Mint…it’s a word with so many meanings. You’ll find it used to describe the condition of coins and cars, but also the colors of bridesmaid dresses and paint colors. It’s even the name of a successful personal finance company!
For most of us, though, “mint” refers to a flavor. We love it in our ice cream, candies, and even our tea, but what is this stuff exactly? Let’s keep it fresh and learn more!
What is Mint?
Mint is actually a type of plant (Mentha genus) that’s native to the eastern Mediterranean area. It’s bright green, produces a pleasing aroma, and is very easy to grow in your own garden.
The best part about mint is its versatility. You can use it for just about anything! Not only that, but it’s also gluten-free and a great source of vitamin A, which helps improve your eye health, brain function, immune system, and of course, stinky breath.
How Many Types of Mint Are There?
You may be surprised to learn there are over 600 varieties of mint on the planet! The mint plant produces a ton of herbs and flavors that are distinct from one another.
It would be crazy to try to list all those mint types, so let’s focus on the ones you know and love.
The most popular types of mint include:
- Fresh Mint Leaves
- Basil Mint
- Field or Corn Mint
- Curly Mint
- Licorice Mint
- Apple Mint (Woolly Mint)
- Pineapple Mint
- Banana Mint
- Grapefruit Mint
- Orange Mint
- Lemon Mint
- Lavender Mint
- Ginger Mint
- Chocolate Mint
Fresh Mint Leaves
You can buy fresh mint leaves at the grocery store. It’s also possible to get mint extract in bottles or dried mint leaves, which if kept in the freezer, can last for up to 3 years!
Basil mint comes from a mint plant that lasts over two years and grows over two feet tall. It has heart-shaped leaves, and as the name suggests, a basil fragrance.
In the summer, the pennyroyal mint plant blooms purple or blue flowers. These look particularly lovely in hanging baskets and are a must-have if you’re into gardening.
At first glance, it might be hard to tell that calamint is a type of mint. It’s super textured and can even be hairy or fuzzy. Calamint has been used as a form of natural medicine to treat breathing problems.
Field or Corn Mint
This is a type of wild mint that is grown all over the world. It’s extracted and used in food, drinks, cough medicines, and even cigarettes!
Contrary to how the name sounds, this type of mint isn’t made from cats. The purple flowers are similar to the ones on pennyroyal plants and are a huge draw for butterflies and bees.
The mints you grab in tins at the grocery store are typically made with spearmint. This fresh flavor is also found in chewing gum, tea, and essential oils.
Do you remember The Three Stooges? The one who was likeable and trustworthy was named Curly. You can think of this type of mint the same way! It has bright green leaves with curled edges, a sweet flavor, and plenty of vitamin B and C.
You’ll feel like a kid in a candy store with licorice mint! The sweet flavor makes the leaves perfect to use in cookies, scones, jams, and ice creams.
Fresh peppermint is a bit too strong to eat, which is why it’s processed into peppermint oil. This flavors your candy canes and tea, but can also be used medicinally and to scent oil diffusers.
Apple Mint (Woolly Mint)
Apple mint is pretty, but it’s more than just looks. You can mix this plant with lemon in a glass of water for a tasty drink or with Greek yogurt as a low-fat dressing for your salads.
SpongeBob lives in a pineapple, but it also is the name of a famous type of mint. Many people grow this plant in their garden and then use it for making drinks, garnishes, and even potpourri.
The leaves from a banana mint plant are a lime green color and bloom throughout the summer. You can use them to make yummy treats like muffins and cookies.
Fitness buffs may add grapefruit mint to their water as a rejuvenating drink after a workout session. The tangy flavor also makes this plant an absolute must in fruity desserts.
It’s no surprise that orange mint has a strong, citrus taste. Use it to add zest to your salads, tarts, or cocktails!
Similar to orange, lemon mint has a citrus taste. If you want to cut down on your sugar intake, this is an excellent way to flavor your iced and hot teas.
Pamper yourself after a long day by using lavender mint to make soaps, lip balms, and creams. Lavender is said to increase relaxation and calm feelings.
Also known as Scotch or Vietnamese mint, this is another plant that can be used to add extra flavor to your favorite dishes and drinks. It has a hint of ginger and a slightly spicy aftertaste.
You may get a pretty box of chocolate mints around the holidays. The plant is very unique as it can be grown both indoors and outdoors.
Let’s say you have a beach house and want to add some plants to your yard. Watermint is a great choice! It has to be planted near bodies of water, and once grown, can be used to make balms for sore muscles.
Keep in mind, these are simply the names of all these types of plants. It doesn’t mean that apples, grapefruits, or chocolates are growing alongside the mint, but it gives you a clue as to what the plant tastes like. Try growing any of these types of mint in your garden!
Spearmint and peppermint are used to make chewing gum. The most popular brands include Wrigley’s, Mentos, Trident, Orbit, and Extra. Some even have the extra benefit of being sugar-free!
You’ll find mint candies in both a hard and soft variety, with some packaged in handy reusable tins. They’re great breath fresheners, so make sure you have some if you’ve got a big date coming up!
On a hot summer day, nothing’s more refreshing than iced teas. In the winter, it’s all about a steaming mug of hot tea. Mint adds a tasty flavor to either drink, making it a must-have no matter what the season!
