45% of the peppermint and spearmint oil produced in this country is used for flavoring chewing gum - another 45% is used in dentifrices (toothpaste, mouth wash, etc.) with the remaining 10% used in the confectionery pharmaceutical, liqueur, and aroma therapy industries.
The genus Mentha is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region. Mint or Mintha, is named after the Greek nymph Minthes, who was turned into a mint plant by Proserpine, the jealous wife of Pluto, for casting covetous eyes on the philandering god of the underworld.
Proserpine gained her revenge by turning Minthes into a herb where she would be forever trampled under people's feet. To keep people treading on her forever, Proserpine gave Minthes eternal freshness and fragrance.
Mint oil is a highly concentrated essence. In fact - one 55 gallon drum of mint oil (weighing about 400 pounds) can be used to flavor approximately 5,200,000 sticks of chewing gum or 400,000 tubes of toothpaste.
With it's fresh scent hard to miss, mint was no doubt one of the earliest herbs discovered. It has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 1000 BC and has been part of the Chinese pharmacopoeia even longer.
The early Romans believed eating mint would increase intelligence. Senators and royal ambassadors often carried sprigs of mint springs in their pockets to increase their oratory skills and prevent them from losing their temper. It was also used to sweeten the often rank smell of medieval halls.
Mint has a variety of uses. The plant is usually steam-distilled for its oil which is located in glands on the undersides of the leaves. The oil is used to flavor a variety of foods such as gum or candy and is also used in perfumes, cosmetics and health care products. The leaves are also harvested and either dried or used fresh - for teas, flavoring and/or decorating food.
Scientists continue to conduct research on mint since diseases and insects can present serious problems if the mint plant is not properly protected. Weeds are another concern as they decrease yield and can cause objectionable tastes and odors which can render the mint oil unmarketable.
Mint oil is one of the very few remaining all-natural flavorings. A commercially-acceptable artificial peppermint flavor has never been successfully created due to the natural complexity of the oil - laboratory analysis has uncovered hundreds of different compounds.
Peppermint is considered to have medicinal properties when consumed. Mint is still used today by herbalists as a general digestive aid as well as to relax and sooth the intestines. It is reported to aid with upset stomachs and will sooth and relax muscles when inhaled or applied to the skin. It also inhibits the growth of certain bacteria and other pathogens.
Mint Vinegar is made as follows: Fill a jar or bottle with young mint leaves picked from the stalks. Cover with cold vinegar and cork or cover the bottle. Infuse for 14 days, then strain off the vinegar.
Mint traveled with the Roman army, both as a kitchen and a medicinal herb (wounds were washed in mint), gradually spreading throughout Europe. Table-tops rubbed with mint leaves symbolized hospitality. The Europeans covered streets with mint leaves to welcome home triumphant warriors.
The historical use of mint in the U.S. dates back prior to Colonial times. It was grown in household gardens for both kitchen and medicinal uses.
The Pacific Northwest with its numerous fertile, deep-soiled valleys and microclimates is famous for its Peppermint oil just as the Napa Valley is famous for its wine. The peppermint oil produced is considered by many mint connoisseurs to be the finest in the world. The variations of Peppermint oil from this area - some smooth and full-bodied, others spicy and cool - are as complex as that of wines and have absolutely excellent flavor!
Menthol is not the only ingredient that gives Peppermint its distinctive cool flavor. Natural Peppermint oil contains varying percentages of many different components which provide a unique full and complex flavor. In oral care products – Peppermint provides the user with a clean and fresh feeling in addition to pleasant breath.
Prior to the early-nineteenth century, mint hay was boiled in large tubs of water over a fire. The peppermint or spearmint oil floated to the top, was skimmed off by hand, then put into pint sized containers and taken to local markets.
Peppermint is one of the oldest and best tasting home remedies for indigestion. Today mint is still used to alleviate flatulence and aid the digestion (yes-after dinner mints are good for you). Studies show that peppermint lessens the amount of time food spends in the stomach by stimulating the gastric lining to produce enzymes which aid digestion.
Recent research has shown that sniffing mint improves alertness and concentration. Many companies now pipe small quantities of mint oil through their ventilation and air conditioning systems to invigorate workers and improve productivity.
During the Middle Ages, mint was grown in both medicinal and kitchen gardens. It was used to whiten teeth, heal insect bites, prevent milk from curdling, repel mice, and cure nausea, colds and indigestion.
Unlike most other commercial crops - mint is a sterile, perennial plant which produces no seed. New fields are planted with root-stock or underground runners, called stolons, from existing plants (fields).
The commercial mint crop in the U.S. is based upon three sterile varieties: Mentha piperita (peppermint), Mentha gracilis (Scotch spearmint) and Mentha spicata (Native spearmint.) which can be grown successfully only under specific climate and soil conditions.
Mint is grown for commercial use only in a few states. These areas possess the special climate and soil conditions necessary for commercial mint plants to thrive. The mint plant reacts to sun and day length, by producing oil; thus very long sunny days will produce a higher yield crop.