Ju (Categorization and Gathering of Medical Formulas), is mainly used for cures of dizziness, low spirits, dry throat, and stuffy nose. Other herbal ingredients are Gan Cao (Licorice Root), Tian Hua Fen (Trichosanthes Root), Jing Jie Sui (Schizonepeta), Bai Yan (White Salt), and Sha Ren (Cardamon);
(2). Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao San, from Shi Yi De Xiao Fang (Effective Formulas Tested by Physicians for Generations), is for treatments of migraine and aching all over the head, intermittent headache, stuffy nose, and low voice speaking. Other herbs include Chuan Xiong (Szechuan Lovage Root), Jing Jie (Schizonepeta Stem), Qiang Huo (Notopterygium Root), Bai Zhi (Angelica Root), and Gan Cao;
(3). Liang Jie Tang, from Yi Xue Zhong Zhong Can Xi Lu (Records of Heart-felt Experiences in Medicine with Reference to the West), is formulated mainly for remedies of warm disease, both exterior and interior fever, and floating full pulse. Other herbs are Chan Tui (Cicada Moulting), Shi Gao (Gypsum), and licorice.
Modern medical applications
This herb contains volatile oil, mostly menthol and menthone. And it is being widely used in many treatments.
(1). Stimulate and inhibit nerve. When acting on skin, it causes burning and cold sensation while inhibiting and benumbing the sensory nerve ending. So, it can be used as counter-stimulus and skin stimulant. In other words, it has antiallergic and antipruritic effects on skin itch while mitigatory and analgesic actions on neuralgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
(2). Diminish inflammation and fight microbes. Mint products have desensitization, anti-inflammation, and antibacterial effects on insect bites; anti-tussive, anti-inflammation, and antibacterial activities on upper respiratory tract infection; rehabilitation and anti-infective effects on hemorrhoids and anal fissure;
(3). Invigorate the stomach and dispel the wind. Oral mint products can excite gustatory nerves and olfactory nerve. It burns and stimulates the mouth mucosa, which promotes saliva, enhance the appetite, increase blood in gastric mucosa, and improve digestive function. So, it helps indigestion, stomach bloating, hiccup, and stomach cramps. In addition, it also works well to dispel wind inside intestinal tract, which helps inflatable bowel, peristalsis, and intestinal colic.
(4). Send out fragrance and spice up. The cool, refreshing, and pleasant scent can be used to cover and improve some medicine with peculiar smell or the discomfort caused during swallowing.
Potential side effects and contraindications
Menthol and peppermint oil can lead mammal to paralysis easily, even to death if in over dose. So, the dose used shouldn’t exceed the prescribed limit – normally no more than 2mg/kg daily.
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), field mint herb shouldn’t be used in those diagnosed with yin deficiency with blood dryness, or exterior deficiency with sweating, deficient cold of spleen and stomach, and diarrhea or the loose stools.