Many Types of Mint
There are many different types of mint, but they share one primary characteristic: broad, green leaves that release a menthol scent when bruised. The tastes and uses of these plants vary.
Probably the best known variety of mint, peppermint, or Mentha x piperita, is a hearty herb that gives off a classic mint smell when you rub its leaves. You can dry this mint for tea or use it fresh for cooking. Both dried and fresh peppermint may help soothe an upset stomach, freshen breath, relieve cold symptoms, and lift your mood.
Another well known mint variety, spearmint, or mentha spicata, is a common flavoring in gum and toothpaste. This herb is often found growing wild or in backyard gardens throughout Northern America. When growing spearmint, give it plenty of space since it spreads rapidly.
Eaten raw, spearmint is a great addition to salads. It's used as an antispasmodic and to treat nausea.
Catnip, or Catmint
This member of the mint family is particularly alluring to cats, who love to roll in its leaves. While catnip, or nepeta cataria, doesn't have any modern culinary uses, it's often used in tea or salve form to treat a wide variety of ailments such as dandruff, hemorrhoids, fever, upper respiratory concerns, headaches, diarrhea, insect bites, and anxiety.
Bergamot, or Orange Mint
Bergamot mint (Mentha x piperita citrata) is often confused with the bergamot plant that produces the citrus fruit best known for flavoring Earl Grey tea. Like bergamot fruit, orange mint has a citrus orange flavor and aroma.
Bergamot mint leaves can be dried and made into a tea. Simply steep the dried leaves in boiling water for six to eight minutes. According to Herbs2000, bergamot mint is used as an herbal remedy to treat digestive disorders, headache, fever, and nervousness.
Lemon Balm, or Melissa
Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, is a natural antibacterial, antihistamine, and calmative; it has been used in the past to treat conditions such as cold, flu, insomnia and high blood pressure. For cooking, this herb can be used as a garnish for drinks and tangy dishes to add a delicate lemon flavor - it's an especially addition to fish recipes.
Dried Lemon Balm
You can use dried lemon balm to make a lemony herbal tea that may help to treat depression and anxiety. Steep the dried leaves in boiling water for approximately eight minutes to reap their benefits.
Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens), is sometimes called woolly mint due to its bright green, fuzzy leaves. The herb gives off an invigorating apple scent that makes it ideal for flavoring teas, jellies, and sauces. Its medicinal uses include treating stomach upset, fevers, and insect bites.
If you enjoy the taste combination of crisp mint and rich chocolate, you'll love chocolate mint (Mentha piperita). Closely related to spearmint, chocolate mint stands out from the crowd due to its purple stem and indulgent cocoa scent and taste - without the calories. Use fresh or dried chocolate mint in teas, baked goods, fresh fruit, ice cream, and cocktails.
Pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens variegata) is a variation of apple mint and has a fruity scent and lovely appearance. The mint's green and cream colored leaves look creased. Use it fresh or dried to add a touch of sweetness to teas and baked goods.
Mentha gentilis, also known as ginger mint, is an easy to grow herb with a spearmint-like scent. The herb's leaves are veined yellow and taste great in fruit salads, teas, and marinades.
Curly mint (Mentha spicata crispa) is known for it's unique fluted, curled leaves. This hearty perennial adds mint flavor to hot and cold beverages, jams, jellies, sauces, and candy. It's also used as an edible garnish.
This strongly scented herb (Mentha aquatica) smells similar to peppermint and requires high moisture to thrive. Water mint has pretty, sphere-shaped lavender flowers; however, it's the leaves that hold the herb's medicinal and culinary benefits.
Dried water mint may be used in teas to treat digestive problems, fevers, or headache. It's also used as a sore throat and mouth gargle. Fresh water mint adds zip to salads and other foods.
Corn mint (Mentha arvensis), also known as wild mint or field mint, can be found growing in backyard gardens and along streams, shorelines, ditches, riverbanks, fields and meadows.
Corn mint's leaves may be dried or used fresh in herbal teas or culinary dishes. The herb also helps repel rodents and insects. Native American tribes traditionally used wild mint to treat a wide variety of health concerns including fevers, flu, pneumonia, headaches, heart issues, colds, and diarrhea.
According to the book, Homegrown Herbs by Tammi Hartung, Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) is native to the Mediterranean and enjoys full sun and well-drained soil. The herb is believed to offer benefits for women's health concerns and digestion but should not be used by pregnant women.
Homegrown Herbs also mentions pennyroyal is used in herbal pet care products to help prevent fleas and ticks; however, the herb should never be used on cats.
Mentha asiatica, or Asian mint, is found in Eastern and central Asia. It grows wild along riverbanks, landfills, and waste areas, but also makes a nice ornamental garden herb.
Asian mint has traditionally been used dry or fresh to relieve digestive problems, as an antiseptic, and to add flavor to teas and culinary dishes.
Horsemint (Monarda punctata) enjoys sunny areas and damp soil. It's serrated leaves may be used fresh or dried in teas and are especially nice added to salads. The herb's essential oil can be used to add peppermint-like flavor to recipes. Horsemint is used to treat digestive issues, and its high thymol content gives it strong antiseptic properties.
Another type of mint, Monarda citriodora is also known as horsemint. It's sometimes called lemon mint or lemon bee balm. This type of mint has a lemony scent that attracts bees. It's often used in salads and to make tea.
Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) grows as a beautiful bright green, moss-like, ground cover with tiny light purple flowers. The herb prefers moist soil and shady areas.
Corsican mint has an especially strong scent and taste and is known for its use in creme de menthe and other liqueurs. In addition, corsican mint tea made from dried leaves is sometimes used to treat digestive illness, headaches, and fever.
According to Gardening Know How, lavender mint (Mentha piperita Lavendula) gets its name from its purple flowers and floral scent, which are reminiscent of a traditional lavender plant. It's closely related to peppermint and often used in tea, salads, and baked goods.
Lavender mint is a popular ingredient in shampoos, lip balms, and lotions. It also adds relaxing fragrance to poutpourri and homemade sachets.
Red Raripila Mint
If you live in the United States, you're less likely to come across red raripila mint (Mentha x smithiana) at your local nursery than other types of mint. Gardening Know How indicates red raripila is a hybrid mint made of corn mint, watermint, and spearmint. It's thought to have antiseptic abilities and to help ease tummy troubles.
Many, Many Mints
There are many types of mint in the world. This fragrant family of herbs has many culinary and medicinal uses but is best known for flavoring candy and acting as an invigorating stimulant. Mints are widely available in nurseries and grocery stores. Go discover your favorite variety today.
Please keep in mind that while mint is generally considered safe to use, large quantities of any variety may be toxic. Consult your doctor before using mint as an herbal remedy, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.