If there is one plant Moroccans cannot live without that may be mint. Across Morocco and many places in north Africa, tea is served everyday with mint.
A fresh and sweet cup of mint tea is a symbol of hospitality and togetherness. No celebration or occasion is complete without tea.
Tea is served at weddings and funerals alike, to the royalty and poor, young and old, and in the morning and evening.
Mint use is not exclusive to north Africa; as it widely used around the world in food and beverages from salads, deserts, and beverages of all types. Mint extracts are also used in toothpaste, gum, candy, and skin products.
Amid the heavy consumption of mint tea, one might wonder: what are the benefits and risks associated with mint? While the benefits of tea are well understood and documented, less is known about mint.
In this article, we review the main science-backed benefits and risks of mint:
1. Helps the digestive system:
Peppermint oil contains a compound called menthol, which is thought to help alleviate syndromes like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) through its relaxing effects on the muscles of the digestive tract (1, 2, 3, 4).
Studies have shown improvments in patients with IBS when taking doses of mint oil extract (5, 6). Studies have also found that peppermint oil helps in digesting food quicker and relieving upset stomach (7).
Many review studies found that mint works against harmful microbes, regulates muscle relaxation, helps control inflammation, and is a safe and effective intervention for pain symptoms in adults with IBS. However these most of these studies used extracted oil rather than raw mint.
2. Helps against stress and anxiety
3. Helps against cold and flu
Menthol, found in peppermint oil, is widely used in many over-the-counter cold and flu medicines. Menthol is known to ease nasal breathing and relieving some symptoms of cold (9, 10). However, the American Lung Association (ALA) advise that scientific studies do not support the use of menthol for managing cold symptoms.
4. Contains Nutrients
Mint has many healthy nutrients like Iron, Manganese, and Vitamin A, and antioxidants (11). Vitamin A is beneficial for healthy eyes (12), while the antioxidants help against stress (13). It is worth noting that the amount that a person would typically use in a meal or tea is not significant per the daily requirements.
5. Reduces nausea for pregnant women
Some studies concluded that mint aroma can be “effective in reducing nausea and vomiting of pregnancy without any effect on state anxiety” (14).
1. May trigger Acid reflex
According to a 2019 review, mint commonly acts as a trigger for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) also known as Acid reflex. People with GERD should not use mint in an attempt to soothe digestive issues.
2. Unhealthy for infants
The oils contained in fresh mint leaves can be deadly to children. Also, rubbing Menthol on the face can cause breathing problems. Although Moroccan’s don’t use it for such uses.
3. Unhealthy for pregnant women
While the study above reported on the positives of mint aroma, it may cause problems during pregnancy if consumed in large amounts (15). Likely Moroccan women have a high tolerance for mint, but there’s still a risk for everyone.
It is worth noting that most of these studies didn’t use the raw and fresh form of Mint but rather concentrates, extracts or capsules of Mint oils.
Regardless of the benefits of peppermint, it may also help in staying hydrated and warm during the dry winter months.
In Morocco, people are not specifically using Mint for all its benefits but rather to enjoy a fresh cup of tea.