Ice Cream & Desserts
Mint ice cream was invented by a culinary student in 1973. Since then, this sweet treat, and other minty flavors, have been a huge part of your favorite desserts!
Who doesn’t love relaxing at the end of a stressful day? Mint scented essential oils are just as calming as a soothing bubble bath or a full-body massage!
Mint has been used as a natural remedy to treat burns, sore muscles, coughs, digestive issues, and respiratory problems. Research is still being done to see how else this plant can be used in the future.
Mojitos, seltzers, juleps, cocktails, hard lemonades… there are a ton of minty alcoholic drinks out there. Put one on your next tab!
Lotions & Creams
Do you have dry hands? How about itchy skin? Look for a lotion or cream made with peppermint, which adds hydration and leaves you feeling super smooth!
Shampoos & Soaps
Try to use a mint-scented shampoo, conditioner, or body wash next time you shower. You’ll feel squeaky clean and get a ton of compliments about how good you smell.
Some lip balms and Chapstick tubes have a minty flavor and scent. This is a much more appealing taste than petroleum jelly or other additives.
Seasoning & Garnish
Maybe your chicken or pasta dish needs a little something. Use mint sprigs as a way to add extra flavor to these meals and many more!
You often taste a minty flavor in dental products like toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss. This freshens your breath and helps you maintain that radiant smile!
Ugh, time to clean the house! Make the process more enjoyable with minty cleaning solutions. You’ll find this scent in many natural cleaners as it’s less harsh than chemicals.
Are All Types of Mint Plants Edible?
No, not every type of mint is safe to eat. Some are grown as trees or shrubs, while others are purely decorative. The best way to tell if it’s edible is by seeing how it smells. For instance, peppermint and spearmint have a strong wintergreen aroma.
What is the History of Peppermint Candy?
It’s a staple of the holiday season, but peppermint candy’s exact history is unclear. The first traceable instance of peppermint oil being sold, however, was in Europe in the late 18th century. Farmers grew the plant and marketed it as a way to calm an upset stomach.
While peppermint candy is a bit of a mystery, one thing’s for sure, the first Altoids hit shelves in 1780. Like peppermint oil, these little candies were originally marketed as a way to ease tummy troubles rather than a sweet, breath-freshening treat.
Then there’s the question of candy canes… where did this striped candy come from? Most sources point to Germany, where a local confectioner handed out the candy to keep kids quiet during the live Nativity. It was shaped like a cane as an homage to the shepherd’s staff.
What is the History of Spearmint?
Spearmint was first grown in gardens in 1739. The origins of it as candy aren’t easy to trace, but a lot of credit for the flavor’s popularity goes to gum manufacturer, Wrigley’s.
Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum came to America for the first time in 1893. Later during the Great Depression, money was tight and people didn’t have a ton of extra to spend on trivial purchases like gum. Wrigley’s promised it would be worth every dime with their iconic “The Flavor Lasts” slogan.
The most interesting part is that Wrigley’s actually started with Juicy Fruit. They’ve also expanded beyond spearmint with the introduction of Big Red in 1975. It’s their spearmint, however, that continues to be marketed as their classic brand.
What Are the Most Famous Mint Candy Brands?
Almost every grocery store sells mint candies, either in the checkout lanes or the candy aisles. People have loved these treats for years, and they remain popular to this day.
The most famous mint candy brands include:
- Ice Breakers
- Tic Tac
- Bob’s Sweet Stripes
Do you want a little bit of chocolate with your mints? Try candies like York Peppermint Patties, Andes Mints, and Junior Mints. You can also go with popular brands like Hershey’s and M&M’s as they also offer mint varieties of their famous candies.
What is the Difference Between Breath Mints and Gum?
Breath mints and gum seem very similar due to their taste, price point, and spot in the checkout lanes at grocery stores. They do, however, have many differences that are worth talking about!
Here are a few key differences between breath mints and gum:
Gum is meant to be chewed, while mint typically sits on your tongue and dissolves over time.
It’s common for mints and gum to have different ingredients. Gum often contains softeners and even tree saps, while mints may contain corn syrup and food coloring.
For the most part, mint candies are only made using flavors like spearmint, peppermint, and cinnamon. Gum, on the other hand, can have fruity flavors like watermelon and cotton candy.
There are a lot of rules associated with gum as it’s often banned at gyms, schools, churches, and other social areas. It can be seen as rude to chew. Mints are much more discreet.
Perhaps the grayest area when it comes to gum vs. breath mints is which is better for your teeth. Some dentists recommend gum, while others go with breath mints. Either way, the American Dental Association recommends you make sure you’re always choosing mints or gums that are completely sugar-free.
What is the Best Mint for Horses?
Believe it or not, horses actually love mints! Peppermints are the flavor recommended by most equine experts. They should be given only in moderation and balanced with a healthy diet of hay, oats, water, and occasionally, vegetables.
Do you need to train a horse? Maybe you’re involved in barrel racing, rodeos, or other competitions. Peppermint treats are great rewards during your training sessions. Horses are smart and will understand that certain behaviors will earn them a tasty treat!
The Bottom Line
It’s not about just peppermint and spearmint. There are many types of mint out there, and each is used to make drinks, medicines, shampoos, horse treats, and so much more. You can have a healthier, fresher life by introducing mint into your daily routine!
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